Tag: AFL Academy

2021 AFL Academy Squad announced

21 elite top-age prospects have been named in the 2021 AFL Academy squad, as the AFL reverts back to a condensed nationwide program. Previously, the intake entailed as many as 150 talents from around the nation being nurtured in their state hubs, but with cost cutting at the hands of COVID-19 the traditional model will be reinstated.

The squad, coached by former Collingwood defender Tarkyn Lockyer, is set to play a game against a Victorian state league side and participate in camps during the year. Players are still set to be added to the list with a number of spots left vacant, as the AFL and club recruiters collaborate to finalise the intake.

Among the standouts, current pick one frontrunner Jason Horne joins the likes of Collingwood father-son hopeful Nick Daicos in the squad. Horne has already gained senior SANFL experience with South Adelaide and has a wide range of weapons, including his speed, ball winning ability, and aerial prowess. Daicos, the son of Peter, has all the skill his pedigree would suggest and enters the elite pathway with a great reputation in the APS competition under his belt.

Victorians dominate the squad with 10 selections, with a far less compromised top-end highlighting the lucky dip that is the AFL Draft. Aside from Daicos, Jase Burgoyne (Port Adelaide, father-son), Austin Harris (Gold Coast, Academy), and Ned Stevens (Gold Coast, Darwin zone) are the only other selections with ties to clubs. In another shift from this year’s cohort, it looks set to be a talent pool consisting largely of midfielders at the top end.

>> A look ahead: 21 in 2021
>> 2021 AFL Women’s Academy

2021 AFL ACADEMY:

Braden Andrews (Vic Metro/Oakleigh Chargers)
Sam Banks (Tasmania/Clarence)
Rhett Bazzo (Western Australia/Swan Districts)
Jase Burgoyne (South Australia/Woodville West Torrens)
Campbell Chesser (Vic Country/Sandringham Dragons)
Nick Daicos (Vic Metro/Oakleigh Chargers)
Josh Fahey (NSW/ACT/GWS Academy)
Cooper Hamilton (Vic Country/Bendigo Pioneers)
Austin Harris (Queensland/Gold Coast Academy)
Ben Hobbs (Vic Country/GWV Rebels)
Jason Horne (South Australia/South Adelaide)
Blake Howes (Vic Metro/Sandringham Dragons)
Matthew Johnson (Western Australia/Subiaco)
Cooper Murley (South Australia/Norwood)
Josh Rachele (Vic Country/Murray Bushrangers)
Matthew Roberts (South Australia/South Adelaide)
Josh Sinn (Vic Metro/Sandringham Dragons)
Tyler Sonsie (Vic Metro/Eastern Ranges)
Ned Stevens (Northern Territory/Waratah/Gold Coast Academy)
Jacob Van Rooyen (Western Australia/Claremont)
Jack Williams (Western Australia/East Fremantle)

Featured Image: Joshua Rachele looms as a top prospect in 2021 | Credit: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos

From the clouds: This year’s biggest AFL Draft bolters

EACH year a great deal of AFL Draft intrigue surrounds the prospects who seemingly come from the clouds to land on clubs’ radars. Labelled the bolters, these players are the ones who enjoy steep rises as top-agers to trade obscurity for potential stardom. Last year we saw Will Day, Mitch Georgiades, and Sam Philp taken in round one, Sam Sturt was famously snapped up with Pick 17 the year before, Gold Coast pulled a surprise with Wil Powell in 2017 and well, you get the gist.

In taking a look at the potential bolters in this year’s crop, we are not just talking about players like Logan McDonald or Archie Perkins, who have risen from first round projection to possible top five status. Instead, we will take you through the names from around the nation who have come from greater obscurity to enter the draft frame at differing points. Some will feature at the top end, others might just scrape in at the back, but they all share the common story of coming from a long way back to gain recognition from AFL club recruiters.

Full profiles for all the players mentioned below can be found in our AFL Draft Guide, which is free to download.

THE BOLTERS

STATE BY STATE

South Australia:

South Australia not only lays claim to arguably the biggest bolter of the lot this year, but potentially the biggest overall list of players who suit the category. Headlining the crop is of course South Adelaide wingman/forward Brayden Cook, who went from battling for gametime as a bottom-ager to earning a Reserves call-up early in 2020 and averaging two goals per game in the Under 18s. His nous close to goal and overhead marking ability proved to be game-winning traits for the Panthers this year, propelling Cook into first round contention.

Likely joining him in the top 25 are gun midfielders Tom Powell and Caleb Poulter, who were two of the most consistent ball winners in this year’s SANFL Under 18s. Powell is one of the finest exponents of the handball to come through the junior ranks and proved impossible to ignore on pure numbers in 2020. He was highly rated internally but hardly got the opportunity to show his wares in 2019, suffering multiple injury setbacks and having hip surgery in his bottom-age campaign. Poulter is somewhat of a late bloomer who has enormous upside and great presence on the field as a tall midfielder. His range of weapons include a raking left peg, clean hands, and the ability to play inside, out, and up forward.

Other top-agers in the extended conversation include Luke Pedlar, Malachy Carruthers, Phoenix Spicer, and Xavier Robins. All four earned national draft combine invites after promising seasons, with Pedlar one who has also recently garnered first round interest. The tough and explosive midfielder was a leader among the Glenelg and Prince Alfred College squads this year, before injury cut his campaign short. Defenders Carruthers and Robins both impressed during the school football season before returning to SANFL competitions, while Spicer caught the eye with his dash and x-factor playing on a wing for South Adelaide.

Last but not least are the mature-agers. Mitch Duval and Tom Highmore both earned draft combine invites and were the only prospects over 19 years of age to do so this year. Both read the play beautifully across half-back, mark well, and provide value on the rebound. Premiership Eagles James Rowe and Jacob Wehr will also attract interest. Rowe is a small forward with excellent smarts and natural ability, while Wehr is a rebounding defender with class who was struggling for Reserves games not too long ago.

Victoria:

Despite not getting the chance to put in a full top-age season, there are a bunch of Victorians that have put their hands up for draft bolter status with impressive preseason showings and testing performances. Hulking Sandringham Dragons ruck Max Heath is near the top of the pile after returning dominant trial games. He took on some stern advice after his bottom-age year and came back a different player, throwing his weight around as an aggressive tall who can impose himself on the contest.

Northern Knights product Liam Kolar is in a similar boat after his preseason efforts, making for a steep rise having come from a soccer and athletics background. The raw tall debuted late last year for the Knights but seemed to have hit new heights in 2020 with his speed-endurance mix and rate of development impressing onlookers all the way back in March. Matt Allison and Fraser Rosman are other dynamic talls with great athleticism and upside who have entered the conversation.

Sandringham not only lays claim to Heath in the bolter category, but has also seen the likes of Luke Cleary, Max Holmes, and Lachlan Carrigan burst onto the scene. All three come in at over 189cm and can play in multiple roles. Holmes is the son of Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Lee Naylor, while Carrigan’s genetics have seen him benefit from a massive growth spurt which has coincided with his overall footballing development as a wingman.

One who has come from arguably the furthest back is Corey Preston, who earned a draft combine invite this year despite not having yet made his NAB League debut. The 180cm Eastern Ranges graduate is a midfielder/forward with nice athletic traits. Speaking of, Oakleigh’s Conor Stone has really cemented himself among the top-end group of late. He booted five goals on his NAB League debut last year and was part of the Chargers’ premiership side.

Among the ranks in country regions, Geelong’s stacked top-age cohort includes the likes of Blake Reid and Charlie Ham. Reid did some impressive things last year as the Falcons struggled to string results together, while Ham is a late bloomer much like elder brother, Brayden of Essendon. Both players earned combine invites and performed well, just like new 2km time trial record holder Harry Sharp. The former steeplechaser was primed for a big year after showing nice glimpses as a hard working wingman/small forward for Greater Western Victoria.

Western Australia:

Much like the South Australian crop, those from the West have benefitted greatly from being able to prove their worth on-field in a compromised year. Even before then, 204cm Claremont ruck Kalin Lane loomed as a massive bolter in 2020 after being included in the West Australian academy hub. It came after just one bottom-age appearance and he repaid the faith with an outstanding top-age campaign at Colts level.

Isiah Winder also hit great heights this year and was a standout combine tester come season’s end. He earned plenty of plaudits for his breakout performance in last year’s WAFL Colts Grand Final and has since transitioned from a small forward role to impact through midfield and even earn a League debut with Peel Thunder. Along with Lane, he is a developmental option with plenty of desirable traits for his role.

Among the smokies to have come on strongly are Tyler Brockman and Jaiden Hunter. Brockman is an exciting small forward/midfielder with great speed and goal sense, while Hunter is a tall usually accustomed to key defensive duties, but made to take on Perth’s primary ruck role at 194cm. His athleticism and mobility are outstanding. Claremont pair Jack Avery and Logan Young also enjoyed stellar campaigns in 2020, with Avery a promising intercept defender, and Young a reliable midfield ball winner.

Featured Image: South Adelaide bolter Brayden Cook gets a kick away | Credit: Nick Hook/SANFL

High stakes training: Vic prospects take the field ahead of draft day

VICTORIAN AFL Draft prospects hit the track one last time before draft day, strutting their stuff at Highgate Reserve in a one-off training session on Wednesday. The meet served as a final chance for recruiters to survey the talent available in this year’s pool, just a week out from draft day on December 9.

Players who earned Draft Combine invites in September were split into two major groups, initially separating those from country and metropolitan regions, before being divided even further into small drill groups of five to seven participants. Among those on display were potential number one picks Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Elijah Hollands, the latter of which participated in a running program amid his recovery from a preseason ACL tear.

Draft Central analyst Ed Pascoe was on hand in Craigieburn to recap all the action and give an insight into how things panned out.

