Tag: AFL Academy

Draft Central Power Rankings: September 2021

IT has been a long wait, but the Draft Central Power Rankings are back for another edition. The September update sees our list of top prospects stretched to 30 after a last-gasp National Championships fixture and some handy showings from rising stars amid the on-again, off-again nature of season 2021. While changes are scarce at the top-end, there are six fresh faces among the overall intake and a couple of notable risers who continue to garner attention.

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

>> 2021 AFL Draft Combine List: 90 prospects earn invites

#1 Nick Daicos (COL F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 183cm | 72kg

August Ranking: #1

Snapshot: Daicos has an unrivalled understanding of the game; able to bring his teammates into it and anticipate where his next possession will come from, leading to utter domination.

The Collingwood father-son prospect (son of Peter) has more than justified all the hype leading into 2021, solidifying his status as a bonafide number one contender. Daicos made his long-awaited NAB League debut in Round 1 and has gone on to dominate the competition, putting up ridiculous numbers through the engine room as the skipper of a talented Oakleigh Chargers group. Much like his brother, Josh, Daicos was only due to enter the Chargers’ program last year but was made to wait for his unveiling in Oakleigh colours. It was well worth it, though keen watchers already knew of his supreme ability having seen him hold his own in a Carey Grammar side featuring Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson. The Magpies are in for a rare talent.

Last month:

In what was a quiet month for Victoria’s metropolitan prospects, Daicos still managed to dominate headlines. The father-son candidate officially nominated Collingwood as his destination of choice, committing two years on top of his original starting contract as he waits to join the senior squad in November. He looks a lock to be bid on with one of the first two picks.

>> Q&A
>> Head-to-Head: Daicos vs. Sonsie
>> NAB League POTW: Round 3
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

Nick Daicos on the ball for Oakleigh Chargers

#2 Jason Horne-Francis
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder
21/06/2003 | 184cm | 78kg

August Ranking: #2

Snapshot: A midfielder with next to no weaknesses whose power bodes well for tough ball winning and impressive aerial marking, as well as damaging scoreboard impact.

Heralded as the clear number one choice coming into 2021, Horne-Francis retained his crown for our first two rankings updates. The South Adelaide talent impressed in his debut SANFL League outings as a bottom-ager, and has since transitioned into a more prominent midfield role with guidance from former Carlton and Adelaide champion, Bryce Gibbs. He has long been a standout among the South Australian crop, participating in back-to-back Under 16 carnivals and being crowned his state’s MVP in 2019 as captain. Only 18 in June, Horne-Francis boasts a well-balanced game with plenty of damaging strengths and very few weaknesses, with his exposure at senior level another factor which sees him well in contention for number one status.

Last month:

We got to see some of Horne-Francis’ blinding best during August, as two of his four SANFL League appearances yielded high level returns. He kicked off the month with 22 disposals and three goals against Central District, before bookending it with 24 disposals, five clearances, seven tackles, nine inside 50s and a goal against West Adelaide. In between those outings, he also skippered South Australia’s Under 19 squad. While down on his usual lofty standards, Horne-Francis spent plenty of time forward and made his presence felt – particularly during a productive final quarter.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

Jason Horne-Francis captaining South Australia | Credit: SANFL

#3 Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

August Ranking: #3

Snapshot: Callaghan is a classy mover with great agility for his size, and has shown a high level of development to prove his balance of outside and inside traits.

One who seems destined to crack the top five picks come year’s end, Callaghan has enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back has recently transitioned to an inside role, but continues to prove difficult to stop at full flight with his blend of straight-line power and swift agility. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his clean kicking, and seems to manufacture time on the ball in the clinches.

Last month:

While there ended up being no football for Victoria’s metropolitan regions, Callaghan was arguably set for a pretty steady August in any case. The smooth mover was due to return from a foot injury which kept him from representative honours in July, but can now rest up ahead of the combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

Finn Callaghan in Vic Metro colours

#4 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Utility
19/08/2003 | 204cm | 75kg

August Ranking: #4

Snapshot: Darcy is a fast-developing tall talent who can play in each key position post, is athletic, and marks the ball cleanly.

They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top three candidate on potential and the clear best tall in the draft, with his versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy initially impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck at NAB League level, but went on to consolidate his top-end credentials with outstanding performances up forward. Bulldogs fans, you have another key position jet on the radar.

Last month:

Another Vic Metro prospect who did not get on the park in August due to a lack of NAB League and APS football, Darcy remains in top three contention and like Daicos, will inevitably attract a very early bid.

Sam Darcy is the leading tall in this year’s crop

#5 Ben Hobbs
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
16/09/2003 | 183cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #5

Snapshot: Hobbs is a hard-nosed, hard-working inside midfielder who loves to compete both defensively and in a ball winning sense.

The GWV Rebels ball winner had an interrupted start to his 2021 campaign due to injury, but has well and truly proved his top 10 credentials since getting back on the park. He featured at NAB League level as a 16-year-old in 2019 after earning All Australian honours for Vic Country, slowly getting accustomed to the rigours of midfield work in the elite talent pathway. His best traits are shown at the contest, with a hard edge and competitive streak seeing him win plenty of the ball on the inside. The nuggety soon-to-be 18-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and has taken full toll with dominant numbers upon his return to action.

Last month:

Victoria’s Country regions briefly got back on the park in August, and Hobbs managed to sneak in a couple of outstanding performances for his GWV Rebels. Consistent as ever, he racked up 34 and 32 disposals across the two games while also finding the goals in each. Hobbs’ hard edge, ball winning ability, and reliability continue to be his key strengths, despite both of his August outings resulting in losses.

>> NAB League POTW: Round 9

Ben Hobbs kicks Vic Country forward

#6 Josh Gibcus
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Tall Defender 
4/04/2003 | 195cm | 84kg

August Ranking: #7

Snapshot: An intercept marking defender who reads the play well and has a sizeable leap, Gibcus’ eye-catching form has propelled him into top 10 calculations.

Once again, Gibcus is the second tall prospect on our list and has earned his spot with superb form this year. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) defender is an intercept type who uses his strengths to advantage; reading the play beautifully and timing his movements to float onto the scene, before rising with his springy vertical leap to take series of marks and force turnovers. While he is working on his ground level game, Gibcus is so clean in the air and usually a sound distributor across the last line, showing great composure on the ball. He was one of the many AFL Academy call-ups and truly held his own in that fixture, as he continues to improve at a great rate.

Last month:

Like Hobbs, Gibcus got on the park for a couple more appearances in GWV colours. He was also consistent in his output, managing 12 and 13 disposals in the respective losses, while also rising for three marks in both games. The tall talent may be quiet at times, but has terrific upside and some eye-catching strengths across the backline.

#7 Mac Andrew (MEL NGA)
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Ruck/Tall Utility
12/04/2003 | 200cm | 70kg

August Ranking: #6

Snapshot: A raw tall prospect who has proven his worth in each key position post, Andrew’s vertical leap and fast-developing craft really catch the eye.

Another key position talent who rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew is well and truly out of reach for Melbourne as a Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate by now. He currently sits inside the top 20 group quite unanimously, boasting raw athleticism and bucketloads of upside given his ever improving ability to be utilised at either end of the ground, or in the ruck. While he has proven his versatility, the Demons NGA talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap and clean follow-up work stands out.

Last month:

While considered a Country region, much of Dandenong’s list lies within the Metro ring and thus, the Stingrays’ last game came on August 1. Andrew was afield for the loss to Eastern Ranges, notching 17 disposals, four marks and 16 hitouts. He looked quite raw and struggled for footing at times, but popped up with a couple of typically impressive overhead marks as he rotated forward from the ruck.

>> ‘Rays on the rise

#8 Josh Ward
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Midfielder
15/08/2003 | 181cm | 79kg

August Ranking: #8

Snapshot: A classy midfielder who is consistently capable of winning mountains of possessions, Ward proves a centre bounce mainstay with his clean skills and work rate.

Having started the year on the precipice, Ward has broken into and consolidated his spot well among the 2021 crop’s first round bracket. The Northern Knights midfielder is one who works hard both ways and gets stuck in at the contest, able to win his own ball and distribute with clean skills to the outer. He is also beginning to showcase his own traits on the outside and can impact while resting forward, but holds clear value as a reliable ball winner at the stoppages. A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Ward won the same honours this year as a rising draft eligible Under 19 talent.

Last month:

Like many of his Metro-based counterparts, Ward did not see any action over the last month due to a lack of APS and NAB League competition.

Josh Ward captained Vic Metro this year

#9 Neil Erasmus
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder
2/12/2003 | 188cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #9

Snapshot: Initially an exciting forward who has since transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching traits both aerially and at ground level.

Arguably Western Australia’s leading prospect, Erasmus has built on the promise he showed in last year’s WAFL Colts grand final which saw him come into 2021 as a first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 decider, showcasing clean hands up forward after putting in a terrific PSA Football campaign. While he was played off half-forward and the wing as an AFL Academy call-up, Erasmus has proven himself to be quite the consistent ball winner through midfield this year, bringing some spark to the engine room. He has a great vertical leap and can impact both aerially and at ground level, with scoreboard impact remaining in his back pocket.

Last month:

Western Australia’s vice-captain returned emphatically via the state side at the end of July during trials, but did not get to take the field in last week’s National Championships bout. The Hale School skipper sustained a corked thigh in his August 14 PSA outing and played the next week despite it, but saw said injury flare up just before he was set for representative duties. Erasmus was brave in his school outings as he endured the knock, impacting as one of his side’s best players with more time up forward. He has not played in any WAFL grade since May, and may well have played his last game for the year – pending another state Under 19s clash.

>> WA U19s Player Focus: Neil Erasmus

#10 Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Midfielder
27/01/2003 | 181cm | 76kg

August Ranking: #10

Snapshot: A smooth-moving midfielder with terrific poise and class, Sonsie opens up the play with his clean disposal and ability to find the goals.

One of the most highly-touted Victorian prospects before a ball had been bounced in 2021, Sonsie’s absolute best is exceptionally good. The Eastern Ranges prospect was Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP in 2019 and is one of the few 2003-born NAB Leaguers to have already experienced the Under 19 competition. He was part of his region’s 2019 minor premiership-winning side, rolling forward off a wing. Now a draft eligible talent, Sonsie has moved more permanently into midfield and while he is developing his defensive running, has plenty of attacking traits to offer. His ability to exit stoppages with poise and make good decisions with ball in hand is top notch, with that exceptional skill level also translating to dual-sided finishing in front of goal.

Last month:

Sonsie has been on the sidelines since late-June due to injury, sustaining bone bruising in the second half of Eastern’s Round 9 loss to Sandringham. He was thus ruled out of Vic Metro duties in July, and did not manage to get on the park last month with metropolitan NAB League regions out of action.

>> VFL Player Focus
>> Head-to-Head: Sonsie vs. Daicos
>> NAB League POTW: Round 1

#11 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Defender/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

August Ranking: #11

Snapshot: A line-breaking half-back who has shown promising development in midfield, Sinn’s greatest strengths are his speed and kick penetration.

Another established leader among the Victorian crop as one of Sandringham’s co-captains, Sinn’s best is as damaging as anyone in the overall draft pool. He is regarded as the most damaging technical kick in the Dragons’ program and is given the license to look for options others simply wouldn’t. His penetrative boot and line-breaking speed make him a meters gained machine, observed most significantly with his well-timed runs off half-back or on the wing. Sinn has also moved onto the inside to good effect, showing a handy balance of traits and utilising the size he added during last year’s lost season. His campaign has been interrupted by injury, but he looked close to regaining top form at times.

Last month:

Injured during the final term of July’s Victorian Challenge Match, Sinn was set to make his return in the back-end of the NAB League season. With that now scrapped for Metro regions, he can look forward to turning out at the Draft Combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

Josh Sinn carries the ball forward for Sandringham Dragons

#12 Josh Rachele
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
11/04/2003 | 180cm | 78kg

August Ranking: #13

Snapshot: A mercurial forward who has drawn comparisons to GWS star Toby Greene, Rachele has unbelievable smarts, skills, and a keen eye for goal.

Rachele is rightly a standout among his draft class, having taken out the Under 16 Division 1 MVP award for Vic Country in 2019. He quickly went on to represent the Murray Bushrangers, averaging a tick under 18 disposals and two goals in four games as a 16-year-old. The exciting forward hails from an elite soccer background and has quick feet to show for it, as well as the smiling celebrations you’d expect on the end of well-finished goals. Rachele is lauded for his skills and smarts in the forward half, but has shown an aptitude for midfield work with his turn of speed and ability to find the ball at ground level. He’s capable of highlight-reel moments.

Last month:

The Murray Bushrangers only played once, at the very start of August but had the bye during the competition’s mid-month return. Rachele did not turn out in the aforementioned fixture, and his three-goal APS dig with Caulfield Grammar on July 31 was his last outing.

#13 Arlo Draper
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
20/01/2003 | 185cm | 71kg

August Ranking: #14

Snapshot: Draper is a classy midfielder-forward who utilises his agility in tight spaces through the engine room, and brilliant marking ability to impact when stationed inside attacking 50.