>> Download our FREE AFL Draft Guide

RECAP:

By: Ed Pascoe

A sense of irony came over me walking into Highgate Reserve, the same ground I last got to watch a lot of these young players back on March 15, right before Covid derailed the Victorian football season. It was a Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers trial game on that day and the ground was bustling with keen onlookers, many the same faces I would see today and it was great to see the development of some of these players. One of the big matchups in March was Nikolas Cox vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan which looked to be a clash we would see if the National Championships went ahead. Fast forward a few months and both players have bulked up, looking as sharp as ever in the lead up to the most important time of their lives.

To start the day it was the Vic Metro based players who were split into four training groups with the following participants:

Group A

Ewan Macpherson
Reef McInnes
Bailey Laurie
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips
Conor Stone

Group B

Cody Brand
Nikolas Cox
Josh Eyre
Liam Kolar
Ollie Lord

Group C

Jake Bowey
Josh Clarke
Connor Downie
Max Holmes
Finlay Macrae
Corey Preston

Group D

Matthew Allison
Lachlan Carrigan
Luke Cleary
Eddie Ford
Liam McMahon
Fraser Rosman

Injured Group

Max Heath
Campbell Edwardes

Vic Country players would later take the field and were split into three main groups:

Group A

Cameron Fleeton
Zach Reid
Josh Treacy
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Henry Walsh

Group B

Ryan Angwin
Will Bravo
Jack Ginnivan
Charlie Lazzaro
Zavier Maher
Blake Reid
Harry Sharp

Group C

Dominic Bedendo
Sam Berry
Tanner Bruhn
Clayton Gay
Oliver Henry
Seamus Mitchell
Nick Stevens

Injured Group (Laps)

Elijah Hollands
Charlie Ham
Noah Gribble

There were four main drills conducted after a warm-up; with ground balls, marking, kicking, and handballing the respective focus areas. The ground ball drill involved taking half volleys, running towards the loose ball coming from behind them, taking on the bump bag and finally working in pairs to pick the ball up cleanly under pressure from a teammate.

The marking drill was changed slightly as the day went on but the main focuses were receiving a high ball before getting called to a certain colour cone to run to, turn, and then meet at the drop zone of the ball. Contested marking was the final focus, with two players coming from either the back or front to contest a mark. This drill was certainly the most competitive and one of the drills players had the most fun in, with plenty wanting just ‘one more go’.

The kicking and handballing drills were fairly standard with a three-man weave, and a short to long stationary handball among the handball drills. The kicking drills consisted of kicking to a stationary target often 45 degrees to another player, and finally a drill which involved kicking to a leading player which really separated the better kickers on the day – especially in the notoriously windy conditions at Highgate Reserve.

Overall, it was a great day for the players to get a run while bonding with some former teammates and potentially future teammates. It was also a nice little refresher for scouts and recruiters as well, who got to see how some of these players have progressed both in their football and in their body. It is hard to gauge who would be considered the ‘standouts’ from this training session but most players put in the effort required and it was also good to see some really get involved with coaches and looking for advice in certain drills, showing their commitment to getting the best out of themselves.

In Contention | Outsider AFL Draft prospects to consider: Vic Metro

COME the end of a year like no other, there is likely to be a greater amount of hard luck stories and near misses than ever before, especially after the recent cuts to AFL list sizes. But for all that doom and gloom, the 2020 AFL Draft intake is also poised to provide some of the best stories of positivity as elite level hopefuls rise from the adversity this year has put forward.

In Draft Central’s newest series, we take a look at some of the draft prospects who remain in contention to fulfil their draft dreams despite missing out on invites to their respective states’ draft combines. These combine lists are often the best indicators of clubs’ interest in players, with at least four nominations required for those who were not selected in the two national Under -17 showcase games last year. Outsider talent from the Vic Metro regions is next to go under the microscope, and there are plenty of prospects around the mark despite missing a full year of football.

Below are pocket profiles of some players to watch, which will also feature in our upcoming annual AFL Draft Guide.

>> 2020 AFL Draft Pool
>> AFL Draft Whispers: 2020 Edition
>> Power Rankings: November Update

CALDER CANNONS:

Jackson Cardillo | Midfielder/Forward
03/07/2002 | 186cm/78kg

One of the more unlucky players to miss out on a draft combine invite this year, Cardillo has plenty of traits which should appeal to recruiters. With explosive speed, great agility and a penetrating kick, the Calder midfielder showed a good amount of promise across 18 NAB League outings as a bottom-ager.

EASTERN RANGES:

Jack Diedrich | Ruck/Forward
17/09/2002 | 199cm/88kg

A developing ruck/key forward, Diedrich was included in this year’s Vic Metro academy hub on the back of just three NAB League appearances in 2019. The raw 199cm tall has some strength to build and production to lift, but has nice upside as he fares well both in the air and at ground level.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS:

Liam Delahunty | Tall Utility
13/02/2001 | 190cm/90kg

One of the 19-year-olds in contention, Delahunty was set to make the move to Victoria this year to suit up for Northern in the NAB League and North Melbourne in the VFL. He instead turned out again for GWS in the Academy Series, showcasing his athleticism and versatility as a tall defender who can also swing forward.

Lachlan Gawel | Forward/Midfielder
13/08/2001 | 187cm/79kg

Another who missed out last year and was set to switch to Northern, Gawel has the kind of upside recruiters like despite only having a small sample size to show. He has exciting athletic attributes and can make things happen on the ball both up forward and potentially from midfield in future.

Josh Watson | Midfielder
21/10/2002 | 182cm/82kg

A likely type who showed his wares in the back-end of last year’s NAB League season, Watson could have been one to really come on in 2020. He has shown his capacity to find a good amount of ball and get it moving forward with his booming left boot. Having played on the outer, he can also move to the inside of midfield.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS:

Fraser Elliot | Inside Midfielder
05/07/2002 | 188cm/88kg

While he was squeezed out at the pointy end of the season, Elliot proved an important part of Oakleigh’s premiership midfield with his ability to extract and compete at the coalface. He is a big-bodied type who was forced to adapt in other roles at times, but would have been looking forward to permanent midfield minutes in 2020.

Lochlan Jenkins | Midfielder
23/02/2002 | 178cm/79kg

Another key midfield cog in Oakleigh’s stacked 2019 premiership side, Jenkins is a smaller type who finds plenty of the ball and goes about his business with intent. Along with Elliot, he shone in the absence of Oakleigh’s stars during the mid-part of the season and ended up registering 18 impressive games.

Sam Tucker | Key Defender/Forward
07/01/2002 | 197cm/87kg

A swingman of sorts, Tucker is one who was poised to make a big impact in 2020 with a full NAB League season. He is a solid marker of the ball who can impact at either end of the ground, but looked to be settling nicely into a key defensive role. He is already a nice size for it, too.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS:

Felix Flockart | Ruck/Tall Utility
05/11/2001 | 200cm/79kg

Another 19-year-old prospect, but one who has not gained a massive amount of elite-level exposure. After impressing for Brighton Grammar in last year’s APS season, Flockhart was set to join Sandringham’s NAB League and VFL programs, hoping to continue his steep rate of development as a lean and versatile tall with great upside.

Darby Hipwell | Inside Midfielder
15/08/2002 | 181cm/80kg

Having very narrowly missed the cut for this year’s AFL Academy intake, Hipwell took it in his stride and looked to prove his doubters wrong in 2020. Drawing inspiration from past teammates, the inside midfielder has worked hard on improving his outside game to better complement his contested ball winning ability.

Oscar Lewis | Outside Midfielder
13/08/2001 | 192cm/75kg

A bolter from last year’s crop who was set to go around once again, Lewis is a raw type with good potential. At 192cm, he is a prototypical athlete with strong running ability on the outside, whether that be carving off half-back or the wing. He would have looked to improve his production and contested work.

Charlie McKay | Midfielder/Defender
09/08/2002 | 186cm/80kg

McKay loomed as one to watch for Carlton fans in 2020 given his ties to the club as the son of 244-game Blues champion, Andrew. He remains father-son eligible and has some nice traits, including hardness at the ball and his ability to play both through midfield or in defence. Could come into greater contention with a full year in 2021.

WESTERN JETS:

Lucas Failli | Midfielder/Small Forward
14/09/2002 | 170cm/73kg

Failli may be small, but packs a punch as a zippy ball winner who can also impact up forward. His size, smarts and agility bode for more time in attack should he get to the next level, with his defensive work-rate also suitable for that small forward role.

Cody Raak | Tall Defender
08/11/2002 | 191cm/77kg

Another Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect tied to the Western Bulldogs this year, Raak is a developing defender who reads the play well and shows sound composure on the ball. He may be building up to key position size and would prove a handy developmental type for the Bulldogs’ Category B rookie list.

South Australia announces 2021 state talent hub

THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) yesterday announced its 2021 State Talent Hub, consisting of Under 17 and 18 squads. As the AFL steps away from its national hub-based academies, South Australia has designed its own state program around the two age groups to better prepare talent for next year’s Under 17 and 19 National Championships. The 50-player Academy allows players access to a concentrated high-performance program which is set to commence next month, with another camp due in January next year.

>> SCROLL TO VIEW THE U17 & U18 TALENT HUBS

Among the prominent names in the Under 18 squad is Jason Horne, who has made his claim as the current 2021 number one pick frontrunner. The South Adelaide midfielder has already gained SANFL League experience and shone with his speed and aerial marking. Fellow Panthers Matthew Roberts and Arlo Draper are other high-end prospects to feature, while Norwood premiership player Cooper Murley would also have been one of the first names picked.

There are a few notable players already tied to clubs too, with the likes of Jase Burgoyne (Port Adelaide, father-son), Isaiah Dudley (Adelaide, NGA), and Blayne O’Loughlin (Adelaide, NGA) all earning selection. Jase is the son of Port premiership player Peter, while Dudley is the cousin of Melbourne livewire Kysaiah Pickett, and O’Loughlin is the nephew of Sydney champion Michael.

In the Under-17 crop, Jaiden Magor looms as an early leader having starred in SA the Under 17 Futures game this year. Austin McDonald is another ball winning midfielder at the top end having already established himself as a key cog in Central District’s engine room, while Kobe Ryan is an outside type with terrific run and Westies teammate Tyson Coe featured at the 2019 Under 16s championships as an under-ager. Will Verrall and Isaac Keeler are a couple of exciting, mobile talls, and the latter is tied to Adelaide’s NGA.

2021 South Australia Under 18 State Talent Hub:

Oscar Adams | Glenelg

Zac Becker | Sturt

Cooper Beecken | Glenelg

Jase Burgoyne | Eagles

Brayden Calvett | Eagles

Lukas Cooke | Eagles

Matt Dnistriansky | Norwood

Arlo Draper | South Adelaide

Isaiah Dudley | Central District

Morgan Ferres | Sturt

Cody Gilchrist  | Central District

Jason Horne | South Adelaide

Declan Hortle | Sturt

Jonte Hunter-Price | Eagles

Hugh Jackson | North Adelaide

Cade Kennedy  | West Adelaide

Hugo Kittel | Sturt

Shay Linke  | Central District

Alastair Lord | Norwood

Cooper Murley  | Norwood

Blayne O’Loughlin | North Adelaide

Jarrod Parish | Glenelg

Lewis Rayson | Glenelg

Matt Roberts | South Adelaide

Will Spain | Sturt

Hugh Stagg | Glenelg

Nasiah Wanganeen | Glenelg

Jay Watson | Eagles

Luca Whitelum | Central District

James Willis | North Adelaide

2021 South Australia Under 17 State Talent Hub:

Shaun Bennier | North Adelaide

Max Blacker | North Adelaide

Fraser Bone | West Adelaide

Oliver Britten-Jones | Sturt

Hayden Brokensha | Glenelg

Hunter Carter | Eagles

Tyson Coe | West Adelaide

Adam D’Aloia | Eagles

Isaac Keeler | North Adelaide

Harry Lemmey | West Adelaide

Jaiden Magor | South Adelaide

Austin McDonald | Central District

Taj Rahui | Norwood

Kobe Ryan | West Adelaide

Nick Sadler | Sturt

Lachlan Scannell | Glenelg

Brodie Tuck | Central District

Riley Verrall | Norwood

Will Verrall | South Adelaide

Tyson Walls | Norwood

Featured Image: Jason Horne in action for South Adelaide | Credit: Deb Curtis/SANFL

In Contention | Outsider AFL Draft prospects to consider: Vic Country

COME the end of a year like no other, there is likely to be a greater amount of hard luck stories and near misses than ever before, especially after the recent cuts to AFL list sizes. But for all that doom and gloom, the 2020 AFL Draft intake is also poised to provide some of the best stories of positivity as elite level hopefuls rise from the adversity this year has put forward.

In Draft Central’s newest series, we take a look at some of the draft prospects who remain in contention to fulfil their draft dreams despite missing out on invites to their respective states’ draft combines. These combine lists are often the best indicators of clubs’ interest in players, with at least four nominations required for those who were not selected in the two national Under -17 showcase games last year. Outsider talent from the Vic Country regions are next to go under the microscope, and there are plenty around the mark despite missing a full year of football.

Below are pocket profiles of some players to watch, which will also feature in our upcoming annual AFL Draft Guide.

>> 2020 AFL Draft Pool
>> AFL Draft Whispers: 2020 Edition
>> Power Rankings: November Update

BENDIGO PIONEERS:

Sam Conforti | Midfielder/Small Forward
15/03/2002 | 174cm/72kg

The diminutive mover quickly established himself as a mainstay in Bendigo’s lineup last year, going on to average 17.3 disposals across 16 games. He played mostly on the wing but was looking to develop as a hard-running, creative small forward.

Aaron Gundry | Ruck
17/02/2001 | 200cm/84kg

A player who could have benefitted greatly from another year in the NAB League system, Gundry is a mobile ruckman who has also enjoyed stints up forward. The 19-year-old’s clean hands and upside are his strengths, but he has some filling out to do.

Jack Tillig | Half-Back
07/03/2002 | 186cm/84kg

Tillig could have been one to surprise this year with a full NAB League season, set to return to the Pioneers after representing GWV while boarding at St Patrick’s Ballarat for school. He is a solid rebounder who also intercepts well at half-back.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS:

Henry Berenger | Key Defender
31/01/2002 | 193cm/86kg

One who contributed a solid bottom-age campaign consisting of 15 games, Berenger showed he was capable of playing a key defensive role. His athletic profile does not jump off the page, but the 18-year-old is a readymade and versatile rebounder.

Blake Kuipers | Key Defender/Ruck
25/07/2001 | 197cm/82kg

A former high-level volleyballer, Kuipers is a player with plenty of upside who featured at last year’s Under 18 National Championships. He is quite raw, but very athletic and can fill key position posts at either end or in the ruck. Was poised for a big 2020.

Deakyn Smith | Outside Midfielder/Forward
22/08/2002 | 179cm/68kg

Part of Melbourne’s Next Generation Academy, Smith is a lightly-framed outside midfielder who can also rotate forward. He has good speed and plenty of raw talent, but is working on adding polish and consistency to his overall game.

Bayleigh Welsh | Midfielder/Forward
19/01/2002 | 180cm/82kg

Dandenong players and staff alike rate Welsh as a talent who was poised to make a real impact in 2020. He averaged a tick under 12 disposals across 14 NAB League games last year and was set for a more permanent midfield role.

GEELONG FALCONS:

Gennaro Bove | Midfielder/Small Forward
14/01/2002 | 177cm/78kg

One of two Geelong Falcons co-captains for 2020, Bove is a clean and agile small midfielder who can also get his hands dirty on the defensive end. His size and smarts bode well for development as a small forward in future.

Darcy Chrigwin | Inside Midfielder
25/07/2001 | 191cm/89kg

Another player who was poised to shift back to his native region in 2020, Chirgwin was also unlucky not to be picked up last year. The 19-year-old has grown to 89kg and would be a readymade choice as far as inside midfielders go.

Jay Dahlhaus | Small Forward
21/05/2001 | 172cm/71kg

Currently plying his trade with Southern Districts in the NTFL, Dahlhaus is an exciting small forward who brings terrific creative energy and defensive pressure to the forward half. Injury curtailed his top-age season last year and he was set to impact as a 19-year-old in 2020.

GIPPSLAND POWER:

Jai Newcombe | Inside Midfielder
02/08/2001 | 184cm/85kg

Was poised to stake his claim as one of 2020’s feel-good stories, having finally made the cut at Gippsland after being overlooked in multiple preseasons. He is an inside bull who proved hard to tackle at this year’s trials and the Power were certainly high on his potential as an over-ager.

GWV REBELS:

Isaac Wareham | Outside Midfielder
24/12/2001 | 186cm/77kg

Another who was unlucky to be overlooked last year, Wareham looked set to put injuries behind him and build on a top-age season which saw him represent Vic Country. He has plenty of development left as a December birth and makes things happen with ball in hand, playing into his overall upside.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS:

Ethan Baxter | Key Defender
31/01/2002 | 193cm/82kg

A Richmond Next Generation Academy member, Baxter was an Under 16 All Australian in 2018 and had some development left to make in 2020. He is a strong key defender who can hold his own in the back 50, especially in one-on-one and aerial contests.

Kade Chalcraft | Outside Midfielder
28/03/2002 | 182cm/79kg

Chalcraft was touted for some more time on the inside this year having already showed his worth as a creative outlet on the outer. He is an evasive small-medium type who played 16 games as a bottom-ager.

Sam Durham | Balanced Midfielder
09/07/2001 | 185cm/77kg

One of last year’s state combine invitees, Durham missed out on being drafted as a top-ager but garnered interest with his speedy adjustment to the code as a multi-sport athlete. He moves well and has good skills, but would be working on his game sense and consistency.

In Contention | Outsider AFL Draft prospects to consider: Western Australia

COME the end of a year like no other, there is likely to be a greater amount of hard luck stories and near misses than ever before, especially after the recent cuts to AFL list sizes. But for all that doom and gloom, the 2020 AFL Draft intake is also poised to provide some of the best stories of positivity as elite level hopefuls rise from the adversity this year has put forward.

In Draft Central’s newest series, we take a look at some of the draft prospects who remain in contention to fulfil their draft dreams despite missing out on invites to their respective states’ draft combines. These combine lists are often the best indicators of clubs’ interest in players, with at least four nominations required for those who were not selected in the two national Under 17 showcase games last year. West Australian talent on the precipice are next to go under the microscope, and there are plenty around the mark after an exciting season of WAFL football.

Below are pocket profiles of some players to watch, which will also feature in our upcoming annual AFL Draft guide.

>> 2020 AFL Draft Pool
>> AFL Draft Whispers: 2020 Edition
>> Power Rankings: November Update

DEFENDERS:

Will Collins | Swan Districts
24/02/2002 | 191cm | 81kg

Collins caught the eye towards the latter end of season 2020 and capitalised on being selected for the Under 18 All Stars games with a couple of solid performances. He is a competitive type on the precipice of key position height, able to play on medium and tall forwards.

Keanu Haddow | East Fremantle
23/08/2002 | 183cm | 83kg

Part of Fremantle’s NGA, Haddow could earn a rookie spot after proving a key cog in East Fremantle’s Colts defence this year. He is a medium height but has enough strength to play against bigger opponents, providing a safe outlet on the last line. Could also develop into a midfielder with his ability over the ball.

Tyler Nesbitt | Peel Thunder
4/07/2002 | 185cm | 80kg

Earned his way into this year’s state academy intake and showed good development as he moved from a forward role, to being used almost exclusively as a defender in 2020. He is generally a good user by foot who can also impact aerially with intercepts.

Ty Sears | Swan Districts
21/01/2002 | 187cm | 78kg

An agile outside runner who plays off half-back or the wing, Sears is a player capable of breaking the lines in transition with his speed and use by foot. When afforded the time and space, he can gain good meterage with running bounces and also hit the scoreboard.