One of the more intriguing and versatile prospects in the draft pool, Draper has garnered attention with his promising bottom-age form and continued success in all three SANFL grades this year. The smooth-moving midfielder has had no trouble getting his hands on the ball with more consistent time in midfield, before impacting in his resting stints up forward. He is yet another South Adelaide prospect in the mix, with his stylish form and clean hands making him easy on the eye to keen draft watchers. He is one who will feature highly on many draft boards despite being snubbed by the AFL Academy, and has great upside in his current role.

Last month:

Draper returned from injury through the Reserves last month, with his 14 disposals and four clearances enough to earn a League debut the following week. He looked classy in possession while averaging 11 disposals and five marks in his two top flight appearances, before turning out for South Australia in the Under 19 championships fixture. The first round talent was a touch down on his usual output but did some nice things rotating through midfield from the forwardline. He then dropped back down to Under 18s level, producing 24 disposals, five marks and six clearances in a finals loss to West Adelaide.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus
>> Feature

#14 Jye Amiss
East Perth/Western Australia | Tall Forward
31/07/2003 | 195cm | 85kg 

August Ranking: #19

Snapshot:

You’ll hear plenty of puns regarding the key forward’s ironic surname but it’s true that Amiss is more hit than, well, miss. The East Perth spearhead has dominated the 2021 WAFL Colts season thus far, booting 51 goals in 13 games with a ridiculously good conversion rate of 78 per cent from his scoring shots. He proved undeniable for selection in a West Australian state squad stacked with key position talent, and doesn’t need a wealth of opportunities to make an impact. With sound overhead marking and an improving ground level game, Amiss is an irresistible threat inside attacking 50. He bolted into our rankings with a debut inside the top 20, and makes another move having excelled on the big stage.

Last month:

Amiss has skyrocketed into top 15 contention over the last two months, with his latest patch of form only consolidating said status. He started out with 18 disposals, 11 marks and six goals against the bottom WAFL Colts side after starring in state trials, before snaring two goals on each side of his National Championships outing. As WA’s spearhead, Amiss snared two goals and passed off some gettable opportunities in a terrific display where he constantly found separation on the lead, marked cleanly overhead, and kicked a highlight reel goal.

#15 Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 81kg

August Ranking: #12

Snapshot: Roberts is a hard-working and consistent midfielder with senior experience who racks up plenty of the ball, but can also rotate forward.

Another member of South Adelaide’s football factory, Roberts’ form over the last few seasons has seen him prove difficult to deny of first round contention. Like Horne, he represented South Australia at back-to-back Under 16 carnivals, playing a key role as he split his time between midfield and the forwardline. The 18-year-old broke through for his League debut in 2021, skipping the Reserves grade after a scintillating start in the Under 18s competition. As one of the hardest and smartest runners in the draft crop, looks towards fellow left-footer Marcus Bontempelli as a model for his own game. His ability to hit the scoreboard matches said archetype, though Roberts also has a hard edge and competitiveness which sets him apart.

Last month:

Like South Adelaide teammate Draper, Roberts returned from injury through the Reserves where his 18 disposals and five marks were enough to yield a League call-up. He had not trouble finding the ball with 20 disposals and seven inside 50s in his game back in the top flight, before kicking two goals from 13 touches on the other side of his National Championships appearance. Roberts found indifferent form in said fixture, putting in a shift during term two to keep SA in the contest, but proving a touch scrappy with his disposal at times. He found plenty, nonetheless and continues to put up strong numbers.

>> Q&A
>> Feature
>> SANFL League Player Focus

Matthew Roberts gets a kick away | Credit: Nick Hook Photography

#16 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Outside Midfielder/Defender
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

August Ranking: #16

Snapshot: A speedy and productive mover on the outside, Chesser breaks the lines from half-back or the wing but has also shown a good balance in his ball winning.

A third Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 20, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser had only just cracked Sandringham’s stacked midfield in a bid to showcase his balance, having lacked continuity while battling a knee injury earlier in his campaign.

Last month:

Another who was primed to impress in the back-end of the year, Chesser did not get the chance to prove his worth given the lack of APS and metropolitan NAB League football. He already missed a chunk of time earlier in the year having undergone knee surgery, but will be preparing for the Draft Combine.

#17 Josh Goater
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Midfielder/Defender
2/06/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

August Ranking: #17

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with explosive athletic traits and clean hands on the inside, Goater is a prospect with great potential and versatility.

Goater lays claim to one of the more impressive athletic profiles in the draft pool, particularly in a power sense. His explosive turn of speed and impressive vertical leap are traits which catch the eye at testing events and are transferred on-field, with the Calder Cannons product able to produce exciting passages of play. He has proven his worth in midfield with good ball winning strength and clean hands on the inside, but can also roll out to a wing, pinch-hit up forward, and has proven his class off half-back. He is another who stakes his claim on high upside.

Last month:

Goater technically made an appearance in August, albeit on the first day as his Calder Cannons beat the Murray Bushrangers. The talented utility continued to showcase his versatility, starring in defence with 28 disposals, 11 marks and eight rebound 50s before Metro regions again went into lockdown. His intercept marking ability and clean kicking skills proved weaponous.

#18 Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera
Glenelg/South Australia | Wing
22/02/2003 | 188cm | 70kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A smooth-moving wingman with plenty of tricks, Wanganeen-Milera can carve up the opposition with his combination of agility and elite decision making by foot.

Wanganeen-Milera comes from good pedigree as the nephew of Gavin Wanganeen and son of Terry Milera, but is blazing his own trail en route to first round contention. Class is the word which often comes up when describing the flying Glenelg wingman, as he dances around opposition players and delivers pin-point passes by foot. The 18-year-old started out in the Bays’ Reserves team this year but has since made an impact at League level, and was a late call-up to the AFL Academy squad in April. He has proven one of the most exciting draft prospects to watch over the last two months, performing well against high levels of competition and holding his own. The scary thing is, he still has plenty of room to grow and improve.

Last month:

While he made his SANFL League debut in July, Wanganeen-Milera made arguably his biggest impact in August. He kicked a clutch goal in Glenelg’s dramatic win over Norwood, and booted another major from 13 disposals the next week before slotting into South Australia’s Under 19 state squad. He was a standout at that level, tearing up the wing and oozing class with each disposal to thrust his name into top 15 calculations. His last outing was back in the League grade, managing nine touches as Glenelg lost its first game for the season on the eve of finals.

>> SANFL Player Focus

#19 Matthew Johnson
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder
16/03/2003 | 193cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #15

Snapshot: With smooth agility and clean hands at the contest, Johnson is one of the premier tall midfielders in this year’s draft crop and has plenty of upside.

Hailed as the best tall midfielder in this year’s crop coming into the season, Johnson is one with a point of difference and a good amount of development left. The 193cm Subiaco prospect continues to put on size and can win the ball at the coalface, but stands out most with his smooth movement in traffic and clean skills around the ground. He suits an in-vogue modern day prototype and will inevitably yield comparisons to some of the currently dominant midfielders over 190cm. Johnson is already well versed in terms of representative duties and was part of Subiaco’s WAFL Colts premiership side in 2020. He also earned a senior debut this year and would have done so earlier if not for injury on the eve of season proper.

Last month:

Johnson turned out for back-to-back games in the WAFL Reserves grade to start the month, returning mixed results. While he was quiet with seven touches in his first dig, the tall midfielder backed it up with 22 disposals and 10 marks to showcase the range between his best and worst form. He had previously proven all class against his peers though, and that was no different as he represented WA in last week’s National Championships showcase. Running through midfield, Johnson’s kicking was outstanding and he proved a top level type with ball-in-hand.

#20 Darcy Wilmot
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Small Defender
31/12/2003 | 182cm | 70kg

August Ranking: #18

Snapshot: Wilmot is a tenacious and brave half-back whose most flashy weapons show on the attack, as he breaks the lines with great speed and ball use.

Wilmot has thrust his name into contention with increasingly impressive performances for the Northern Knights in 2021, as well as an impressive senior debut at local football level. The small-medium defender has all the typical class and running prowess you would expect on the rebound, but is also willing to compete above his size in aerial contests. The 17-year-old still has plenty of development left as a December 31 birth, meaning he only just makes the cut to be eligible for this year’s draft. His run-and-gun style is sure to catch many more eyes as the season continues, with Wilmot a prospect truly on the rise.

Last month:

Like many of his Metro-based Victorian counterparts, Wilmot’s last game came on August 1. The speedy half-back was one of Northern’s best in a home loss to Bendigo, contributing 16 disposals, four rebound 50s, and plenty of run out of the back half. A vocal kind of leader, he also read the play well and got behind his teammates with great voice. There have, unfortunately, been no opportunities since.

Darcy Wilmot on the fly for Northern Knights

#21 Jack Williams
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Ruck
1/12/2003 | 195cm | 91kg

August Ranking: #20

Snapshot: Williams is a versatile tall prospect who thrives aerially and consistently kicks goals up forward, while also rotating through the ruck or even to defence.

One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams has been in sensational form at WAFL Colts level. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 35 goals in 12 WAFL Colts games to this point and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung forward this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

Williams continues to prove an ominous type at WAFL Colts level, consistently kicking multiple goals and dominating in the air. He booted eight goals from a combined 29 disposals and 13 marks in his two games in the lead up to state Under 19 representation, before returning with another three majors from 17 touches and nine marks last week. In his National Championships outing, Williams showed promising signs up forward and found the big sticks, but could have ended up with more had he converted and stuck even more overhead marks inside 50.

#22 Sam Butler
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
10/02/2003 | 184cm | 73kg

August Ranking: #24

Snapshot: Butler has wonderfully clean hands and burning pace, traits which have translated well from an initial forward role, to a more recent midfield venture.

Another prospect with ties at the elite level, Butler is the brother of St Kilda forward, Dan. He is an exciting player in his own right though, with sharp skills by hand and a terrific turn of speed which serve him well in a creative sense. Having proved himself in the forward half, Butler went on to impress with his clean ball winning ability in midfield before injury struck. He missed out on representing Vic Country as an Under 19 having done so at Under 16s level, but is a player who catches the eye and would have been a lock for said honours if the opportunity presented once again.

Last month:

While Butler was steady with 10 disposals and 1.2 in his August 1 outing upon returning from injury, he built back to form in his next appearance. Turning out in a loss against Gippsland, the midfielder-forward racked up 27 disposals and four marks to be one of the Rebels’ better players on the day, before all Victorians were sent back into the current state of lockdown.

>> NAB League Player Focus

#23 Josh Fahey
GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Medium Defender
11/11/2003 | 186cm | 76kg

August Ranking: #21

Snapshot: A run-and-gun rebounding defender who gives his all and boasts a raking left-foot kick, Fahey is arguably this year’s leading Northern Academy talent.

Our top-ranked Northern Academy prospect in 2021, Fahey is clearly the best prospect out of the Allies crop and a real top 25 round contender. He returned to the GWS GIANTS Academy program this year to confirm his eligibility as an academy product, having previously shifted to Queensland and joined forces with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy. The Queanbeyan native has impressed onlookers across both states with his dash out of defence and penetrative kicking, both damaging weapons for a player of his position. He has earned a VFL berth with the GIANTS and was named best afield in April’s AFL Academy showcase against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

The sole NSW-ACT representative on this list, Fahey has also been impacted by lockdown over the last month but managed to sneak in a senior game. He turned out for local, AFL Canberra First Grade outfit, Queanbeyan on August 7 and produced the goods. Fahey snared three goals and was among the Tigers’ best players in a 129-point win over Gungahlin. Opportunities continue to prove scarce though, unfortunately.

>> Feature

#24 Tom Brown
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Medium Defender
30/07/2003 | 186cm | 71kg

August Ranking: #22

Snapshot: A dashing half-back with terrific athleticism in the form of speed and a vertical leap, Brown is a bolting talent who you’ll likely miss if you blink.

While Geelong gained access to sister, Millie via father-daughter rules, Tom Brown is ineligible to be drafted by the Cats under the father-son category as his father Paul falls just short of the 100-game qualification. Nonetheless, the Murray Bushrangers prospect has plenty of eye-catching traits which will help him blaze his own trail. A Vic Country Under 16 and now Under 19 representative, Brown is capable of playing on each line but looks to have found a home across half-back, where his dashing style and overhead marking shine. An ankle injury kept him out for a large chunk of the season, but he since returned and looked raring to break into first round contention.

Last month:

As has proven a repeated tale for Victorians on this list, Brown only managed one NAB League outing in August. He was steady with 12 disposals, two marks and three tackles in Murray’s low-scoring loss to Calder at the start of the month, but has not had any further opportunities to impress with no APS competition, and the Bushranger’s bye on August 15.

#25 Zac Taylor
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Small Midfielder/Forward
31/01/2003 | 180cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A crafty small prospect with outstanding vision, skills and decision making, Taylor has no trouble finding the ball and makes things happen when in possession.

A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Taylor proved undeniable for repeat honours in the Under 19 grade this year given his outstanding NAB League form. The 180cm midfielder-forward combines toughness with high level smarts; not afraid to work hard to win his own ball, but most effective when able to accumulate and tear sides apart with his sharp skills. The 18-year-old has a great turn of speed and looks to be creative with each possession, breaking into space with his zip before hitting targets further afield. He is particularly reliable by foot and puts up ultra-consistent numbers each week, making him a deserved entrant to the top 25 up our September update.

Last month:

There has been no NAB League action for Metro prospects past August 1, but Taylor made than lone appearance count after impressing at representative level. He racked up a whopping 37 disposals, four marks and four inside 50s in a tight win against Murray on that day, having built into a ridiculous strong vein of form.

>> NAB League Round 15 POTW

Zac Taylor is a crafty user of the ball

#26 Blake Howes
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Wing

7/04/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: One of the best athletes available in this year’s draft, Howes boasts a terrific aerial game but also competes well at ground level and shows promising versatility.

While unranked last month, Howes is one who previously featured in our top 25 and is a player who should be well known to keen draft watchers. He was an All Australian at Under 16 level, plying his trade as a high-marking medium forward with wonderful athleticism and clean hands. While he started the year off in that usual forward post, Howes has since shown his versatility with a shift to the wing and is a classic high-ceiling type of prospect. He was included in this year’s initial AFL Academy intake and continues to back up that selection with form fitting of his potential as a mainstay in the Sandringham Dragons’ side.

Last month:

It was unlucky for a player like Howes that the latest lockdown came, given he had been building into some really promising form for Sandringham Dragons up on the wing. He notched 20 disposals and two goals against strong opposition in GWV on August 1, continuing to show his potential and genuine upside.

#27 Mitch Knevitt
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
8/01/2003 | 193cm | 81kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with great size and reach, Knevitt dominates at the coalface and impacts around the ground with his strong overhead marking, a feature also sighted up forward.

One who was marked by his teammates as one to watch during preseason, Knevitt has taken full advantage of finally getting the opportunity to impress with some outstanding form in 2021. The 193cm midfielder provides range and size which proves difficult to combat at the coalface, as he digs in to win contested ball and stands up in tackles while dishing it out. The Geelong Falcons product is also developing his outside game and is athletically sound, getting to more contests around the ground and making an impact with his contested marking. He fits the modern day midfielder-forward prototype given his built and ability, with the performances to match his potential now coming to the fore.

Last month:

Knevitt had been building ominous form before the latest Victorian hiatus, with his sole outing in August an absolute blinder. The big-bodied midfielder dominated with 36 disposals, 10 marks, eight inside 50s and a goal against the Bendigo Pioneers, steering Geelong to victory in his most complete performance yet. He had also put in a massive shift in late-July and was impressive at representative level, helping him climb into top 30 range.

>> NAB League Player Focus
>> NAB League Round 16 POTW

#28 Judson Clarke
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Small Forward/Midfielder
17/10/2003 | 179cm | 69kg

August Ranking: #25

Snapshot: Clarke is a zippy small forward/midfielder who can light up the game in a flash with his forward run, tricky agility, and eye for goal.

While his exploits were on full show earlier in the year, Clarke stamped his credentials with a breakout performance in the Under 19 Victorian trials, bagging five goals in a starring display. The crafty Dandenong Stingrays product represented Vic Country at Under 16 level and continues to show promising glimpses both in the NAB League and at school footy level. He is nimble in possession with a mix of speed and agility, and looks to make things happen in the front half with creative energy and smarts at the fall of the ball. Clarke often finishes his work with spearing left-foot kicks, making for an exciting package as far as small prospects go. While he can roll through midfield, the 17-year-old looks most damaging up forward and can cement his spot here with more eye-catching big game showings.

Last month:

The Yarra Valley Grammar student had his last outing on July 30, playing against Peninsula Grammar in the AGSV football competition. As a result, he missed out on Dandenong’s August 1 bout and was then impacted by Victoria’s restrictions on metropolitan areas.

#29 Jesse Motlop (FRE NGA)
South Fremantle/Western Australia | Small Forward/Midfielder
23/11/2003 | 176cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A highly skilled small forward with great goal sense, speed and smarts, Motlop comes from good pedigree and can make his presence known in a flash.

Another player with ties to the elite level, Motlop is the son of former Port Adelaide and North Melbourne forward Daniel, but is ineligible for father-son selection. He is part of Fremantle’s NGA, though it will be difficult for the Dockers to secure his services via bidding as Metro-based WA prospects can only be matched on with a bid after pick 40. To any club, Motlop offers an exciting mix of speed and skill as a small forward, able to find the goals regularly with clever finishes while also providing forward pressure. An Aquinas College student, he topped the PSA goalkicking charts last year as a bottom-ager and has cracked the WAFL League grade this season, spending more time in midfield against his peers.

Last month:

Motlop capped off a strong PSA football season with Aquinas College in August, spending more time in midfield after his forward feats in Year 11. He then turned out for Western Australia in last week’s National Championships fixture, snaring a classy small forward’s goal and showing flashes of his brilliance. Upon returning to the WAFL League grade, Motlop booted 2.2 from 13 disposals in a productive display as South Fremantle downed West Coast. He is well poised to now feature in the Bulldogs’ finals campaign.

#30 Jacob van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Defender
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands and a booming kick, but has also shown great potential as a swingman and even in midfield.

Having been earmarked as potentially Western Australia’s best tall prospect coming into the season, van Rooyen has overcome some adversity en route to recapturing his best form. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games as a bottom-ager. He donned the Black Ducks jersey in 2020’s West Australian All Stars fixtures and was a lock for the AFL Academy intake in 2021. A glandular fever diagnosis halted his progress a touch, but van Rooyen started out the season at League level and has shown he is physically a level above the Colts grade.

Last month:

van Rooyen was in serious form heading into last week’s National Championships showcase, booting 11.5 from a combined 44 disposals and 16 marks in two WAFL Colts appearances. Having starred in his usual forward post with all the physicality expected of him, van Rooyen translated that form to a defensive swing for WA’s Under 19 side. He was exceptional against South Australia, helping out on the last line and popping up as an aerial force to clunk multiple intercept marks. He was more steady with seven touches and two goals in his latest Colts dig, but has proven his swingman credentials.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

Jacob van Rooyen is a powerful prospect | Credit: Claremont Football Club

IN THE MIX:

West Australian midfielder Josh Browne is the only player who comes out of last month’s list of 25, but remains around the mark in an even bunch having returned to his ball winning best post-injury. East Fremantle teammate Corey Warner has produced an eye-catching season in the APS and at League level, while intercept marking machine Rhett Bazzo came into consideration after his outstanding National Championships performance for WA. Claremont ruck-forward Eric Benning has also put his hand up of late, but Fremantle fans will want to keep the athletic bigman’s potential on the down-low.

Fellow tall Toby Conway is arguably the best pure ruck of this year’s crop and has hardly put a foot wrong when given the chance. Sandringham Dragons and St Kilda NGA pair Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens have also risen into second round calculations on the back of their desirable traits, while midfielders Connor Macdonald and Jake Soligo are consistent performers who earned representative honours this year.

Over in South Australia, Cooper Murley remains unlucky having again been sidelined through injury (collarbone), but has serious talent. North Adelaide accumulator Hugh Jackson put up some extraordinary early-season numbers and made his Reserves debut last week, with Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne continues to perform and state Under 19 vice-captain Lewis Rayson was a member of our top 25 earlier in the year.

2021 AFL Draft Combine list released

THE list of 2021 AFL Draft Combine invitees was released on Monday, with 90 of the country’s brightest prospects selected to show their athletic wares next month. The list will be extended to 120, with 60 of that total allotment set to attend the National Combine on September 29-30 at Marvel Stadium. The remaining 60 invitees will participate in state-based testing days held around Australia.

>> Top 25: August Power Rankings update

Among the initial 90 invitees is an even spread of talent from each National Championships region. With Victoria supplying around half of the usual draft intake each year, 41 of the state’s best prospects (19 country, 22 metro) earned invites. 11 of the 13 included Allies squad members also turned out at NAB League level, giving the competition strong representation.

The West and South Australian crops look strong as ever, with both states producing 18 players to the initial intake. Among them is pick one candidate Jason Horne-Francis, who features alongside South Adelaide teammates and fellow first round fancies, Arlo Draper and Matthew Roberts. Subiaco pair Neil Erasmus and Matthew Johnson lead the WA contingent, along with a raft of key position options.

>> Indicative draft order: Who’s in the top 10 mix?

There aren’t too many surprises among the allotted crew, with only one player chosen outside of the Under 19 realm and 87 of the chosen 90 born in 2003. 20-year-old Central District key defender Leek Alleer is the lone ‘mature’ ager, while Eastern Ranges’ Corey Preston and Giants Academy member Harrison Grintell are the only 19th-year players in the mix.

For the most part, players have been selected directly from the representative squads put together ahead of this year’s National Championships, which continue to be postponed. Tasmanian Will Splann is one who came from outside the Allies squad, while Northern Knights pair Anthony Caminiti (tall forward) and Ned Long (midfielder) did not feature for Vic Metro after trials – though, the latter was injured.

Nick Daicos is a pick one contender

Nineteen players are club-tied, split between father-sons, Northern Academy products, and Next Generation Academy (NGA) hopefuls. Oakleigh Chargers teammates Nick Daicos (Collingwood) and Sam Darcy (Western Bulldogs) are father-son candidates who could yield bids within the top two picks, while Jase Burgoyne (Port Adelaide) will likely end up at Alberton outside of the first round.

Giants Academy standout Josh Fahey headlines the Northern Academy input, along with fellow AFL Academy member Austin Harris (Gold Coast). Top 10 candidate Mac Andrew looks set to be the sole NGA product taken before pick 20, but there is plenty of talent clubs will have exclusive access to.

Among them is rising St Kilda-tied pair Mitchito Owens and Marcus Windhager, who impressed enough to earn Vic Metro selection. Over in WA, ruck/forward Eric Benning (Fremantle) and athletic utility Ethan Regan (West Coast) have risen into contention, and the has been conjecture over Jesse Motlop, who also features as a Dockers NGA selection but will only land there past pick 40.

2021 AFL DRAFT COMBINE LIST

NSW-ACT:

Angus Anderson – Sydney Swans Academy
Ryan Eyers – Murray Bushrangers
Josh Fahey – GWS Academy
Harrison Grintell – GWS Academy
Patrick Voss – Oakleigh Chargers/GWS Academy

Northern Territory:

Andy Moniz-Wakefield – NT Thunder
Ned Stevens – NT Thunder/Gold Coast Academy

Queensland:

Will Bella – Gold Coast Academy
Austin Harris – Gold Coast Academy
Bodhi Uwland – Gold Coast Academy

South Australia:

Leek Alleer – Central District
Cooper Beecken – Glenelg
Isaac Birt – South Adelaide
Jase Burgoyne – Woodville-West Torrens
Lukas Cooke – Woodville-West Torrens
Arlo Draper – South Adelaide
Morgan Ferres – Sturt
Jason Horne-Francis – South Adelaide
Hugh Jackson – North Adelaide
Shay Linke – Central District
Cooper Murley – Norwood
Blayne O’Loughlin – North Adelaide
Lewis Rayson – Glenelg
Matthew Roberts – South Adelaide
Hugh Stagg – Glenelg
Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera – Glenelg
Luca Whitelum – Central District
James Willis – North Adelaide

Tasmania:

Sam Banks – Clarence
Baker Smith – Clarence
Will Splann – North Hobart

Vic Country:

Mac Andrew – Dandenong Stingrays
Jamieson Ballantyne – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Miller Bergman – Dandenong Stingrays
Tom Brown – Murray Bushrangers
Sam Butler – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Campbell Chesser – Sandringham Dragons
Judson Clarke – Dandenong Stingrays
Toby Conway – Geelong Falcons
Josh Gibcus – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Cooper Hamilton – Bendigo Pioneers
Ben Hobbs – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Mitch Knevitt – Geelong Falcons
Kai Lohmann – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Connor Macdonald – Dandenong Stingrays
Charlie Molan – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Josh Rachele – Murray Bushrangers
Josh Rentsch – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Jai Serong – Gippsland Power
Hamish Sinnott – Greater Western Victoria Rebels

Vic Metro:

Finn Callaghan – Sandringham Dragons
Anthony Caminiti – Northern Knights
Paul Curtis – Western Jets
Nick Daicos – Oakleigh Chargers
Sam Darcy – Oakleigh Chargers
Youseph Dib – Oakleigh Chargers
Josh Goater – Calder Cannons
Blake Howes – Sandringham Dragons
Tyreece Leiu – Eastern Ranges
Ned Long – Northern Knights
Mitchito Owens – Sandringham Dragons
Corey Preston – Eastern Ranges
Lachlan Rankin – Oakleigh Chargers
Josh Sinn – Sandringham Dragons
Jake Soligo – Eastern Ranges
Tyler Sonsie – Eastern Ranges
Zac Taylor – Calder Cannons
Dante Visentini – Sandringham Dragons
Josh Ward – Northern Knights
Darcy Wilmot – Northern Knights
Marcus Windhager – Sandringham Dragons
Karl Worner – Oakleigh Chargers

Western Australia:

Jye Amiss – East Perth
Rhett Bazzo – Swan Districts
Eric Benning – Claremont
Josh Browne – East Fremantle
Kade Dittmar – East Perth
Neil Erasmus – Subiaco
Brady Hough – Peel Thunder
Matthew Johnson – Subiaco
Jesse Motlop – South Fremantle
Lochlan Paton – West Perth
Ethan Regan – East Perth
Angus Sheldrick – Claremont
Jahmal Stretch – Claremont
James Tunstill – East Perth
Jacob van Rooyen – Claremont
Corey Warner – East Fremantle
Bryce Watson – Swan Districts
Jack Williams – East Fremantle

Fahey dashes towards footballing dream

ARGUABLY this year’s leading Northern Academy prospect has turned out for two of them across his footballing journey, but returned home in 2021 as he looks to materialise his AFL dream. That prospect is Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Academy standout Josh Fahey, and Canberra is home to him.