Finn Gorringe | East Fremantle
29/05/2002 | 183cm | 77kg

A hard-nosed prospect with plenty of courage, Gorringe adjusted well this season to a defensive switch having previously cut his teeth as an inside midfielder. He is a no-frills kind of player who straight lines the ball and can split contests while also applying punishing defensive pressure.

FORWARDS:

Logan Guelfi | Claremont
29/05/2002 | 180cm | 70kg

Guelfi is the kind of player who provides real spark in attack, able to create and rack up score involvements while also fulfilling his defensive duties as a small forward. He is the brother of Essendon’s Matt and does plenty of exciting things on-field.

Nick Martin | Subiaco
3/04/2001 | 188cm | 81kg

A tall forward with good marking ability, Martin came on strongly as a 19-year-old prospect in 2020. He lead Subiaco’s goalkicking charts with a total of 13 and a full year of senior WAFL football has seen him stay in the draft conversation.

Sandon Page | Subiaco
17/04/2002 | 190cm | 80kg

Page proved a player who was hard to deny this year after a terrific season at Colts level. He booted two goals in Subiaco’s Grand Final triumph and also kicked a bag in the first All-Stars game, putting his name on the map. He is an accurate set shot who also brings others into the game and has decent athleticism.

MIDFIELDERS:

Sam Fisher | Swan Districts
03/07/2002 | 182cm | 85kg

A mature-age prospect who was previously on Sydney’s AFL list, Fisher moved to WA this year and took out the Sandover Medal in his debut campaign. He is clean at the contest and has no trouble finding the ball, but is working on his explosive burst out of congestion.

Callum Johnson | West Perth
11/10/2001 | 179cm | 77kg

Johnson is a tough ball winner who dominated the Colts competition early in the season to earn a Reserves berth. He works hard going both ways and racks up consistent numbers, but may be working on adding some polish to his game.

Max Spyvee | Claremont
176cm | 72kg

The best afield in game two of the Under 18 All-Stars fixtures, Spyvee is an exciting midfielder who zips forward as a terrific attacking catalyst. He won the 2019 Colts premiership with Claremont and impressed upon hitting the League grade late this season.

Jamison Ugle | Swan Districts
1/08/2002 | 181cm | 71kg

Ugle is a smooth-moving outside type who loves to run. He impressed enough in Swan Districts’ Colts side to earn selection in the Under 18 All-Stars games, where he provided plenty of x-factor. He comes from good footballing pedigree and is said to be a terrific character.

Lachlan Vanirsen | Subiaco
27/10/2002 | 182cm | 76kg

Vanirsen won this year’s WAFL Colts best and fairest and was best afield in the Grand Final as Subiaco earned premiership glory. He is hardly a flashy type, but adds great value as a reliable and clean ball winner who has peaked at the ideal time.

Conor McPartland | Perth
28/04/2001 | 176cm | 83kg

A midfield bull who won mountains of the ball at Colts level, McPartland proved his worth in 2020 as a 19-year-old prospect. He drives the ball forward through sheer grunt and power while also tackling hard, but may look to tidy up his disposal in future. Also fared well at League level late in the season.

RUCKS:

Solomon James | South Fremantle
3/11/2001 | 199cm | 98kg

A solidly build ruck prospect, James was a solid performer for the Bulldogs’ Colts side. Rotating forward from the engine room, James used his strong frame to impact aerially and provide first use to his midfielders. Also featured in the Under 18 All-Stars games.

Michael Mallard | West Perth
15/01/2002 | 200cm | 98kg

Mallard is a giant in the ruck and won more hitouts than any other player in this year’s WAFL Colts competition. He is a talented prospect with plenty of upside, able to mark well around the ground as one of the more impactful and mobile ruck options. Was an Under 16 and 18 state representative.

Featured Image: Max Spyvee during this year’s Under 18 All-Stars showcase | Credit: (Retrieved from) @WAFLOfficial via Twitter

In Contention | Outsider AFL Draft prospects to consider: South Australia

COME the end of a year like no other, there is likely to be a greater amount of hard luck stories and near misses than ever before, especially after the recent cuts to AFL list sizes. But for all that doom and gloom, the 2020 AFL Draft intake is also poised to provide some of the best stories of positivity as elite level hopefuls rise from the adversity this year has put forward.

In Draft Central’s newest series, we take a look at some of the draft prospects who remain in contention to fulfil their draft dreams despite missing out on invites to their respective states’ draft combines. These combine lists are often the best indicators of clubs’ interest in players, with at least four nominations required for those who were not selected in the two national Under 17 showcase games last year. South Australian talents on the precipice are the first to go under the microscope, and there are plenty around the mark after an entertaining year of SANFL football.

Below are pocket profiles of each player, which will also feature in our upcoming annual AFL Draft guide.

>> 2020 AFL Draft Pool
>> Power Rankings: November Update

KEY FORWARDS/RUCKS:

Ned Carey | Norwood
13/06/2002 | 198cm | 89kg

Carey has spent most of 2020 on the sidelines due to nasty injury niggles, but was a tall prospect of interest coming into the year having been included in the SA state academy hub. He can play in the ruck or at either end of the ground, is mobile for his size, and capable of taking big contested grabs.

Daniel Fahey-Sparks | Sturt
7/01/1998 | 196cm | 92kg

As somewhat of an undersized ruck, Fahey-Sparks covers the ground well and doubles as a forward threat. The 22-year-old’s strong athletic base and added League experience saw him really come into his own during 2020, proving dominant in the air and confident around the ground.

Riley Holder | Glenelg
18/12/2002 | 190cm | 84kg

The shortest and most forward-oriented player of this lot, Holder proved to be a reliable target for Glenelg and Sacred Heart in 2020. He is below true key position height at 190cm but has a strong frame and covers good ground, ensuring he is difficult to halt on the lead and in contested marking situations. Was included in this year’s state academy hub.

Zac Phillips | WWT Eagles
15/08/2002 | 200cm | 80kg

The rangy Eagles bigman made the move down to Henley High this year and performed well there while also juggling his SANFL Under 18 duties. He was his side’s primary ruck option and fared well at the centre bounces with his directional work, but is still improving on his strength, forward craft, and ability to have a greater impact around the ground.

SMALL FORWARDS/MIDFIELDERS:

Lachlan Grubb | Central District
7/12/2002 | 173cm | 69kg

Some may remember him taking out the 2019 SANFL Grand Final sprint, but Grubb is much more than merely a sprinter. His pace certainly helps when breaking lines and taking the game on, while also making for some punishing closing speed in the attacking half. As a December-birth, Grubb still has plenty of upside and development left but has already featured at League level.

Cooper Horsnell | Glenelg
19/04/2002 | 174cm | 68kg

Another who falls into the forward/wing category, Horsnell played out a full season among Glenelg’s Reserves setup in 2020 and also showed his wares by hitting the scoreboard during the Under 18 All-Stars fixture. He is a creative user on the fly who works hard up and down the ground, while also posing a threat close to goal. Had early interest as a state academy hub member.

Henry Nelligan | Norwood
7/03/2002 | 170cm | 69kg

Nelligan proved plenty of doubters wrong with his performances after missing out on a draft combine invite. The hard-working midfielder played a key role in Norwood’s SANFL Under 18s premiership and also gained senior experience earlier in the year. He is not overly quick, but is a natural ball winner who thrives at ground level and is not afraid to get his hands dirty.

Beau McCreery | South Adelaide
19/4/2001 | 184cm | 84kg

A 19-year-old prospect who has garnered attention on the back of a super SANFL League campaign which saw him boot 19 goals in 15 games. He was selected in the Under 18 All-Stars fixture come season’s end where he spent time rotating between the midfield and forwardline. McCreery gets stuck in on the defensive end and can often provide a spark just when his side needs it.

James Rowe | WWT Eagles
19/09/1999 | 173cm | 73kg

One of the most talked about mature-age hopefuls in this year’s crop, Rowe is a natural footballer who knows where the goals are. He was the equal-leading SANFL League goalkicker this year after earning a state combine invite in 2019 and played a vital role in Woodville-West Torrens’ premiership triumph. The 21-year-old looks ready as ever and would appeal to clubs crying out for a small forward.

DEFENDERS:

Dyson Hilder | North Adelaide
31/03/2001 | 196cm | 91kg

A key defender with great poise, Hilder has worked hard since missing out on draft honours last year. He again rotated between the Roosters’ League and Reserves sides after gaining some experience in 2019, showcasing some of his best attributes at senior level; namely a strong marking ability and reading of the play from behind the ball.

Rhyan Mansell | WWT Eagles
4/06/2000 | 182cm | 75kg

A small-medium defender who has come on leaps and bounds this year, Mansell allayed late injury concerns to help Woodville-West Torrens take out the premiership flag. The Tasmanian native was a key rebounder out of the back half and showed good skills with ball in hand, while also bringing a hard edge to the side. It could be his year after being overlooked twice.

Callum Park | Glenelg
19/01/2001 | 190cm | 74kg

An outside-leaning utility who can carve up the opposition by foot on he wing or across half-back, Park served a reminder of his talents in 2020 after being overlooked in last year’s draft. He is still quite lean but measures up at a good height and has great upside, with his rebounding ability particularly effective for the Bays. His versatility will also appeal to recruiters.

Luke Parks | Glenelg
18/04/2001 | 189cm | 83kg

Another who was unlucky to be overlooked at last year’s draft, Parks has taken to senior SANFL football with aplomb since making the move to Glenelg in 2020. The Sydney Swans Academy graduate impressed this year with his athleticism and courageous intercept marking in the back half, and has a good frame to keep up with the rigours of League football.

Jacob Wehr | WWT Eagles
184cm | 71kg

The stylish half-back finally broke through to the League grade in 2020 and became a hit among Woodville-West Torrens highly touted team. Kicking is his greatest asset, with the left-footer able to hit targets both short and long to act as a key playmaker in the back half. Interest has grown in the 22-year-old this year having come from a fair way back.