His academy eligibility was up in the air last year as he moved with family up to Queensland, linking up with the Gold Coast Suns’ program and looking likely to enter the open draft this year. But schooling and the allure of a home within the Giants family brought Fahey back to his roots, also confirming his status as a GWS-eligible talent.

The dashing defender put his name in lights in April, turning out for the AFL Academy in a 130-point thrashing at the hands of Geelong VFL. While the result was not ideal, Fahey took out the MCC President’s Medal as best afield for the Under 19 team, collecting 23 disposals as part of a besieged back six.

During preseason, Fahey highlighted the showcase game as a landmark he was most looking forward to reaching this season. With the opportunity to better his own game by playing alongside the best footballers this country has to offer, Fahey shone.

“Being part of the AFL Academy, playing with the best players in the country I think I can learn a lot off them,” Fahey said. “I’m looking forward to playing with most of the Melbourne boys really. Obviously they’ve got that stereotype down there of how good they actually are… just playing with them I think is going to take my game to another level.”

While injury slightly disrupted his campaign early on, Fahey has also turned out for GWS at state league level this season. Across three games, his best outing came against reigning VFL premier Richmond in Round 5, where he notched 24 disposals. He continued his taste of senior football with local side, Queanbeyan in the AFL Canberra competition, making for quite a diverse schedule.

Hailing from the Canberra region and with family ties in other sporting codes, it has not always been footy for Fahey. The 17-year-old marks his Under 15 SSA All Australian selection as a turning point in his chosen career path, which lead him to state Under 16 selection and the aforementioned AFL Academy honours.

“I’ve only played (Australian football) for five years now,” Fahey said. “I grew up with League and Union my whole life because dad coached Rugby Union at a pretty high level… so I’ve been here for five years and don’t regret a thing coming over.”

“Under 15s was the main thing when I made the All Australian team and was only playing at club level every now and then. That’s probably the main thing that got me over the line really.”

Fahey says tackling is the main facet of either rugby code he has managed to transfer to football. Though it is a strength, the 186cm prospect’s speed and penetrative kick are arguably his most eye-catching traits.

“I wouldn’t say (tackling) is my greatest strength but it’s maybe above average compared to others,” he said. “At the end of the day my game comes down to my kicking and I judge how impactful I was on the field that day through my kicking and targets.”

“The main thing I’m working on is taking my aerial game to another level. Being 186cm I think I can really use that to my advantage this year.”

While current and future opportunities are slightly blurred as most of the nation endures lockdown protocols, Fahey’s end goal is clear – get drafted. The run-and-gun defender has shown top 25 potential at his peak, though the Giants will likely hope to keep that under wraps.

Image Credit: AFL Photos

Draper more than the third wheel in promising Panthers trio

THE South Adelaide Panthers boast the most promising junior footballing trio in South Australia in 2021.

Pick one candidate Jason Horne has spent the past couple of seasons matching it with the SANFL’s best at League level and ball-magnet Matthew Roberts appears a strong chance to join him in the first round of the National Draft.

But Arlo Draper has been on the radar of AFL recruiters for as long as Horne and Roberts, with the teenaged Panthers standing out at club and state level since bursting onto the scene as Under 16s.

Hailing from the Willunga Football Club in South Australia’s acclaimed McLaren Vale region, Draper has compiled an impressive resume of his own.

Recruiters and scouts from across the country have high hopes for Draper, whose class, one-on-one strength and considerable upside has seen him also pegged in as a likely first round selection.

“I’m a fairly unique type of player,” Draper said. “I move well and tend to make good decisions and I also have the ability to play anywhere on the ground.

“I think I have some similarities with Connor Rozee in regards to his speed, agility and forward prowess.”

Away from the footy field, Draper describes himself as a “relaxed kind of guy” who loves watching a good movie.

“I like to consider myself somewhat humorous, but that’s debatable I’m sure,” said the on-baller.

Although he has spent the past month sidelined with a high ankle sprain sustained whilst training in June, Draper earned a promotion to the Reserves earlier in the year after proving a class above the Under 18 competition.

“I’ve really enjoyed the season so far, I’ve been playing pretty consistent footy with the Under 18s which has been great,” Draper said.

A consistent ball-winner throughout the year, Draper’s standout game of the season to-date came in South Adelaide’s narrow three-point triumph over Central Districts at Flinders University Stadium, in Round 4 of the SANFL Under 18 competition.

Draper started the game in the centre square, winning his fair share of contested ball and proving a handful at stoppages, before coach Mark Clayton shuffled the magnets and sent him to the goal-square.

He flourished up forward, easily outmuscling his direct opponent and reading the flight of the ball well to take a couple of strong marks in attack, finishing the game with 24 disposals, three goals, four marks (two contested), six clearances and five inside 50s in a match-winning display. It saw him elevated to the Reserves just a couple of weeks later.

“I’ve loved getting a bit of exposure to the senior program,” Draper said. “I’ve found that I transitioned pretty comfortably. I know a fair few of the boys in the ressies so having those connections has helped.

“Some of the seniors guys have been really good with getting me adjusted to the structures and what not. I think I adjusted to the speed and bigger bodies fairly quickly and felt really comfortable in the midfield role I was playing.”

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography

Draper credits much of the recent success of the South Adelaide junior program to former Panthers Centre of Excellence and current SA pathways coach, Tony Bamford.

“I think the change of culture especially in the junior levels started with Tony Bamford,” Draper said. “Although I never got to play under ‘Bangers’ at South, he’s regarded as the one that got our programs going and then that’s been followed on by Mark Clayton who runs it all now.”

“Mark does more work than anyone and is extremely passionate about the junior footy at South,” added Draper.

Given South Adelaide’s willingness to blood their talented juniors in the club’s league side, Draper has his sights set on a potential senior debut in the later stages of the season.

“I believe I have what it takes to play in the league side,” he said. “The head coach ‘Boofa’ (Jarrad Wright) is really good with communicating with me about where I’m at and what I need to work on and I feel I’m building really well.

“Obviously our league team is pretty strong this year, if I get the call up at some point I’d be really excited and ready to go,” added the teenager.

Although the AFL faces an uphill battle to stage the Under 19 National Championships, Draper looks set to play a pivotal role for South Australia, should the carnival take place.

“If I’m lucky enough to get into the playing team I think I’d see myself running through that midfield/forward type of role, but I can also move down back if there’s a specific role I can play down there on the day,” he said.

Draper is one of the standout prospects in a South Australian team which looks capable of matching it with the highly-fancied Victoria Metro and West Australian sides – at full strength.

“Obviously Jason Horne and Matty Roberts have been doing alright for themselves so far, but I really like how (Sturt’s) Morgan Ferres has been playing this year,” Draper said.

Despite missing out on selection into the AFL Academy, Draper has pieced-together a consistent season for South Adelaide and has demonstrated his ability to dominate games through the middle and up forward. His talent may well spark a bidding war between the top flight’s two South Australian sides, within the first 15 picks.

Featured Image: Arlo Draper fires off a kick | Credit: Nick Hook Photography

2021 South Australia Under 19 squad announced – Phase 2

THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) announced its Phase 2 Under 19 squad on Wednesday, with 33 of the state’s brightest prospects making the cut. An internal trial game on Friday night helped decide the final few selections, albeit amid terrible weather for a showcase game, as SA prepares to face Western Australia on August 7 in Round 1 of this year’s Under 19 National Championships.

Glenelg has contributed the most players, with seven Bays talents included in the squad. Among them is Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, the nephew of Gavin Wanganeen, who performed strongly in last week’s trial. While he is not club linked, Adelaide has a pair of Next Generation Academy members – Isaiah Dudley and Blayne O’Loughlin – in the squad, while Port Adelaide father-son candidate Jase Burgoyne (son of Peter) also features.

There are six 2002-born players in line for representative honours, with three of them coming out of the Woodville-West Torrens program. Namely, they are talls Zac Phillips and Jordan Lukac, and Max Litster. Sturt’s Mani Liddy returns after a terrific trial outing, as does Centrals speedster Lachlan Grubb, while Glenelg’s Dayne McGary is an eye-catching selection once again.

Among the premier 18th-year talent, first pick candidate Jason Horne just about selects himself, while fellow South Adelaide guns Matthew Roberts and Arlo Draper could recover from their respective ankle injuries in the nick of time. Cooper Murley (collarbone) is another in that category, though fellow Norwood prospects Henry Nelligan, Ned Carey, and Alistair Lord will hope to get a look in for Phase 3 as they return later in the year.

There are a couple of stat leaders among the pack too, in North Adelaide’s Hugh Jackson (disposals, handballs, inside 50s) and Centrals tall Saxon Evans (hitouts). Both have been in undeniable form at Under 18s level, as have the likes of James Willis and Lewis Rayson – who loom as ones to watch.

South Australia’s third selection phase will come prior to the state’s final batch of championships fixtures, which will take place in late-September as the squad travels to face against Vic Country and Vic Metro. The Croweaters are also set to take on the Allies during Phase 2.

Below is a preview of how the South Australian team may look, in a line-up put together by Draft Central analyst Ed Pascoe. Note, those named on the interchange and emergency lists are likely to rotate between the two Phase 2 fixtures.

Scroll further to see the full squad list.

B: Blayne O’Loughlin (North) – Oscar Adams (Glenelg) – Cooper Beecken (Glenelg)
HB: Jase Burgoyne (Eagles) – Zac Becker (Sturt) – Lewis Rayson (Glenelg)
C: Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (Glenelg) – Matthew Roberts (South) – Shay Linke (Centrals)
HF: Arlo Draper (South) – Morgan Ferres (Sturt) – Will Spain (Sturt)
F: Isaiah Dudley (Centrals) – Lukas Cooke (Eagles) – Cooper Murley (Norwood)
FOL: Zac Phillips (Eagles) – Jason Horne (South) – Hugh Jackson (North)

INT: Hugh Stagg (Glenelg), James Willis (North), Brayden Calvett (Eagles), Jordan Lukac (Eagles), Mani Liddy (Sturt)

EMG: Saxon Evans (Centrals), Lachlan Grubb (Centrals), Isaac Birt (South), Jacob Owens (Glenelg), Cade Kennedy (West), Dayne McGary (Glenelg), Luca Whitelum (Centrals), Oscar Steene (West), Harvey Harrison (North), Max Litster (Eagles)

SOUTH AUSTRALIA PHASE 2 UNDER 19 SQUAD:

PLAYER SANFL CLUB HEIGHT WEIGHT
Lachlan Grubb Central 177cm 75kg
Isaiah Dudley Central 166cm 69kg
Shay Linke Central 190cm 79kg
Saxon Evans Central 201cm 94kg
Luca Whitelum Central 188cm 77kg
Dayne McGary Glenelg 192cm 85kg
Lewis Rayson Glenelg 183cm 69kg
Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera Glenelg 188cm 70kg
Cooper Beecken Glenelg 190cm 73kg
Hugh Stagg Glenelg 180cm 79kg
Jacob Owens Glenelg 184cm 69kg
Oscar Adams Glenelg 198cm 85kg
Blayne O’Loughlin North 171cm 74kg
Hugh Jackson North 181cm 70kg
James Willis North 180cm 75kg
Harvey Harrison North 181cm 71kg
Cooper Murley Norwood 178cm 69kg
Arlo Draper South 186cm 75kg
Jason Horne South 184cm 77kg
Isaac Birt South 181cm 70kg
Matthew Roberts South 184cm 80kg
Mani Liddy Sturt 183cm 80kg
Morgan Ferres Sturt 190cm 80kg
Will Spain Sturt 178cm 69kg
Zac Becker Sturt 190cm 92kg
Cade Kennedy West 178cm 75kg
Oscar Steene West 199cm 82kg
Max Litster Woodville-West Torrens 184cm 83kg
Zac Phillips Woodville-West Torrens 201cm 85kg
Jordan Lukac Woodville-West Torrens 196cm 89kg
Brayden Calvett Woodville-West Torrens 177cm 72kg
Jase Burgoyne Woodville-West Torrens 186cm 65kg
Lukas Cooke Woodville-West Torrens 195cm 80kg

Image Credit: AFL Photos

Draft Central Power Rankings: July 2021

THE Draft Central July Power Rankings have been locked in after an interrupted, but nonetheless productive month of football around the nation. Two fresh faces feature among the top five as a new number one contender arises, while another two previously unranked players have thrust their way into the overall list of 25 on the back of undeniable form. We profile the full array of prospects in our latest edition, taking you through each players’ last month and the factors behind their moves. Also highlighted are some other names potentially around the mark.

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

#1 Jason Horne
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder
21/06/2003 | 184cm | 78kg

June Ranking: #1

Snapshot: A midfielder with next to no weaknesses, whose power bodes well for tough ball winning and impressive aerial marking, as well as consistent scoreboard impact.

Heralded as the clear number one choice coming into 2021, Horne retains his crown in our second rankings edition for the year. The South Adelaide talent impressed in his debut SANFL League outings as a bottom-ager, and has since transitioned into a more prominent midfield role with guidance from former Carlton and Adelaide champion, Bryce Gibbs. He has long been a standout among the South Australian crop, participating in back-to-back Under 16 carnivals and being crowned his state’s MVP in 2019 as captain. Only recently 18, Horne boasts a well-balanced game with plenty of damaging strengths and very few weaknesses, with his exposure at senior level another factor which sees him awarded with number one status in our eyes.

Last month:

Horne has continued on his merry way at SANFL League level, with his consistent output displayed across the last month of action. Despite three of his four outings in that time being losses, Horne played above his season averages to produce numbers of 16 disposals, 4.3 marks, 4.5 tackles, 2.3 clearances, and 0.5 goals per game. Given he is so entrenched in the top three spots, it is easy to look past his development and sustained success, but the pick one contender is in as good a form as ever currently.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

#2 Nick Daicos (COL F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 183cm | 72kg

June Ranking: #2

Snapshot: Daicos has an unrivalled understanding of the game; able to bring his teammates into it and anticipate where his next possession will come from, leading to utter domination.

The Collingwood father-son prospect (son of Peter) has more than justified all the hype leading into 2021, solidifying his status as a bonafide number one contender. Daicos made his long-awaited NAB League debut in Round 1 and has gone on to dominate the competition, putting up ridiculous numbers through the engine room as the skipper of a deeply talented Oakleigh Chargers group. Much like his brother, Josh, Daicos was only due to enter the Chargers’ program last year but was made to wait for his unveiling in Oakleigh colours. It was well worth it, though keen watchers already knew of his supreme ability having seen him hold his own in a Carey Grammar side featuring Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson. Daicos is banging down Horne’s door and may well break through as he continues to put runs on the board, in dominant fashion.

Last month:

Daicos only played one game throughout June, but it was a ripper. The Oakleigh Chargers captain got some decent attention in his side’s loss to the Northern Knights, but still managed to rack up 37 disposals and kick a goal. He was perhaps not as damaging as he could have been with his disposal, but most qualms on his season thus far are essentially nit-picks, and exemplary of the quality he is judged at. His average of 35.8 disposals remains a league high, but he did not have the chance to add to it last week after again being managed. He also missed out on Vic Metro trial duties.

>> Q&A
>> Head-to-Head: Daicos vs. Sonsie
>> NAB League POTW: Round 3
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

#3 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Utility/Ruck
19/08/2003 | 204cm | 75kg

June Ranking: #15

Snapshot: Darcy is a fast-developing tall talent who can play in each key position post, is athletic, and marks the ball cleanly.

They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top five pick on potential and the clear best tall in the draft, with his versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy has impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck in the NAB League, but has also consolidated his eye-catching forward forays at school football level. Bulldogs fans, you have another on the radar.

Last month:

Darcy shot into top three calculations with a brilliant few games in June, most significantly his six-goal during the Victorian Under 19 trials. The Bulldogs father-son prospect was swung forward as he has done during the school football season and was near-impossible to stop. He had a 10cm height advantage on most opponents but took full toll to dominate aerially, while also showing great athleticism and football smarts across the attacking arc. During his one outing for Oakleigh, Darcy started in defence and was similarly assured with his clean intercept marking, before rolling through the ruck and eventually finding the goals up forward. He has solidified his status as the best tall available, and may challenge the previously untouchable top two.

#4 Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

June Ranking: #11

Snapshot: Callaghan is a classy mover with great agility for his size, and has shown a high level of development to prove his balance of outside and inside traits.

One who seems destined to crack the top five picks come year’s end, Callaghan has enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back has recently transitioned to an inside role, but continues to prove difficult to stop at full flight with his blend of straight-line power and swift agility. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his long boot, and seems to manufacture time on the ball in the clinches.

Last month:

The top five trigger has been pulled on Callaghan after even more undeniable performances, who was arguably best afield during his two NAB League appearances in June and impressive when suiting up for Vic Metro. He continued his transition to the inside with Sandringham, producing 31 and 28 disposals in his most recent outings and looking ominous in the process. Callaghan was shifted back out to the wing in between those games for the Victorian Under 19 trials, warming to the contest and showing some of his best traits, despite not racking up the usual numbers.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

#5 Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Midfielder
27/01/2003 | 181cm | 76kg

June Ranking: #3

Snapshot: A smooth-moving midfielder with terrific poise and class, Sonsie opens up the play with his clean disposal and ability to kick goals.

One of the most highly-touted Victorian prospects before a ball had been bounced in 2021, Sonsie’s absolute best is exceptionally good. The Eastern Ranges prospect was Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP in 2019 and is one of the few 2003-born NAB Leaguers to have already experienced the Under 19 competition. He was part of his region’s 2019 minor premiership-winning side, rolling forward off a wing. Now a draft eligible talent, Sonsie has moved more permanently into midfield and while he is developing his defensive running, has plenty of attacking traits to offer. His ability to exit stoppages with poise and make good decisions with ball in hand is top notch, with that exceptional skill level also translating to dual-sided finishing in front of goal.

Last month:

Another to have only played once during June, Sonsie is currently on the road to recovery after suffering bone bruising in his last appearance for Eastern. The injury was sustained during the final quarter against Sandringham and Sonsie was quiet to that point by his lofty standards, managing 15 disposals and three inside 50s. Luckily the knock wasn’t any worse, though Sonsie also missed out on the Vic Metro trial games and is facing a few more weeks on the sidelines.

>> VFL Player Focus
>> Head-to-Head: Sonsie vs. Daicos
>> NAB League POTW: Round 1

#6 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Half-Back/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

June Ranking: #5

Snapshot: A line-breaking half-back who has shown promising development in midfield, Sinn’s greatest strengths are his speed and kick penetration.

Another established leader among the Victorian crop as one of Sandringham’s co-captains, Sinn’s best is as damaging as anyone in the overall draft pool. He is regarded as the best technical kick in the Dragons’ program and is given the license to look for options others simply wouldn’t. His penetrative boot and line-breaking speed make him a meters gained machine, observed most significantly with his well-timed runs off half-back or on the wing. Sinn has also moved onto the inside of late to good effect, showing a handy balance of traits and utilising the size he added during last year’s lost season. His campaign has been interrupted by injury, but he looks poised to return soon and play out a full season in the NAB League.

Last month:

Sinn was eased back from a hamstring strain in June, turning out twice for the Sandringham Dragons and proving steady in his output. The Dragons co-captain started at half-back in his first outing, finishing on 13 touches in a big win against Oakleigh, before raising that slightly in 15 and five inside 50s against Tasmania last week. He spent more time in the midfield during that game and advanced the ball well, in a promising sign for his run towards the National Championships.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

#7 Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 81kg

June Ranking: #4

Snapshot: Roberts is a hard-working and consistent midfielder with senior experience who racks up plenty of the ball, but can also rotate forward.

A second South Adelaide midfielder within the top 10 of our count, Roberts’ form has seen him prove difficult to deny of such honours. Like Horne, he represented South Australia at back-to-back Under 16 carnivals, playing a key role as he split his time between midfield and the forwardline. The 17-year-old broke through for his League debut in 2021, skipping the Reserves grade after a scintillating start in the Under 18s competition. As one of the hardest and smartest runners in the draft crop, Roberts is also a sound user of the ball and looks towards fellow left-footer Marcus Bontempelli as a model for his own game. His ability to hit the scoreboard matches said archetype, though Roberts also has a hard edge and competitiveness which sets him apart.

Last month:

Roberts is currently sidelined with a syndesmosis injury, set for another couple of months out of action due to the injury sustained during a school football hitout. He had played two League games for South Adelaide to that point, but will have to wait to further prove his credentials.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus

#8 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Balanced Midfielder
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

June Ranking: #6

Snapshot: A speedy and productive mover on the outside, Chesser breaks the lines from half-back or the wing but has also shown a good balance in his ball winning.

A third Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 10, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser has only just cracked Sandringham’s stacked midfield in a bid to showcase his balance, having recently returned from injury.

Last month:

Chesser is another who only recently made his return from injury, coming back from work on his meniscus. The dashing midfielder was thrust into a formidable Sandringham Dragons midfield mix having played his earlier games on a wing, finishing with 19 disposals and five inside 50s as his side defeated Tasmania.

#9 Josh Gibcus
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Tall Defender 
4/04/2003 | 195cm | 84kg

June Ranking: #10

Snapshot: An intercept marking defender who reads the play well and has a sizeable leap, Gibcus’ eye-catching form has propelled him into top 10 calculations.

For the second month running, Gibcus is the second tall prospect on our list and has earned his spot with superb form this year. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) defender is an intercept type who uses his strengths to advantage; reading the play beautifully and timing his movements to float onto the scene, before rising with his springy vertical leap to take series of marks and force turnovers. While he is working on his ground level game, Gibcus is so clean in the air and usually a sound distributor across the last line, showing great composure on the ball. He was one of the many AFL Academy call-ups and truly held his own in that fixture, as he continues to improve at a great rate.

Last month:

The high-marking defender has had a stead sort of month, playing at both ends of the ground and even through the ruck. When stationed down back, Gibcus performed his usual feats in the air, and is slowly getting back to his best in terms of his distribution by foot. GWV threw him in the ruck against Geelong Falcons to help boost his output, and he has since had a few stints up forward both in the NAB League and Under 19 trials.

#10 Ben Hobbs
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
16/09/2003 | 183cm | 80kg

June Ranking: #17

Snapshot: Hobbs is a hard-nosed, hard-working inside midfielder who loves to compete both defensively and in a ball-winning sense.

The GWV Rebels ball winner has not been able to fully show his wares in 2021 due to injury, but is proving he can break back into top 10 contention with a clean run at it. He featured at NAB League level as a 16-year-old in 2019 after earning All Australian honours for Vic Country, slowly getting accustomed to the rigours of midfield work in the elite talent pathway. His best traits are shown at the contest, with a hard edge and competitive streak seeing him win plenty of the ball on the inside. The nuggety 17-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and has taken full toll upon his return to action.

Last month:

After enduring an injury-interrupted start to the season, Hobbs returned with a bang to thrust himself back into top 10 contention. The bull-like midfielder helped himself to 34 touches and two goals in his first NAB League outing since Round 3, before starring for Vic Country in the Under 19 trials. His willingness to hunt the ball, tackle, and then move forward to kick goals means he impacts consistently, and hopefully he can do so with an extended run.

>> NAB League POTW: Round 9

#11 Matthew Johnson
Subiaco/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
16/03/2003 | 193cm | 80kg

June Ranking: #7

Snapshot: With smooth agility and clean hands at the contest, Johnson is one of the premier tall midfielders in this year’s draft crop and has plenty of upside.

Hailed as the best tall midfielder in this year’s crop coming into the season, Johnson is one with a point of difference and a good amount of development left. The 193cm Subiaco prospect continues to put on size and can win the ball at the coalface, but stands out most with his smooth movement in traffic and clean hands around the ground. He suits an in-vogue modern day prototype and will inevitably yield comparisons to some of the currently dominant midfielders over 190cm. Johnson is already well versed in terms of representative duties and was part of Subiaco’s WAFL Colts premiership side in 2020. He also earned a senior debut this year and would have done so earlier if not for injury on the eve of season proper.

Last month:

After a three-game stint at League level, Johnson has dropped back down to the Colts competition and as expected, found much more of the ball. He notched 30 disposals and six tackles in his second game back, before a 16-touch effort in his latest outing. With good skills on the inside and a growing frame, Johnson should be dominant against his peers.

#12 Neil Erasmus
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder/Forward
2/12/2003 | 188cm | 80kg

June Ranking: #14

Snapshot: An exciting forward who has transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching athletic traits both aerially and at ground level.

Another prospect out of Subiaco who played in last year’s WAFL Colts premiership, Erasmus has built on his potential this year having come in as a potential first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 Grand Final, showcasing great speed and clean hands up forward after putting in a terrific PSA Football campaign. While he was played off half-forward and the wing as an AFL Academy call-up, Erasmus has proven himself to be quite the consistent ball winner through midfield this year, bringing some spark to the engine room. He has a great vertical leap and can impact both aerially and at ground level, with scoreboard impact remaining in his back pocket.

Last month:

Erasmus hasn’t returned to the WAFL grades since his Round 7 outing, which consolidated the exciting midfielder’s consistent start to the year. He has been going along strong in the PSA as skipper at Hale though, making him difficult to look past among the top 15 as he continues to sharpen his disposal.

#13 Josh Rachele
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
11/04/2003 | 180cm | 78kg

June Ranking: #8

Snapshot: A mercurial forward who has drawn comparisons to GWS star Toby Greene, Rachele has unbelievable smarts, skills, and a keen eye for goal.

Rachele is rightly a standout among his draft class, having taken out the Under 16 Division 1 MVP award for Vic Country in 2019. He quickly went on to represent the Murray Bushrangers, averaging a tick under 18 disposals and two goals in four games as a 16-year-old. The exciting forward hails from an elite soccer background and has quick feet to show for it, as well as the smiling celebrations you’d expect on the end of well-finished goals. Rachele is lauded for his skills and smarts in the forward half, but has shown an aptitude for midfield work with his turn of speed and ability to find the ball at ground level. He’s capable of highlight-reel moments.