MIDFIELDERS:

Daly Andrews | South Adelaide
22/02/2000 | 184cm | 81kg

Andrews has made improvements after missing out on draft honours for two years running, credit to his work-rate and willingness to succeed. The Victorian moved to South Adelaide in 2020 after NAB League experience with the Western Jets and added superb midfield balance to the Panthers’ side. He is now a readymade size and has built great consistency, with speed and kick penetration highlights of Andrews’ game.

Bailey Chamberlain | West Adelaide
26/06/2002 | 179cm | 70kg

A balanced ball winner with break-neck acceleration, Chamberlain was a clear standout among West Adelaide’s struggling Under 18s side. After proving a class above for much of the season and racking up plenty of possessions, he moved up to the Reserves grade and was eventually rewarded with a League debut. He is still quite light and can improve his kicking on the run.

Nicholas Kraemer | South Adelaide
3/04/2002 | 185cm | 82kg

A strong inside midfielder who thrives in contested situations, Kraemer overcame injury troubles to make an impact in the back-end of the season. He is a leader among the Panthers’ group who bases his game on Josh Kennedy and prides himself on his defensive acumen – so much so, that he even succeeded in a move to defence. He has been working hard his speed and overall running capacity as a midfielder.

Mani Liddy | Sturt
20/02/2002 | 181cm | 79kg

A tough inside type who can also rotate forward, Liddy loves to compete and wins plenty of the ball at stoppages. He formed a near-unstoppable combination with first round prospect Tom Powell in 2020 and was consistently among Sturt’s best players at Under 18s level. His ability to stand up in tackles, shrug off opponents, and release slick handballs are all key features of his game.

Lachlan McNeil | WWT Eagles
9/02/2001 | 182cm | 80kg

McNeil is another who proved plenty of doubters wrong in 2020 after being overlooked as a top-age draft prospect last year. Since, he slotted straight into Woodville-West Torrens’ League side and became one of the competition’s best young players, adding terrific balance in his play from midfield. He is a handy ball winner who usually contributes neat disposals and can play inside or out.

Jamison Murphy | North Adelaide
9/12/2002 | 180cm | 85kg

A talented junior cricketer made of leadership material, Murphy opted to chase another type of red ball in 2020 as he committed to football. He is a solidly built inside midfielder who also plies his trade in defence, entrusted with kick-in duties on account of his composure and clean disposal. He also proved to be an apt decision maker, showing good awareness in the back half despite not being the most athletic type.

Featured Image: Nicholas Kraemer gets a kick away | Credit: Mark Brake/AFL Photos

Draft Central Power Rankings: November 2020

THE PENULTIMATE edition of Draft Central’s 2020 Power Rankings is in, as AFL Draft combines, All-Star fixtures, and state league finals from around the country have all now been wrapped up. Victorian talents finally got to show their wares, albeit only for combine tests, but gave a glimpse into how they have grown and developed without any on-field action this year. It sees a bunch of shuffles made, with a couple of big movers and sliders among our top 30, while two key defenders make their push for the top 10.

There are no completely fresh faces from the list compiled in our October edition, as the top five shapes up quite consistently to see most of the movement made between ranks 10 and 20. Nearly a third of the 30 players featured in our analysis are already tied to AFL clubs, only further confirming the tag this year’s crop holds as the most compromised ever. All that, and more in Draft Central’s November Power Rankings update.

Note, the list is ordered purely on our opinion and each players’ ability, not taking into account any AFL clubs’ lists or needs.

>> 2020 Draft Profiles

#1 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 195cm | 90kg

Western Bulldogs fans may not entirely enjoy seeing Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, Ugle-Hagan perched atop the tree given the hefty price that comes with it, but should be buoyed by their club having first dibs on such a remarkable talent. The 195cm key position forward has been compared to champion goalkicker Lance Franklin for his athleticism and left-foot kick, but he plays a little differently. Ugle-Hagan’s pace off the lead and sticky hands overhead set him apart, while elite scores in each of the combine testing events make him an irresistible prospect alone. He has long been the consensus number one choice, having delivered on the hype as he moved to the Oakleigh region via a scholarship with Scotch College.

October Ranking: #1

Last Month: Ugle-Hagan was able to showcase his athleticism at the Vic Metro Draft Combine, registering terrific results across the board. He again ran a sub-three-second 20-metre sprint and weighed in six kilos heavier than in preseason, hinting at his development in strength which will be important as he enters the AFL system as a tall forward. He remains the consensus number one, despite seeing no on-field action in 2020.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#2 Elijah Hollands
Murray Bushrangers/Vic County | Forward/Midfielder
25/04/2002 | 188cm | 80kg

Hollands’ placing in these rankings initially proved one of the hardest to call, especially given he sat out the entire 2020 season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). At this point though, he has done more than enough to warrant top five status at the least, and finds a place in second spot once again. While his knack for producing game-defining periods has most significantly been achieved forward of centre, Hollands has the size and skill to warrant his goal of earning more midfield minutes. With clean hands, athleticism, and a booming boot which often finds the goals, Hollands is all you could ever want from a high-ceiling prospect. Not playing shouldn’t hurt his value too much, especially given the fate of his fellow Victorians, but it would have been nice to see him get an uninterrupted crack at NAB League level having finished his schooling at Caulfield Grammar.

October Ranking: #2

Last Month: Hollands earned an invite to the Draft Combine but while he is said to be recovering well from his ACL injury sustained during preseason, was not quite ready to participate. He should be ready to go early next year and holds his spot at number two, as he has done all year.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#3 Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 196cm | 86kg

A dominant key position forward with terrific endurance is McDonald, who adds to the strong tall and West Australian representation on this list. The high-marking spearhead ran out for his state thrice during last year’s Under 18 National Championships, averaging a goal per game and impressing with his ability to clunk marks leading up the ground. He has terrific hands on the lead and usually has no trouble finding the big sticks, while his high-level endurance confirms his status as a true, modern-day centre half-forward. Having grown and filled out to a more conventional key position size, McDonald has showcased his game-winning ability from forward of centre in 2020 – something which earned him All-Australian honours as an Under 16s player. He booted 21 goals in nine WAFL League games this year, an outstanding return.

October Ranking: #3

Last Month: After helping Perth to its first WAFL League finals series in over 20 years, McDonald also performed well at the Western Australia Draft Combine; registering a time of 3.029 seconds over 20 metres, and 6:33 over 2km to showcase his speed-endurance mix. He also booted multiple goals in the first WA Under 18 All-Stars game, but missed the second with calf soreness.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus | Player Focus

#4 Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
14/04/2002 | 194cm | 78kg

Another tall among the top five, and a versatile one at that. While Grainger-Barras is definitely most comfortable and renowned as a key position defender, the Swan Districts hopeful’s versatility lies in the varying roles he play inside defensive 50. Credit to his athleticism and slender frame, he is able to keep up with medium types at ground level, while also showing form as a lockdown type on the opposition’s best big forward, or as an intercept marking outlet. Grainger-Barras is a cool head in possession too, boasting a sound kick for his size and composure beyond his years. That same level-headedness and footballing IQ makes him a sound reader of the play from the back, and the leading option in his position.

October Ranking: #4

Last Month: Grainger-Barras was another to impress at the WA Draft Combine with terrific results in the vertical jumps, speed, and agility tests. He also performed on-field in both WA Under 18 All-Star showcases, assuming his usual key defensive post and intercepting well before being thrown forward to boot a couple of goals in game two. He remains quite lean, but is super athletic and a lock for top five status.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus | Player Focus

#5 Will Phillips
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
22/05/2002 | 180cm | 80kg

We all marvelled at how well Oakleigh graduates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson have adapted to life in the AFL, and Phillips could be the next Charger in line to do just that having leant on the pair during his bottom-aged campaign. Like Rowell, Phillips is a 180cm prospect who consistently finds plenty of the ball and possesses great leadership qualities. He is a well-balanced midfielder too, having plied his trade at times on the outside for Oakleigh en route to premiership glory. Phillips seems to thrive on the inside though, with his hardness and ability to weave through traffic making him an invaluable stoppage asset. The Caulfield Grammar student was set to juggle APS football and NAB League duties in 2020, while standing as a clear leadership candidate for Vic Metro come national carnival time – all before the pandemic hit.

October Ranking: #5

Last Month: Rounding out a rather settled top five, Phillips cut quite a powerful figure at the Vic Metro Draft Combine. He registered a 2.91-second 20-metre sprint time, while also faring well in the 2km time trial (6:38), which is shown in his toe away from congestion, and ability to run all day. Phillips firms as arguably the best pure midfielder in the draft.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#6 Riley Thilthorpe
West Adelaide/South Australia | Ruck/Key Position Forward
7/07/2002 | 201cm | 100kg

In a welcome change from last year’s crop, key position prospects will be in abundance at the top end. Thilthorpe is one of them, an athletic ruck/forward who possesses enormous running capacity and can dominate the airways. In his ruck duties, the 201cm West Adelaide product plays more like a fourth midfielder, able to follow up at ground level and cover the ground like a small. He has been utilised in a more forward-oriented role for the Bloods at SANFL League level though, with his goalkicking attributes and diverse skillset already making him a handful for senior players with more mature bodies. Ask any of the South Australian Under 18s who they were most looking forward to playing alongside in 2020, and Thilthorpe was almost always among them. Jot the name down, he should be among those you are most looking forward to watching, too.

October Ranking: #6

Last Month: The South Australian big man has not been able to finish off his year as he would have liked, sidelined since Round 9 of the 14-game SANFL season, while also deemed unable to participate in his state’s Draft Combine and Under 18 All-Stars clash. Groin niggles have been the cause of his injury concerns of late, with that durability factor looming as a potential dampener to his top five hopes. It hasn’t set him any further down our list though, as he is still one of the more versatile key position options.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus

#7 Tanner Bruhn
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
27/05/2002 | 183cm | 74kg

Class with a capital ‘C’ is what Bruhn has been described as, despite his limited on-field opportunities over the last two years. The Geelong Falcons midfielder burst onto the scene as Vic Country’s Under 16 MVP in 2018, but injuries have cruelled him since; having initially required knee surgery after a 2019 preseason incident, and undergone a follow-up procedure that would have had him in doubt to feature early this year. He still managed to add two NAB League outings to his resume towards the end of last season, showcasing his terrific stoppage craft with clean hands and wonderful movement around the ball. Should he eventually enjoy an extended run and put his best form on display at the next level, Bruhn could well prove to be the premier midfielder of this year’s bunch.