Last month:

While Rachele is certainly mercurial at his best, we haven’t always seen that level of form in 2021. He has essentially remained a permanent forward while turning out for the Murray Bushrangers and played the same role in his Vic Country trial outing. Rachele is finding the goals though, with a round-high six majors in his latest NAB League appearance an indicator that his best is worthy of top 10 status – if he can find it.

#14 Arlo Draper
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
20/01/2003 | 185cm | 71kg

June Ranking: #20

Snapshot: Draper is a classy midfielder-forward who utilises his agility in the engine room, and brilliant marking ability to impact when stationed inside attacking 50.

One of the more intriguing and versatile prospects in the draft pool, Draper has garnered attention with his promising bottom-age form and continued success in the SANFL Under 18s this year. The smooth-moving midfielder has had no trouble getting his hands on the ball with more consistent time in midfield, before impacting in his resting stints up forward. He is yet another South Adelaide prospect in the mix, with his stylish form and clean hands making him easy on the eye to keen draft watchers. He is one who may feature highly on many draft boards despite being snubbed by the AFL Academy, and has great upside in his current role.

Last month:

Draper is said to be sparking a bidding war between the two Adelaide clubs, which could push his value into the top 10. He started June off in the SANFL Reserves, breaking through for two games after scintillating Under 18s form. He averaged 16.5 disposals in those outings, before making a splash on his junior return with 31 touches, seven inside 50s and a goal in South’s win against Sturt. He is set for an extended stint on the sidelines having suffered a syndesmosis injury.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus

#15 Mac Andrew (MEL NGA)
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Ruck/Tall Utility
12/04/2003 | 200cm | 70kg

June Ranking: #21

Snapshot: A raw tall prospect who has proven his worth in each post, Andrew’s vertical leap and fast-developing craft really catch the eye.

Another key position type who rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew will have Melbourne recruiters a little nervous with his performances to date. He now sits inside our current top 20, boasting raw athleticism and bucketloads of upside given his ever-improving ability to be utilised at either end of the ground, or in the ruck. While he has proven his versatility, the Demons Next Generation Academy (NGA) talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap and clean follow-up work stands out.

Last month:

Andrew was set to add to his exciting opening rounds with a return to NAB League action, but unfortunately fell to injury early in his outing against Bendigo. Having gone down in a heavy contest, Andrew hasn’t been sighted on-field since and also missed the Under 19 trials.

>> ‘Rays on the rise

#16 Josh Fahey
GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Medium Defender
11/11/2003 | 186cm | 76kg

June Ranking: #12

Snapshot: A run-and-gun rebounding defender who gives his all and boasts a raking left-foot kick, Fahey is arguably this year’s leading Northern Academy talent.

Our top-ranked Northern Academy prospect in 2021, Fahey is clearly the best prospect out of the Allies crop and a real first round contender. He returned to the GWS GIANTS Academy program this year to confirm his eligibility as an academy product, having previously shifted to Queensland and joined forces with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy. The Queanbeyan native has impressed onlookers across both states with his dash out of defence and penetrative kicking, both damaging weapons for a player of his position. He has earned a VFL berth with the GIANTS and was named best afield in April’s AFL Academy showcase.

Last month:

Another who has had some time away, Fahey did not take part in the Giants Academy’s NAB League stint, but made his third appearance for the Giants’ VFL last week. He was understandably quiet with seven disposals in his first outing at the level since Round 5 (May).

#17 Josh Goater
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
2/06/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

June Ranking: #19

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with explosive athletic traits and clean hands on the inside, Goater is a prospect with great potential.

Goater lays claim to one of the more impressive athletic profiles in the draft pool, particularly in a power sense. His explosive turn of speed and impressive vertical leap are traits which catch the eye at testing events and are transferred on-field, with the Calder Cannons product able to produce exciting passages of play. He has proven his worth in midfield with good ball winning strength and clean hands on the inside, but can also roll out to a wing or pinch-hit up forward. He is another who stakes his claim on high upside.

Last month:

Goater remains in the mix after some really consistent form for the Calder Cannons, as well as a strong showing in the Vic Metro trial game. As a permanent fixture in midfield, the big-bodied prospect showcased his strong ball winning ability and clean hands, playing the role of extractor and distributor perfectly. He ticked over 30 touches in his latest appearance for Calder and uses the ball efficiently, suiting his side’s kick-mark style.

#18 Jack Williams
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Ruck
1/12/2003 | 195cm | 91kg

June Ranking: #9

Snapshot: Williams is a versatile tall prospect who thrives aerially and consistently kicks goals up forward, while also rotating through the ruck or even to defence.

One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams has been in sensational form at WAFL Colts level. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 23 goals in eight WAFL Colts games to this point and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung forward this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

Williams’ goalkicking record at Colts level speaks for itself, and the East Fremantle tall continues to find the big sticks consistently. He booted two majors in each of his last two outings, but was really impressive in his latest dig with 22 disposals, eight marks and 21 hitouts to continue his aerial dominance. With such a strong group of key forwards at Western Australia’s disposal, Williams’ form will have to be constant if he is to retain focal point status at representative level. He does have the added string to his bow of versatility, with a ruck chop-out proving useful at various times this season.

#19 Josh Ward
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Midfielder
15/08/2003 | 181cm | 79kg

June Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A classy midfielder who is capable of winning mountains of possessions, Ward proves a centre bounce mainstay with his clean skills and work rate.

Having started the year on the precipice, Ward has broken into and consolidated his spot among the 2021 crop’s top 25 places. The Northern Knights midfielder is one who works hard both ways and gets stuck in at the contest, able to win his own ball and distribute with clean skills to the outer. He is also beginning to showcase his own traits on the outside and can impact while resting forward, but holds clear value as a reliable ball winner at the stoppages. A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Ward is destined for the same honours as a rising draft eligible Under 19 talent this year.

Last month:

Ward has been one of the form players of the draft pool since our last edition, seeing him soar into the top 20 and look quite comfortable there. It all started with an outstanding 34-disposal effort in Northern’s win over Oakleigh, where he matched Daicos around the contest and was super productive with his ball use. Ward carried that form into the Vic Metro trial game as captain, showcasing more of his outside ability with transitional run and time in the forward half. He capped off a brilliant month of football by racking up another 35 touches and laying nine tackles as the Knights went down to Murray last week.

#20 Jacob Van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg

June Ranking: #13

Snapshot: Van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands overhead and a booming kick, but has also shown potential to move further afield.

Pegged as Western Australia’s best draft prospect and potentially the leading tall coming into the year, Van Rooyen continues to impress in 2021. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games. He donned the Black Ducks jersey in 2020’s West Australian All Stars fixtures and was a lock for the AFL Academy intake in 2021. A glandular fever diagnosis has halted his progress a touch, but Van Rooyen started out the season at League level and was difficult to deny for a return after showing great form in the WAFL Colts.

Last month:

Having been managed back into some form and full-time minutes via the Colts, Van Rooyen returned to the senior WAFL grade last week. He managed a combined 10 goals in his three Colts outings beforehand, but only snared one from six touches and four marks upon cracking into the League set-up for his fourth cap. With an uninterrupted run up forward and potentially some better midfield form, Van Rooyen could once again climb the order.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

#21 Cooper Murley
Norwood/South Australia | Midfielder
20/06/2003 | 178cm | 70kg

June Ranking: #18

Snapshot: A stylish forward runner, Murley holds his own on both sides of the contest and loves to break into attack with speed and slick ball use on the fly.

Murley is an exciting player in full flight, able to break forward quickly with gut running and terrific speed from midfield. He dominated the SANFL Under 18s competition last year and was part of Norwood’s premiership-winning team, showcasing his undeniable talent and upside. In 2021, his progress has been halted by injury, though the 18-year-old has already earned a Reserves berth and remains one of South Australia’s brightest prospects. Having returned from injury last month, he could well be one to rise up the board with a consistent run of form and even more senior exposure.

Last month:

Murley is another who has battled injury in 2021, but is now finding his feet having gotten back on the park. He returned via the Reserves grade but has since found form back in the Under 18s, notching two games of over 30 disposals and two goals in the last three weeks. As was the case at times last season, Murley seems a class above his peers but the true test will be how he can adapt should he be thrust back into the senior grades. If he keeps his form up, a promotion seems inevitable.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus: Cooper Murley

#22 Rhett Bazzo
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Tall Defender/Forward
17/10/2003 | 195cm | 81kg

June Ranking: #16

Snapshot: A key defender who has adjusted to a forward role in 2021, Bazzo is fantastic in his aerial judgement and clean with ball in hand.

Another of Western Australia’s many promising key position prospects, Bazzo made his name as a defender but has since shifted forward. As he did in the AFL Academy showcase, the Swan Districts product may well revert back to that defence post during state representative duties, but looks just as suited to playing an attacking role with his sound marking and use of the ball. He is another who claimed Under 16 All Australian honours in 2019, making him a well known quantity and one with plenty of class. Bazzo has shown just that in four WAFL Colts games to this point, while also turning out for Guildford Grammar in the PSA Football competition.

Last month:

Mixing his time between PSA football and the WAFL Colts, Bazzo continues to be utilised at either end of the ground. He didn’t have much to do in his lone Colts outing for the month, managing 10 disposals, two marks and eight tackles in Swan Districts’ 80-point Round 12 win over Subiaco. It was his fourth Colts appearance for 2021 and it is becoming evident that Bazzo looks most suited to his intercept marking role down back, where he is likely to be stationed for Western Australia at the Under 19 National Championships.

#23 Joshua Browne
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 185cm | 77kg

June Ranking: #23

Snapshot: An ultra-consistent midfielder who runs hard and finds plenty of the ball, Browne is one of the most in-form midfielders nationwide.

Browne is a player whose form has made him hard to deny for a spot in the top 25, with his ability to win big numbers at a remarkable rate making him one of the most consistent performers in the draft pool at present. He has built on a promising bottom-age campaign with East Fremantle to hit new heights in the WAFL Colts competition, competing with grunt at the contest and running hard to accumulate around the ground in relentless fashion. He is also quite solid defensively on the inside and is the type of player you want on your side, especially among the centre bounce mix.

Last month:

Browne’s sensational WAFL Colts form continued into June, as the reliable midfielder found plenty of the ball and even hit the scoreboard in some big efforts. Two of his last three outings for East Fremantle yielded 38 disposals, with his latest appearance also seeing Browne end up with three goals to his name against Perth. His output is undeniable and more dominant performances like that of Round 11 will only put his stocks in good stead around this even range.

#24 Darcy Wilmot
Northern Knights | Defender
31/12/2003 | 182cm/70kg

June Ranking: #25

Snapshot: Wilmot is a tenacious and brave half-back whose most flashy weapons show on the attack, as he breaks the lines with great speed and ball use.

Wilmot has thrust his name into contention with increasingly impressive performances for the Northern Knights in 2021, as well as an impressive senior debut at local football level. The small-medium defender has all the typical class and running prowess you would expect on the rebound, but is also willing to compete above his size in aerial contests. The 17-year-old still has plenty of development left as a December 31 birth, meaning he only just makes the cut to be eligible for this year’s draft. His run-and-gun style is sure to catch many more eyes as the season continues, with Wilmot a prospect truly on the rise.

Last month:

Wilmot continued his exciting form with a strong start to his month, turning out for Northern and notching 22 touches in his usual defensive post, as the Knights toppled Oakleigh. He was able to utilise his running power, speed, and sharp ball use in the trial games too, lining up across half-back and even rolling up to a wing for Vic Metro. He continues to showcase handy points of difference for a player of his size and position, essentially holding his place in our count.

#25 Blake Howes
Sandringham Dragons | Forward/Wing
7/04/2003 | 190cm/79kg

June Ranking: NR

Snapshot: One of the best athletes available in this year’s draft, Howes boasts a terrific aerial game but also competes well at ground level and shows promising versatility.

Rounding out the top 25 is another new name in the mix, but one who should be well known to keen draft watchers. Howes was an All Australian at Under 16 level, plying his trade as a high-marking forward with wonderful athleticism and clean hands. While he started the year off in that usual forward post, Howes has since shown his versatility with a shift to the wing and is a classic high-ceiling type of prospect. He was included in this year’s initial AFL Academy intake and continues to back up that selection with form fitting of his potential as a mainstay in the Sandringham Dragons’ side.

Last month:

A name which has hovered around the mark, Howes makes his Power Rankings debut on the back of some really promising displays over the last month. Since moving up to a wing for Sandringham Dragons, Howes has played the position well by getting his hands on the ball more while still showcasing his marking prowess. In finding more possessions, Howes has also proven his ground level prowess. He very nearly had a blinder on the weekend, managing 24 disposals and nine marks against Tasmania, but just falling short on the end product with four behinds. At 190cm, his athleticism and versatility will excite many watchers.

IN THE MIX:

The two to fall out of the rankings since last month’s edition are Glenelg midfielder-defender Lewis Rayson and tall Northern Knights midfielder Ned Long. Rayson continues to tick along with more midfield minutes in the SANFL Under 18s, while Long has not been sighted at NAB League level in the last month and did not feature in the Victorian trials.

West Australian goalkicking ace Jye Amiss is becoming increasingly hard to deny. The East Perth spearhead is the leading WAFL Colts goalkicking charts with 37 in nine games, proving a dead-eye with his set shot conversions and difficult to stop when stationed one-on-one inside 50. His latest outing yielded a bag of seven majors, and he doesn’t need too many opportunities to make an impact.