October Ranking: #8

Last Month: Bruhn seems to have achieved a clean run since his preseason setback, looking strong at the Vic Country Draft Combine with a solid 2km time of 6:40. He also fared well in the vertical jumps, which is not particularly a key feature of his game, but rather showcases the athleticism he is capable of producing with a full bill of health. He moves up a spot and can hopefully build some more consistency going forward.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#8 Braeden Campbell
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Balanced Midfielder/Forward
4/02/2002 | 181cm | 75kg

While he has again been squeezed out to number eight, Campbell is a player with the potential to end up a top five player out of this year’s crop. Uncertainty lingered over how much exposure NSW/ACT athletes would be able to gain in 2020 given the NEAFL and NAB League scrappings, but one must only watch last year’s Under 17 Futures All-Star showcase to be reminded of Campbell’s talent. He was best-afield in that game, with electrifying speed, hardness at the ball, and a booming left-foot kick catching the eye of all who bore witness. The Swans Academy product is also apt in the short range as well, and has the invaluable ability to impact games in multiple positions. Whether it be on the inside, outside, or forward of centre, Campbell is a match-winner and should cost the Swans a pretty penny in terms of draft points.

October Ranking: #7

Last Month: Campbell’s Pennant Hills Demons were knocked out in week one of the AFL Sydney Premier Division, with the Swans Academy youngster booting a goal in that particular game. He finished with nine from six games overall, while twice being named among the Demons’ best. At the NSW/ACT Draft Combine, Campbell again showcased his high-level speed and agility, but registered a 2km time of over seven minutes.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus

#9 Lachlan Jones
WWT Eagles/South Australia | General Defender
9/04/2002 | 186cm | 89kg

Yet another NGA prospect, Jones is tied to Port Adelaide and features quite highly on this list as he pushes for top 10 honours. His big frame has seen him adjust well to the rigours of SANFL League football, running out against mature bodies in all bar one of the Eagles’ fixtures this year. As a general defender, Jones possesses obvious hardness at the ball and can compete both aerially and at ground level, remaining relevant going both ways too. His skills are also a big asset, able to spear passes to high percentage options while also breaking games open with his long-range efforts. Jones may well be one to push further up the list as he progresses in 2020, with some solid traits which point to a quick transition into the next level.

October Ranking: #9

Last Month: Jones became a SANFL League premiership player in October, finding his groove come finals time to average 16.7 disposals and 4.3 marks in the postseason. He also capped off an outstanding 16-game season by winning mark of the year, but was managed as the SA Draft Combine and Under 18 All-Stars fixture came around. His on-field performances proved plenty though, showcasing his wares as a potential top 10 talent.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus Round 3 Round 8

#10 Zach Reid
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Key Position Defender/Utility
2/03/2002 | 202cm | 83kg

A versatile tall who could push for top 10 status come draft time, Reid returned a consistent output during his bottom-age season as a key member of Gippsland’s spine. He was tried up either end and through the ruck across 15 NAB League outings, but looked most comfortable down back and should find a home there at the next level. At 202cm, Reid is filling out nicely and can utilise that added strength to compete better one-on-one against big key forwards. He is a terrific judge of the ball in flight and positions intelligently, not just relying on his height to compete aerially. Reid is also both a sound handler and user of the ball for his size, providing a cool head in rebounding transitions. He managed to run out for Leongatha’s Under 18s in July before the season was called off, proving a rare appearance for a Victorian prospect.

October Ranking: #14

Last Month: Reid strengthened his standing as a potential top 10’er at the Vic Country Draft Combine, faring typically well in the vertical jumps with feats of 82cm off either foot. He also registered a 2km time of 6:39, showcasing outstanding mobility and endurance for a player of his size.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#11 Heath Chapman
West Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
31/01/2002 | 192cm | 81kg

A player who has risen steeply into top 15 calculations, Chapman is a key position defender with many points of difference. Having cut his teeth in the role during his bottom-age year, the 192cm prospect has been able to roll off as a third tall down back for West Perth in 2020, utilising his shrewd reading of the play and athleticism to provide a dominant intercept marking prowess. His ability to open up the play in transition with long, rebounding kicks is Chapman’s other key strength, making him a versatile defensive outlet who finds plenty of the ball. Given his size and athletic attributes, that third tall prototype seems his most likely avenue to the elite level, though he is just as capable competing as a more traditional key position player.

October Ranking: #16

Last Month: Chapman put in a couple of solid showings in the Western Australia Under 18 All-Star matches, taking up his usual post at centre half-back. While he is an attacking threat from his own half, Chapman was also forced to show his defensive wares in game two as he matched up on Denver Grainger-Barras, who had swung forward. At the WA combine, Chapman achieved an outstanding 2km time of 6:20, which translates to his repeat running and chain possessions in rebounding forays. He makes another move up to #11.

>> Draft Watch

#12 Alex Davies
Gold Coast SUNS/Allies | Inside Midfielder
18/03/2002 | 192cm | 85kg

A second Northern Academy prospect and the first Queenslander on this list, Davies is one of the more highly touted big-bodied midfielders of his cohort. Standing at 192cm and filling out to 85kg, the SUNS Academy hopeful boasts the ideal size to not only dominate his junior competitors, but more importantly make an immediate impact at the next level. He has been his state’s prime ball winner for some time and thrives on racking up high contested numbers, but has also displayed terrific poise in traffic to add releasing handballs to his thumping kicks away from the stoppages. He ran out for four of Gold Coast’s NAB League outings as a bottom-ager, and looked set to prove a lynchpin among the Allies squad in 2020.

October Ranking: #12

Last Month: The SUNS Academy prospect has been out of action since injuring his elbow in early-August, seeing him miss the Academy Series, Broadbeach’s run to the Senior QAFL Grand Final, and also sit out the Queensland Draft Combine. It will not stop him from proving Queensland’s best talent this year, en route to being pre-listed by Gold Coast.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#13 Nikolas Cox
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Key Position Utility
15/01/2002 | 200cm | 87kg

A 200cm player who can run, kick on both sides, and play just about anywhere? It sounds too good to be true, but that is exactly what Cox brings to the table as his region’s most outstanding draft candidate. Cox cut his teeth as a tall wingman and key position swingman in 2019, juggling his time between school football, 10 NAB League outings, and a berth in the Under 18 Vic Metro squad as a bottom-ager. In 2020, the Northern Knights co-captain was set to develop as a centre-half back, with his athleticism and versatility in the role lending to the fact he has an enormous ceiling. He was also set to be a prime candidate to lead Vic Metro this year, lauded for his professionalism and the example he sets via training standards.

October Ranking: #11

Last Month: Cox remains a player with enormous upside despite not featuring on-field in 2020. He was a feature at the Vic Metro Draft Combine, notching a sub-three-second 20-metre sprint, while also completing the 2km time trial in 6:03. That rare athletic base for a player of his size sees him stick within our top 15, even as he shuffles down a couple of spots.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#14 Nathan O’Driscoll 
Perth/Western Australia | Balanced Midfielder
17/05/2002 | 187cm | 78kg

One of Western Australia’s leading prospects is O’Driscoll, a hard-at-it inside midfielder who can also double as a damaging half-back or wingman. The 187cm Perth Demons product was a standout at Colts level last year, while also breaking through for three outings in the Black Ducks’ Under 18 National Championships campaign as a bottom-ager. Having learnt off the likes of former Perth teammate and Brisbane draftee, Deven Robertson, O’Driscoll is primed to become a permanent midfield fixture having already proven his ball winning capabilities. His penetrating boot and speed-endurance mix make him a prospect with many desirable traits, not to mention his older sister, Emma is already plying her trade at AFLW level for Fremantle.

October Ranking: #10

Last Month: A shoulder injury kept O’Driscoll from running out in the WA Under 18 All-Star fixtures after previously managing a handful of senior games for Perth in the WAFL. In between, the 18-year-old midfielder returned some outstanding results across the board at the WA Draft Combine; namely a 6:23 2km time, and 2.931 seconds over 20 metres. He falls a touch as others rise, with his range still contentious among draft watchers.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus

#15 Kaine Baldwin
Glenelg/South Australia | Key Position Forward
30/05/2002 | 193cm | 90kg

The news of Baldwin’s second ACL tear in as many years – albeit partial this time – was shattering. It meant the promising 193cm forward missed out on yet another season of football after earning All Australian honours at Under 16s level in 2018, and a crack at the SANFL Reserves grade as a bottom-ager. In our eyes, he remains a first round prospect on talent alone, and looked poised to really crack on in 2020 after his initial recovery. He was a handy preseason testing performer, with good returns in the vertical jumps and yo-yo test conveying Baldwin’s ability to crash packs and clunk big contested marks, while also harnessing that aerial dominance in his work up the ground.

October Ranking: #15

Last Month: Baldwin has been inactive all year after partially tearing his ACL on the eve of the 2020 season, but was sighted helping out at the SA Draft Combine despite not participating. He keeps his spot at #15, though that will likely be far from indicative of his final draft range given the severe injury concerns.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#16 Oliver Henry
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Medium Utility
29/07/2002 | 188cm | 77kg

A brother-of who could eventually feature at the top end of this year’s rankings is Henry, the younger sibling of Geelong Cats defender, Jack. The Geelong Falcons product has top 10 potential, able to play up either end of the ground and pull down big marks. While he looks most comfortable up forward as a high-flying third tall type, Henry is just as capable down back where his aerial prowess translates to intercept value. At 188cm, he plays above his size through sheer athleticism and reading of the play, with the potential to also move up onto a wing. If Victorian prospects had been allowed back onto the park in 2020, Henry would likely have been one to rise quite steeply given his enormous upside and versatility.