After snaring five goals for Vic Country during last month’s trials, Dandenong midfielder-forward Judson Clarke is climbing draft boards. His mix of pace and skill catches the eye, with his current form pointing towards top 25 potential. Sam Butler, the brother of St Kilda’s Dan is another in that boat, but was recently injured having made a successful transition into midfield. GWV teammate Sam Breuer has also done so, only from defence, showing good speed and intent around the ball.

The likes of Zac Taylor and Lachlan Rankin are clever footballers who also enjoyed solid trial games to go with their NAB League form, so too Connor Macdonald. Back over in South Australia, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera could be another to watch after breaking through for his League debut, having strung together some form at the Reserves level.

Scouting Notes: SANFL U18s – Round 12

THE 2021 SANFL Under 18s season continued over the weekend, with the latest round of action producing plenty more excellent performances from budding AFL Draft prospects. In the next SANFL Scouting Notes edition, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 19 talent hub members and other standout performers. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

STURT 9.9 (63) def. by NORWOOD 13.11 (89)

By: Eli Duxson

Sturt:

#24 Cormac Dwyer

Returned to the Double Blues outfit for the first time since Round 5 and brought all the same pressure and physicality he departed with. He laid the most tackles for Sturt with eight as the big-bodied inside midfielder tried to utilise his sturdy frame as best he could. Dwyer took on more of a defensive role at stoppages as he remained static but held front position and prevented his direct opponent from running to hit zones or spreading for the second and third handballs. He often went defensively to Cooper Murley when their midfield rotations lined up. His disposal was a little scratchy at times but his work in and under was where he thrived. Dwyer finished with 15 disposals and eight clearances to go with his tackling numbers in a welcome return to Sturt’s engine room.

#39 Felix Packer

Undoubtedly kept Sturt in the game with his perfectly accurate five goals as the focal point of the Double Blues’ forwardline. Packer did all his work inside 50 and with his strength one-on-one and ability to finish, that was fair enough. His first goal came from a 25-metre set shot after he earned a free kick for holding the ball. Soon after he wore one in the mid-section after backing into a contest in what was the only time all game he looked vulnerable. The hulking unit managed two more goals in the second quarter with a Tom Hawkins-style pluck and snap out of a forward 50 ruck contest, and another set shot from a tight angle. He did not require much separation to mark contested often finding just enough space on the lead to get his hands in front of him. A 25-metre penalty netted him a shot in the goal square while his final goal came from another nice snap after marking on the point line.

Others:

In what was a lean day in terms of contributors for Sturt, Dylan Thredgold dominated the ruck with 31 hit-outs compared to Norwood’s best in 10. Jake Aish was also quiet on his standards with his first single-digit disposal game for the season, finishing on eight.

Norwood:

#1 Cooper Murley

Since returning from Reserves duties, Murley has continued to make the Under 18s competition his own with his second 30-plus disposal game from three outings. His speed and acceleration kept him in the middle of the ground for most of the game, with stints down forward to rest or present a different challenge for Sturt. Murley managed to find space with such running abilities and mark uncontested which he did 11 times. His speed took centre stage when he held outside position on a Norwood rebound and when he saw his chance to go, he took off and marked 20 metres out directly in front. Not many can keep up with him. With ball in hand, he looked composed, seeming as though he had much more time than everyone else and was clean with his ball use, making good decisions. His second goal came from a Gary Ablett Jr­-like snap from the right boundary, curling in wonderfully for a great finish. He missed a third shot which would have just been a cherry on top of his 31 disposals, two goals, and six rebound 50s, from which he showed his defensive work rate.

#16 Benjamin Belperio

Backing up his 21-disposal effort last week came arguably Belperio’s best game for the season, as he notched three goals from his 18 touches to go with five marks and four clearances. He kicked the first goal of the game with a nice finish on the run at pace with his penetrating kick. Like Murley, he rotated between centre, wing, and forward and was disciplined with his positioning. If he moved off the ball to find the footy he could have improved on his solid stats, but he would have done his team a disservice with fewer options and not stretching the Sturt defence. When around the ball however, he hunted it and tried to bustle through contests to obtain possession. His second goal came after the ball spilled to him as he showed his hip strength to break through a pair of tackles before dribbling it through. His final goal came from a set shot from just inside 50 after marking overhead which he flushed. When working back defensively he was often good at locating before getting involved on the rebound, although on one occasion he drifted and did not see the opponent standing behind him in the pocket. Although it had no impact on the scoreboard, it would have been just a minor blemish on an otherwise serviceable contribution.

Others:

Defensive duo Matthew Dnistrianksy and Riley Verrall managed 26 and 25 disposals respectively in their rebounding efforts, while Bailey Gal laid the most tackles on the ground with 11. Aidan Lake’s impact on the game would not be represented on the stat sheet as his effort around contest was immense. Not the prettiest player but he showed plenty of heart.

WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS 12.8 (80) def. SOUTH ADELAIDE 11.7 (73)

By: Tom Wyman

Woodville-West Torrens:

#17 Adam D’Aloia

South Australia’s Under 17 skipper produced a typically tough, in-and-under performance in his return to the Eagles set-up. The inside midfielder started the clash well, hurtling himself at the contest with ferocity and laying an abundance of defensive pressure. His stoppage smarts were evident but it was his relentless tackling which stood out. D’Aloia worked well around the ground but was clearly at his best in congestion. Although he was quieter after a strong first term, the midfielder will certainly be a key component to the Eagles’ side as finals approach. He finished the game with 16 disposals, 10 tackles and five clearances.

#21 Mattaes Phillipou

Another member of South Australia’s Under 17 side, Phillipou looked threatening whenever the ball was in his vicinity. Dividing his time between an inside midfield role and the forwardline, Phillipou used his tall 188cm frame well in both roles. In attack his overhead marking meant he was a prominent target going forward, and through the middle his superior size and strength proved equally valuable. His ability to win the ball at ground level then get his hands free to give off a quick handball was impressive. A known goal kicker, Phillipou added another two to his season tally, to go with 24 touches, four marks and seven clearances.

#24 Zac Phillips

A number of bottom-aged Eagles stood out in the win over South Adelaide, however 19-year-old Phillips had a dominant day in the ruck. Predominately competing against South’s Thomas Welk, Phillips used his athleticism, size and improving ruck craft to provide his midfielders with first use. As the game wore on, Phillips accumulated more of the ball around the ground, whilst still holding the advantage in the ruck duel. Clearly the best key position player on the ground, Phillips finished a fruitful day with 14 touches, three clearances and 51 hit-outs.

Others:

Midfielder Brock Thomson (30 disposals, five marks, six clearances and three inside 50s) finished the match as the leading ball-winner on the ground. Always a presence at stoppages, Thomson combined well with fellow on-baller Sam Nicholls (12 disposals, five tackles and four clearances). The pair produced workmanlike performances which proved pivotal in the Eagles narrow triumph. In attack, full forward Jordan Lukac showcased his terrific athleticism to boot back-to-back opportunist goals from close range and help wrestle back the momentum for the Eagles. Henry Hawker played an important half-forward role for the home side, booting three goals from 18 disposals. His work overhead was a highlight, taking nine marks including three contested.

South Adelaide:

#5 Angus Bradley

Bradley was deployed down back for South Adelaide, where his clean skills and ability to read the play helped get the Panthers out of trouble on numerous occasions. He was at times made to pay for some moments of indecisiveness, however he found the ball at will and generally used the football well by foot. Having produced some excellent showings through the midfield this season, Bradley showed he has the tools and versatility to play a number of roles by performing well across half-back. He finished with a team-high 23 disposals, three marks and three rebounds.

#10 Isaac Birt

Birt has been South Adelaide’s best performer for much of the season to-date, with his speed and silky ball use impressing on-lookers. However, his influence was curtailed in tricky conditions against the Eagles. The midfielder worked typically hard up and down the outer wing, accumulating mark-after-mark, but wasn’t as clean and precise by foot as we’ve come to expect from the Strathalbyn product. At times he was caught trying to bite off more than he could chew, which could be forgiven considering his often scintillating delivery. He still managed to gather 16 disposals, eight marks, five tackles and seven inside 50s.

#19 Tom Wheaton

Tall midfielder, Wheaton made an excellent initial impression in his first Under 18s game. After captaining the Panthers Under 16s to glory earlier in the year, Wheaton was heavily involved from the get-go on debut, matching it with the Eagles on-ballers. A strong-bodied midfielder who appears quite physically developed, Wheaton found himself under all sorts of pressure in his first handful of possessions, however he seemed to thrive upon the tough, contested nature of the game. He found the ball in some more time and space as the game went on, but was at his best in-tight where he scrapped around and put his body on the line time-after-time. He finished as the leading clearance player on the ground, which speaks volumes to his high-level midfield craft and football smarts. Wheaton gathered 21 disposals, four marks, eight clearances, four tackles and four inside 50s in a very encouraging effort.

#23 Noah Howes

Exciting forward, Howes booted five goals and very nearly lifted his side to victory at Maughan Thiem Kia Oval. Another member of South’s triumphant Under 16 side, Howes looked very threatening on the lead, using his athleticism and speed to gain separation. At times he appeared the most damaging player on the field, with the Panthers clearly looking to get it into his hands up forward. Four of his five goals came in the first half, including a terrific set shot effort from beyond the arc. Also impressive was his willingness to follow-up at ground level, laying five tackles to go with nine disposals.

#35 Koby Cockshell

Talented utility, Cockshell worked well in tandem with the aforementioned Howes in attack. He booted two majors and took a couple of great contested marks to highlight his overhead strength. Also helping out in the ruck at times, the 195cm talent finished with 12 disposals and four marks (all contested). Cockshell is yet another member of South Australia’s Under 17 squad.

Others:

The versatile Cooper Rogers started the game in a half-forward role, however he was at his best when moved on-ball in the second half. He attacked the contest hard, tackled with intent and added some speed and energy to the Panthers midfield set-up after the main break. He finished with 11 disposals, nine tackles and a couple of clearances. Luke Mitton gathered 19 disposals, six tackles, seven clearances and four inside 50s while Lachlan Hayes was effective in defence for South Adelaide. The fearless defender read the play well, accumulating 15 disposals, five marks and four rebounds.

NORTH ADELAIDE 4.11 (35) def. by WEST ADELAIDE 19.12 (126)

By: Michael Alvaro

North Adelaide:

#4 Isaac Keeler

Truly a shining light on what was a relatively dull day for North Adelaide, Keeler was unlucky not to get more reward for his efforts in the way of major scores. The bottom-aged Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) member kicked 1.4, with his finishing hardly matching all the work done in the build-up. Keeler was able to showcase his athleticism throughout the day; marking strongly at full pelt on the lead, baulking opponents as he wheeled inside 50, and covering the ground like a much smaller player. Still, that little bit of polish would have turned a very good game into a remarkable one for the promising key forward.

#18 James Willis

The explosive Roosters midfielder was arguably his side’s most productive engine room operator throughout the contest, generating useful drive in the front half. Willis went inside 50 eight times among his 15 total disposals, usually on the end of powerful runs where he backed his pace to burn or gain separation from an opponent. He, too could have done with a bit more polish on his kicks, but booted an excellent long goal on the fly during the third quarter – hardly breaking stride as he breached North’s attacking arc.

Others:

The Roosters got some value out of their midfielders in patches, with the likes of Zyton Santillo (23 disposals, eight clearances), Hugh Jackson (22 disposals), and James White (21 disposals, seven marks) all getting their hands on the pill. Harper Montgomery somewhat flew under the radar to finish with a team-high 24 touches in defence, while Blayne O’Loughlin was tried on each line but could not quite get his usual game going. The Crows NGA hopeful capped his 16-disposal game with a late goal.

West Adelaide:

#9 Kobe Ryan

Employed on both sides of midfield, Ryan returned an excellent performance with 28 disposals, six tackles, and four clearances. The balance which he displayed was top notch, with the bottom-ager in good position to be released for green ball on the outer, but also cracking in to win his own ball and lay tackles. He looked stylish in possession and hardly wasted a touch with his clean skills, helping Westies chain useful passages together on the uptake. Certainly one of the bottom-agers to watch, closely.

#10 Cade Kennedy

Kennedy was productive as always upon his return to the Under 18s grade, with two games of Reserves experience under his belt. The hard-working ball winner was busy early and worked back well to help his defenders transition into attack, maintaining that kind of form throughout the match. He would often move the ball on quickly and drive Westies forward by foot, finding more room to operate as the game wore on. Kennedy also found more ways to be productive with his disposal, hitting some nice targets going inside 50 during the second half.

#23 Dylan McCormick

While five West Adelaide forwards ended up with three goals or more, McCormick was arguably the most consistently productive of the lot. He finished with 3.2 from 18 disposals, working well up the ground as a leading option before then becoming a threat closer to goal. He got on the board during the second term after converting a free kick, adding one more in each of the following periods to cap off a positive performance up forward. His goals proved reward for effort, as McCormick created for others in the early stages before doing the damage himself.

#36 Tyson Coe

The bustling bottom-ager provided a big body in midfield for West Adelaide, proving difficult to match at the coalface. Coe won a team-high five clearances but contributed 15 of his 25 disposals by hand, often dishing out to his runners amid tackling pressure. He tried to generate some of his own outside run in the second term, but looked better on the inside with his efforts to extract. A well-finished goal on his favoured left side during the final term capped of Coe’s outing.