October Ranking: #17

Last Month: Despite not being able to prove himself on-field, Henry is a player who is being talked up right among the top 10 conversation. Given these are Power Rankings, and not a Phantom Draft, he remains just outside that range for now on what he produced last season. He performed solidly across the board at the Vic Country Draft Combine, getting a nice tick for his already evident athleticism and upside.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#17 Archie Perkins
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
26/03/2002 | 188cm | 79kg

Perkins has all the makings of a special talent. Having caught the eye as a forward and outside midfielder in 2019, the Sandringham Dragons standout was poised to spend more time on the inside as a top-ager, with just the right size and some incredible athletic attributes to aid his transition. Perkins boasts a monster vertical leap, covers 20 metres in less than three seconds, and is brilliantly agile, making for an ideal athletic base. His finishing touch is an area he can refine, but the 188cm prospect is no stranger to finding the goals and can be a real game changer when required. Damage and impact are key traits which often prove hard to measure, but Perkins ranks highly in both departments.

October Ranking: #18

Last Month: Another being talked up near the top 10 range, a lack of football in 2020 has Perkins perched around the 15-mark in our estimation. He could really be anything at the next level though, so don’t be surprised to see him rise in stocks as draft time approaches. Another incredible athlete, Perkins registered ridiculous scores in the vertical leaps (over 90cm off both feet), 20-metre sprint (2.93 seconds), and 2km time trial (6:23) to only confirm his status as one of the most promising talents available in the first round.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#18 Reef McInnes
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
12/12/2002 | 193cm | 86kg

Sliding down the order due to others’ rises is another inside midfielder and a second NGA product from both the Scotch College and Oakleigh Chargers systems. Attached to Collingwood, McInnes is set to be yet another in the production line of academy and father-son prospects made available to the Magpies, and looms as a first round candidate. While he was pushed out to the forward line in Oakleigh’s stacked premiership side, McInnes is a bull on the inside who can dominate at stoppages. He is hardly the typical slow, strength-dependant type either, able to lean on his agility and awareness to effectively extract from midfield. The versatility he was made to learn as a bottom-ager adds another string to his bow, with goals a valuable part of his game in 2019.

October Ranking: #13

Last Month: Arguably a harsh slider on this list, McInnes still very much ranks highly in our eyes. He is a first prospect on pure talent, but will more likely attract a bid within the second round. He has done all he could to prove his worth this year despite not playing any football, showcasing his power at the Vic Metro Draft Combine with a 20m sprint time of 2.78 seconds. No, that is not a typo. He cut a pretty lean figure at said event too, and looks to have kept in good shape despite a 2km time trial result of 7:10.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#19 Caleb Poulter
WWT Eagles/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
12/10/2002 | 192cm | 79kg

One of this year’s brightest bolters, Poulter has rocketed up draft boards after an eye-catching start to his top-age season. The big-bodied midfielder brings a serious presence through midfield, able to win plenty of the ball himself while also hunting the opposition with tackling pressure. Add to his midfield craft the ability to take big marks overhead, hit the scoreboard with his penetrating left boot, and utilise his terrific athletic base, and you have a prospect who can wreak absolute havoc at his best. With some senior football also under his belt in 2020, Poulter has stood up and been noticed quickly. It has been a steep rise since his Under 16 carnival in South Australian colours last year.

October Ranking: #19

Last Month: It was a tough call not to push Poulter even higher up the board after his outstanding display in the SA Under 18 All-Stars clash. Fresh off averaging 21 touches in the Eagles’ SANFL Under 18 finals series, the tall midfielder was so classy in midfield with wonderfully clean hands and disposal. Going back a bit further, he also performed well in each test at his state’s Draft Combine and is surely knocking on the door of first round status.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch

#20 Errol Gulden
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Small Forward/Midfielder
18/07/2002 | 175cm | 75kg

Seemingly joined at the hip with fellow Swans Academy gun Braeden Campbell throughout their journey to the big time, Gulden has long been a highly-touted prospect. The small utility broke through to claim the Division 2 MVP award at the 2018 Under 16 National Championships, racking up mountains of the ball and kicking bags of goals. Since, he has carried such form into his outings with the Swans Academy, while also playing senior footy in the AFL Sydney Premier Division, and representing the Allies Under 18s last year. The crafty mover is small, but holds his own and is as naturally talented a prospect as there is this year.

October Ranking: #29

Last Month: Gulden is clearly the biggest riser this month after making the most of his time on-field in Sydney’s Premier Division competition. The diminutive midfielder showcased all his craftiness to help UNSW Bulldogs into a Grand Final and was named among the best players in the decider. Having snared 16 goals in his eight senior games, Gulden also came runner-up in the league’s best and fairest count, proving he can match it with more mature bodies. He ticks a lot of boxes and was able to showcase his endurance with a 2km time of 6:32 at the NSW/ACT Draft Combine. Swans fans and recruiters will be sweating on where a bid for Gulden comes, as he continues to push towards top 20 status.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#21 Tom Powell
Sturt/South Australia | Midfielder
2/03/2002 | 183cm | 74kg

There are few more consistent ball winners than Powell, who has put an interrupted bottom-age season behind him to emerge as arguably Sturt’s most promising draft prospect. The Double Blues standout simply finds the ball at will, able to get his side going on the front foot from midfield with clever positioning, movement, and extraction. He may be a touch handball happy, but is an elite exponent of that tool and is beginning to mix in his kicking to have an even greater impact on games. At his best, Powell is nothing short of dominant, though goals and a greater run-and-carry game would make him a complete midfielder – akin to Lachie Neale‘s development.

October Ranking: #21

Last Month: While unable to help steer Sturt to premiership glory in the SANFL Under 18s, Powell still finished the season as the competition’s most prolific ball winner. He lead the disposal and clearance stakes, averaging over 34 and nine in the respective categories to stamp his claim as one of this year’s premier midfielders. He put in a solid shift for a well-beaten side in the SA Under 18 All-Stars game, but did not test at the Draft Combine as he navigated finals time.

>> Feature (April) (September)
>> Draft Watch

#22 Finlay Macrae
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
13/03/2002 | 186cm | 78kg

You may recognise the name and yes, Finlay is the half-brother of Western Bulldogs midfielder, Jack. They are quite clearly cut from the same cloth, with the younger Macrae possessing a similar ball winning appetite and class on the ball to his established older sibling. The 186cm Charger also boasts a terrific balance in his traits, able to impact the play moving forward with sound decision making and precise execution via foot, on top of his obvious exploits in extraction. While he is not overly quick, Macrae’s evasiveness comes through agility and awareness, which would have been on full show as he prepared to feature prominently for Oakleigh, Xavier College, and Vic Metro in 2020.

October Ranking: #22

Last Month: Macrae holds his spot and could well push even higher considering how close this kind of range is. While he is another Victorian who was robbed of a top-age season, the classy Oakleigh product has grown nicely to 186cm/78kg and put in an outstanding 2km time of 6:17 at the Vic Metro Draft Combine. That side of the game is what he does well as a consistent ball winner, compared to the ultra-explosive components.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#23 Jack Carroll
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder/Defender
20/12/2002 | 187cm | 76kg

One who has bolted into first round contention, Carroll has plenty of suitors in said range. Coming into his top-age season, the West Australian was pegged as a classy outside midfielder or half-back who moved well and used the ball efficiently by foot. But after nearly a full season of WAFL Colts football through midfield, the 187cm prospect has also shown his worth inside the engine room. Carroll measures up at a good height and while he may be a touch light, is not afraid to win his own ball before using his high-level agility and poise to weave through traffic and effectively dispose of the ball. A versatile talent with good upside, Carroll is destined to rise even further.

October Ranking: #23

Last Month: Carroll had his season cut short by a broken wrist in mid-September, meaning he missed out on the WA Under 18 All-Stars games and East Fremantle’s brief WAFL Colts finals stint. It did not stop him from testing at his state’s Draft Combine though, posting terrific results in each test but not completing the 2km time trial. It is enough to hold the #23 spot, though he is another with plenty of potential to rise.

>> Draft Watch

#24 Brayden Cook
South Adelaide/South Australia | Wing/Forward
18/07/2002 | 189cm | 82kg

Search for the 2020 AFL Draft bolter, and Cook’s name is likely the one you’ll find top of any list. The South Adelaide prospects has come from the clouds to not only put himself within draft contention, but right up into top 25 calculations. Plying his trade either up on a wing or inside forward 50, Cook is a game-winner who is capable of kicking bags of goals and taking eye-catching marks. His size allows him to not just rely on his vertical leap, but also out-work his opponents one-on-one, with his terrific goal sense often helping finish the job. Having put his name on the map, the wingman/forward can now look forward to featuring among his state’s All-Star showcase.

October Ranking: #24

Last Month: Cook did not quite finish the season as he would have liked, kept scoreless for the first time in 2020 as his side bowed out of the SANFL Under 18 finals. His previous body of work still stands up though, having led the league for goals and contested marks across a dozen outings. He could well be a top 20 talent given the profound impact he brings and the steep rise he has enjoyed this year. Cook performed solidly at the SA Draft Combine, but was managed and missed out on the Under 18 All-Stars match.

>> Draft Watch

#25 Zane Trew
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
26/04/2002 | 185cm | 80kg

Trew is one of many top-end prospects who had to battle injury throughout their bottom-age seasons, but proved primed to bounce back well in 2020. Hailing from the talent-stacked Swan Districts program, Trew is a classy inside midfielder who can rack up plenty of ball in style, backed by his 40-disposal effort in last year’s WAFL Colts competition. While he was limited to just three outings and missed Under 18 selection for WA, the 185cm prospect should not be forgotten in top 25 discussions. Trew is a handball-happy extractor, able to flick out releasing touches to his runners, but he is just as effective by foot with clean skills at short range and penetration when required. He was a lock for the WA engine room this season in representative games and returned a good output when fully fit.

October Ranking: #20

Last Month: Trew was frustrated once again this year by some injury niggles, the latest of which (soreness) kept him from running out for game two of the WA Under 18 All Stars fixtures. He had his moments through midfield in game one without dominating, perhaps the product of his side being soundly beaten. Trew did manage to showcase some of his power at the Draft Combine though, registering a sub-three-second 20-metre sprint and vertical leaps of over 80cm off either side.

>> Draft Watch
>> Draft Diary 1 | 2
>> Marquee Matchup

#26 Joel Jeffrey
NT Thunder/Gold Coast SUNS/Allies | Key Position Utility
12/03/2002 | 192cm | 80kg

The sole representative from the Northern Territory in our top 30, Jeffrey is arguably the region’s most promising draft prospect this year. Having grown to 192cm, Jeffrey is a true swingman who can dominate aerially up either end. His reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and his sticky hands do the rest of the work as he pulls down big marks. The son of NT legend Russell Jeffrey, Joel comes from good pedigree and is terrifically athletic for his size; boasting speed to burn, a sizeable leap, and clean hands at ground level. Having gained senior football experience with Wanderers in the NTFL, Jeffrey was set to move to Queensland this year given his ties to the Gold Coast SUNS via their access to the Darwin zone. The move was ultimately put on hold due to the current pandemic, but Jeffrey looks certain to end up in the Sunshine State come season’s end.

October Ranking: #25

Last Month: Jeffrey has not had much to do over the last month having already participated in Queensland’s Academy Series and Draft Combine. He showed glimpses of his athleticism during the fitness testing, running a 3.020-second 20-metre sprint but still requiring some work on his endurance base. He has great potential and versatility, with his ranking hardly relevant to the draft as Gold Coast will pre-list him without cost – a massive get for the SUNS.

>> Draft Watch

#27 Bailey Laurie
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
24/03/2002 | 179cm | 78kg

Another member of Oakleigh’s talent-rich 2019 premiership side, Laurie also features highly in our estimations. The small forward/midfielder is a livewire, and can take games away from the opposition quickly as a high-impact player. His forward running and wonderful agility make for some highlight-reel snippets, consisting of line-breaking bursts and baulks which make his opponents look silly. The Caulfield Grammar student is a great character and a teammate who others love to play alongside, adding a different element to his on-field prowess.

October Ranking: #27

Last Month: Laurie holds his spot at #27 and is a player who could well have lit up the field in 2020. Ultimately, we were unable to see what he could do after a promising 2019 NAB League finals series, but the Victorian showed his wares at the Vic Metro Draft Combine with improved results in the 20-metre sprint (3.06 seconds) and 2km time trial (6:24).

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#28 Brandon Walker
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Half-Back
17/10/2002 | 183cm | 75kg

Introducing one of the smoothest movers of the potential 2020 AFL draft cohort, who is tied to Fremantle’s NGA. Dockers fans will be desperate to downplay Walker’s potential, with elite speed, agility, and vertical leaps combined with clean skills to make up the East Fremantle prospect’s game. He looks a damaging outlet off half-back with his line-breaking ability and precision via foot, while also providing solid defensive cover credit to eye-catching aerial feats and reading of the play. Walker can also move through midfield, adding another string to his bow as he develops. His twin brother, Chris joins him at East Fremantle and in the Dockers Academy.

October Ranking: #26

Last Month: Walker was unable to build on his fantastic WAFL Colts season after sustaining a fractured foot in late-September. It meant he did not test at the WA Draft Combine, nor compete in the Under 18 All-Stars showcases, perhaps allowing Dockers fans to breathe a sigh of relief as the talents of their NGA product have been kept a touch under wraps.

>> Draft Watch

#29 Eddie Ford
Western Jets/Vic Metro | Medium Forward/Midfielder
21/06/2002 | 189cm | 83kg

If you’re after one of the best Under 18s highlight packages among this year’s crop, then look no further than Western’s Ford. The Jets’ leading prospect is capable of taking high marks, booting long goals, and bursting forward to break the lines with his explosive athleticism and speed. Having cut his teeth as a medium forward, the 189cm Victorian has recently requested tape of Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe as he looks to sharpen his midfield craft. He certainly has the size and athletic profile to make the transition, and would have done so with some time on the park as a top-ager. You may remember his Under 17 Futures All-Stars performance from last year, which is what he can produce at his best. Consistency will be key.

October Ranking: #28

Last Month: Ford has grown a few centimetres since preseason and seems to be filling out nicely, coming in at 189cm and 83kg at the Vic Metro Draft Combine. The leading Western Jets product also showed off his athleticism at the event, notching a 94cm running vertical jump and 20-metre time of 2.95 seconds. We know how that translates to his form up forward, but it remains to be seen whether he can consistently provide the same excitement through midfield.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#30 Joel Western
Claremont/Western Australia | Small Midfielder/Forward
12/10/2002 | 172cm | 68kg

Fremantle’s NGA talent program has proven one of the more successful producers of AFL-level players since its inception, and Western is one of a few highly touted prospects set to take the next step in 2020. The Claremont captain took his side to a second consecutive WAFL Colts Grand Final after last year’s premiership triumph, overcoming some early injury concerns to run out an outstanding season. The small midfielder is all-class through the engine room, able to zip out of traffic and deliver the ball forward with freakish skill. As will be expected at the elite level, Western is also capable of playing up forward and even across half-back, making him a player with plenty of upside for Dockers fans to look forward to.

October Ranking: #30

Last Month: Western was best afield in game one of the WA Under 18 All-Stars, before dislocating his finger in game two and thus bringing an end to his year. The crafty small was also managed as his peers performed at the Draft Combine on account of having to lead Claremont to a second-straight WAFL Colts Grand Final appearance. He has done all he could on-field, and awaits a matched bid from Fremantle to stay at home base come draft time.

>> Draft Watch

IN THE MIX:

The recent All-Star fixtures and combines served as a nice refresher as to some of the names who may have flown under the radar this year. Despite not testing, Hawthorn NGA product and Eastern Ranges captain Connor Downie is a player close to the top 30 mark, as is diminutive midfielder Jake Bowey. Fellow Victorians Sam Berry and Conor Stone may also be considered in the second or third rounds, along with underrated midfielder Zavier Maher.

There are a few rucks who may also push their case, with Kalin Lane a late bloomer coming off an outstanding WAFL Colts campaign, while fellow West Australian Shannon Neale is a terrific athlete who also doubles as a key forward. Victorians Henry Walsh (the brother of Sam) and Max Heath are also worth mentions as they continue to develop, though do not have the same recent form to show having not been able to play in 2020.

South Australians who remain close include the likes of Zac Dumesny, Corey Durdin, and Luke Edwards, all of whom have long been highly-touted prospects. Adelaide NGA product Tariek Newchruch is coming off a promising All-Stars showing, as is NT native Brodie Lake, who holds ties to Gold Coast as part of its Darwin zone. Blake Coleman is another aligned to a club, arguably Brisbane’s best academy graduate this year.

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: Key Position Defenders kicking comparison

THIS week, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the series premiere, Chief Editor Peter Williams sat down with AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro to compare their rankings of the top four key position defenders in this year’s crop, but with a twist.

The players in question; Heath Chapman, Nikolas Cox, Denver Grainger-Barras, and Zach Reid are all touted as first round prospects, and it just so happens that they are also all key position defenders who use the ball brilliantly by foot. Their linear traits got our editors thinking – ‘if our club was looking for a key defender in the first round, which one would we take?’ and ‘all four players boast excellent kicks, but which one is best?’.

Here are Peter and Michael’s respective orders:

Peter – Reid, Chapman, Cox, Grainger-Barras
Michael – Chapman, Reid, Cox, Grainger-Barras

Taken into account in the ranking process were parameters such as; efficiency, damage, penetration, technique, style, decision making, and dual-sidedness, making for some tough decisions. In the end, the orders were relatively similar. Remember, these charts are purely indicative of our opinions on their kicking, and not of their overall potential. For the latter, check out our latest Power Rankings.

Here is a breakdown of each player’s kicking prowess:

Heath Chapman – An attacking defender of sorts, Chapman’s combination of penetration and accuracy made him hard to deny as Michael’s first choice. The West Australian opens up play with his distribution, not just in the back half, but also as he dashes further afield. The 193cm talent makes great decisions and is a damaging force across half-back.

Nikolas Cox – The Northern Knights utility can play just about anywhere, but his kicking truly comes to the fore when stationed across half-back or even on the wing. Cox is comfortable kicking on either foot and hit targets with aplomb. His efficiency is up there with each other contender, but his arching style makes his 199cm height a touch more evident when on the move.

Denver Grainger-Barras – The most highly touted player of the lot, Grainger-Barras’ place on either list is hardly a knock on his proficiency by foot. While he may not prove as offensively creative or penetrative, the West Australian is a composed user of the ball in defence and simply gets the job done.

Zach Reid – At 202cm, Reid’s efficiency and fluency by foot is something to behold. His technique and style on the ball replicates that of a player 20cm shorter than him, meaning he was an easy choice for Peter in top spot. Reid is as reliable as anyone on the ball, with his relieving use by foot important when forming transitional play.

While we may well essentially be splitting hairs, it is interesting to see just what makes a player good at their craft. The two Victorians – Cox and Reid – are both around the 200cm mark, so are somewhat boosted by being so outstanding in their disposal for a player of their size. Even at 195cm and 193cm respectively, Grainger-Barras and Chapman are fantastic ball users considering their roles and physical make-ups.

It means that whichever order these players fall in come draft time, each club is poised to gain an elite key position defender with great versatility, and the all-important bonus of being able to kick the ball at an elite level. After all, the game is called football for a reason, and this quartet has that fundamental down pat.

To hear the podcast in full, click here.

PODCAST | In a new special series leading up to the #AFLDraft we are releasing a number of Pocket Podcasts every couple…

Posted by Draft Central on Tuesday, October 20, 2020