#37 Tom Scully

Scully is of a much different build to his more famous namesake, but showed something in his own right with a bag of five goals for Westies. The 201cm bottom-ager started forward and pinch-hit in the ruck, with his height and reach proving troublesome for his North Adelaide adversaries. All four of his marks were contested, with three of them leading directly to goals inside attacking 50. Scully converted his four set shots nicely and even added a snap in the fourth quarter, displaying some finesse to go with his handy ruck craft as a secondary.

#54 Harry Lemmey

Despite being beaten in his first one-on-one marking contest up on the wing, Lemmey was hardly dismayed and managed to show some really nice signs with his aerial work. He was often manned by fellow bottom-ager Shaun Bennier and beat him for pure reach on account of a 9cm height advantage. You still have to take the marks though, and Lemmey did just that when snaring three of his five scoring shots. He finished with 3.2 from 11 disposals and six marks with some handy work both inside and out of the attacking 50.

Others:

Liam Westdijk and Lachlan Tredwell were the other two Westies players to finish with three majors, marking a dominant attacking display. Dylan White also found the goals and was a strong body in midfield alongside Jesse Thackeray. Charlie Pridham also got busy, providing a bit of dash on the rebound from defence.

CENTRAL DISTRICT 6.7 (43) def. by GLENELG 18.10 (118)

By: Tom Wyman

Central District:

#9 Trent Tattoli

The 16-year-old wingman tried hard for Central District and showed some glimpses of his high potential. His first couple of involvements were great tackles, but later his composure in traffic and effective ball use stood out. Although his skills were inconsistent throughout the day, Tattoli worked very hard up and down the ground competed well despite the Bulldogs being outplayed. He finished with 13 disposals, seven marks and three tackles.

#21 Austin McDonald

McDonald was the Bulldogs’ best player in their 75-point defeat. Starting at the centre bounce, he spent much of the first term on-ball, finding the ball at ease and reading the tap work of teammate Saxon Evans well. McDonald struggled by foot but continued to find the ball when moved to a half-forward flank. In attack, he showed good forward craft and was rewarded for his tireless effort with a third-term goal. The bottom-ager can certainly refine his skills and decision making, but proved he knows how to find the ball in a variety of roles, finishing with a team-high 28 disposals, six marks, three tackles and five inside 50s.

Others:

Defender Ruben Carreno was the Bulldogs designated kicker down back and did just about all he could in trying circumstances. He was measured by foot but also used his long kicking to good effect when exiting the defensive 50. Carreno finished with 27 disposals, four marks and 11 rebounds. Saxon Evans was the dominant ruckman at X-Convenience Oval, finishing with 12 disposals, 30 hit-outs and six clearances. Tomas Hahn produced an admirable performance, cracking in hard and applying some important defensive pressure despite lacking some polish.

Glenelg:

#2 Harry Tunkin

The diminutive Tunkin spent the day in the midfield and performed very well. His contested ball work was excellent, so too his cleanliness by hand and effectiveness by foot. He read the taps well at stoppages then broke through several would-be tacklers in congestion. It seemed as if whenever he was around the ball, Tunkin made an impact. Arguably the best on ground in a very well-rounded performance from Glenelg, the productive Tunkin finished the game with 25 disposals, eight tackles and three clearances.

#6 Darcy Gluyas

Gluyas started the game at the opening centre bounce but also spent time on the wing and across half-forward throughout the day. His class was on show early when he sold some candy to cut inside and deliver a beautiful pass deep inside 50 to Corey Brougham, who goaled. Gluyas was typically composed with ball in hand, always seeming to weigh up his options nicely before executing well by foot. With the Tigers dominating proceedings, he booted a third-term major but later missed a couple of gettable chances in front of goal. Nevertheless, it was another very solid performance from a reliable contributor, who finished with 19 disposals, seven marks, six tackles and five inside 50s.

#20 Lewis Rayson

Rayson was typically damaging in his customary half-back role. He provided constant run-and-carry with ball in hand and added raking long foot skills to his exciting dash. Always attacking the ball at full speed, Rayson nailed the first goal of the game from a 40m set-shot after floating forward. His work to get in and out of congestion was admirable and his contested ball winning complimented the eye-catching run-and-carry. Rayson finished with 25 disposals, six marks, three clearances, three inside 50s and four rebounds.

#38 Jakob Ryan

Playing his first SANFL Under 18s game since Round 4, Ryan fitted back into the Glenelg side with ease. Deployed across half-forward and the wing, his neat foot skills on both sides of the body were a real highlight. A classy player, his ability to turn his opponent inside-out and find a target with a long kick inside 50 in the first quarter set the tone for what was to come from the SA Under 17 squad member. Duelling with Bulldog Trent Tattoli for parts of the game, he used the ball terrifically well on both his left and right boot, made excellent decisions and displayed good vision. In the final term he spent more time in attack and took a number of contested grabs. One of South Australia’s brightest bottom-aged prospects, he finished the game as the equal-leading ball getter on the field with 28 disposals, along with 11 marks (three contested), three clearances and six inside 50s.

Others:

Glenelg key forwards Corey Brougham and Jack Harding proved far too good for their Bulldogs opponents. Their size and strength led to dominance in the air, and their leading patterns caused headaches for the Central District backman. Harding finished with five goals from 16 disposals and 11 marks (four contested) and his partner in crime also nailed five majors, along with 15 touches and seven grabs. Small midfielder Hunter Window provided some energy and spark around the contest, gathering 23 disposals and six inside 50s. Oscar Adams may have been beaten in hit-out numbers by Central District’s Saxon Evans, however he got the upper hand around the ground, accumulating 19 disposals and seven marks to go with 18 hit-outs.

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography via South Adelaide FC

2021 Draft Central NAB League Boys TOTW: Round 9

THE 2021 NAB League season rolled on into Round 9 over the weekend, with metro regions returning to the fold. A few school football fixtures were rescheduled too, meaning the wealth of talent filtering back through the competition was at a high. This week’s squad is headlined by Player of the Week candidates Ben Hobbs (GWV Rebels) and Josh Ward (Northern Knights), who earn starting spots in midfield on the back of dazzling 34-disposal displays.

Hobbs also laid nine tackles and booted two goals in the Rebels’ win over Murray, marking a sparkling return from injury for the tough inside midfielder. He is joined by teammates Sam Breuer (wing) and Marcus Herbert (bench), who were squeezed out of the centre bounce mix but both ticked over 30 touches in terrific individual outings. Murray’s Tom Bracher is the other to feature from that game, earning a spot in the back pocket for his efforts in defence this week.

Ward’s feats were made all the more impressive by the fact he lined up on Nick Daicos, taking on the role with aplomb while also advancing his own game. Daicos produced another high-numbers game with 37 disposals to continue his remarkable season, joined by fellow father-son prospect Sam Darcy (centre half-back) and Giants Academy member Patrick Voss (half-back) in the starting lineup. Ward is also supported by teammates, namely partner-in-crime Joel Trudgeon and dashing defender Darcy Wilmot.

Other standouts across the squad include Finn Callaghan, who was best afield in his relatively new midfield role for Sandringham Dragons, while intercept marking machine Tyreece Leiu and busy midfielder Jake Soligo were productive for Eastern. Noah Gribble and Zac Taylor were also arguably best afield in their respective wins, while forwards Sam Paea and Bryce Milford bagged four goals each to earn a spot.

The Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers, and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels all lay claim to three squad members, along with the Calder Cannons. Fellow victors Sandringham, Geelong, Dandenong, and the Giants Academy all boast two players apiece, with Eastern the only Round 9 loser to produce multiple candidates this time around. With competition for spots at a premium, particularly in midfield, three losing sides did not have any players included.

Check out the full team below:

Draft Central NAB League Team of the Week: Round 9

FB: Darcy Wilmot (NK), Tyreece Leiu (ER), Tom Bracher (MB)
HB: Patrick Voss (OC), Sam Darcy (OC), Sam Frost (GWS)

C: Sam Breuer (GWV), Ben Hobbs (GWV), Noah Gribble (GF)

HF: Joel Trudgeon (NK), Dante Visentini (SD), Bryce Milford (DS)
FF: Jye Menzie (TD), Sam Paea (CC), Noah Gadsby (GF)

FOL: Jack Driscoll (GWS), Josh Ward (NK), Finn Callaghan (SD)

INT: Nick Daicos (OC), Josh Goater (CC), Marcus Herbert (GWV), Colby Nanya (DS), Jake Soligo (ER), Zac Taylor (CC)

EMG: Oscar Morrison (GF), Billy Cootee (WJ), Will Bravo (DS)

Academy Watch | Lions prospects endure tough loss, Suns earn late call-ups

THE Brisbane Lions reserves returned to the scene of their 2019 NEAFL Grand Final victory at Fankhauser Oval to face their opponents from that day, 2018 NEAFL premiers, the Southport Sharks. However, the 2021 version of the Lions, unlike the undefeated side of two years ago, is injury depleted with 10 Lions Academy players topping up the team, while Southport’s lineup is now studded with ex-AFL talent including 10 former Gold Coast Suns, so it was the Sharks who dominated this contest from start to finish.

Mid-season rookie Kalin Lane debuted for the Lions, with the West Australian recruit scoring his maiden VFL goal and tapping a respectable 13 hit-outs in Brisbane’s three-man ruck battery.

Saxon Crozier and Toby Triffett each had 21 disposals through the midfield and were among the Lions’ leading on-ballers, but were outclassed by an all ex-AFL Sharks midfield that is leading the VFL in most statistics, and has their team sitting on top of the ladder.

Recent academy graduate Bruce Reville once again showed his quality, consistently breaking through the middle of the ground with speedy run and carry, having multiple shots on goal on the rare occasions the Lions went into forward fifty to finish with 2.3 from 19 disposals.

Athletic tall utility Jack Briskey played loose in defence, but with the Sharks deploying a mozzie fleet in their forwardline and the ball continually coming in hot, the lanky key defender battled.

Jacob Langbourne provided a strong marking outlet on the flanks and had a nice set shot goal late, while Charlie Bowes was stoic in defence as he weathered some crunching contests.

Tahj Abberley was starved of opportunity, but with six marks and four tackles he made his 15 touches count, while Will Tasker and Hugh Fidler each had goals as the young Lions never stopped trying throughout the 107-point hiding.

Southport now sit a game clear at the top of the table with seven wins from eight games, while the Lions drop a game and percentage out of the top eight.

The Gold Coast Suns reserves fielded only the two academy top-up players, with top-ager Jack Johnston coming in to provide a strong body against a prolific Aspley attack, while Bodhi Uwland answered a late call up to be part of the Suns’ 40-point second half comeback.

Meanwhile, AFL Academy Sun, Austin Harris, was among the best on ground on debut in his senior QAFL appearance for Broadbeach. However, the Cats fell to Labrador in a top of the table clash, with Tigers and Allies player Bailey Reeves scoring a goal in his side’s victory.

Passed over for the Allies squad, Jed Foggo came out and scored four goals for Palm Beach Currumbin (PBC) in a performance sure to soon win him a place in the Suns’ side. Teammates Will Bella and Brinn Little were major contributors to the win as they now pack their bags for next week’s Allies camp in Sydney.

Jye Lockett, who has previously linked with the Suns Academy, was another to be overlooked for Allies selection but had an impressive outing for GWV Rebels in the NAB League with 17 touches and a goal.

Image Credit: RF Photography

SANFL Under 18s Player Focus: Cooper Murley (Norwood)

NORWOOD midfielder and AFL Academy member Cooper Murley has had an interrupted start to his 2021 football season. Having played two games in the SANFL Reserves, an ankle injury kept him out of action for one and a half months, resulting in him missing the AFL Academy game against Geelong VFL in April. 

After returning through the Reserves in Rounds 8 and 9, Murley was brought in to the Norwood Under 18’s side in Round 10 for its clash against South Adelaide. The contest was close but ended with the Redlegs going down by nine points to the Panthers. Murley was prolific in his first Under 18’s game for the season, with a team-high 34 disposals and seven clearances, to draw attention for this week’s SANFL U18’s Player Focus.

Cooper Murley
Norwood/ South Australia

DOB: 20/06/2003
Height/Weight: 178cm/70kg
Position: Midfielder/Small Forward

2021 Averages:

SANFL Reserves: 4 games | 12 disposals | 7.8 kicks | 4.3 handballs | 3 marks | 2.8 tackles | 0.8 clearances | 2.3 inside 50s | 0.8 rebound 50s | 0.8 goals (3 total)

2021 SANFL U18s, Round 10 | Norwood 10.10 (70) def by. South Adelaide 11.13 (79)
#1 Cooper Murley (Norwood)

Stats: 34 disposals (22 kicks, 12 handballs), 5 marks, 3 tackles, 7 clearances, 8 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 2 goals, 1 behind

Q1: 

To start off his 2021 Under 18s campaign, Murley wasn’t overly involved early. He was put into the forward line initially, unable to impact much outside of drawing a player at an early inside 50 stoppage. It wouldn’t be until the 10-minute mark of the first quarter that Murley would come alive. Once moved into the midfield, he looked lively around stoppages, positioning himself well to be a handball receiver from whoever gathered first possession. His first clearance would come not long after his move into the guts, having it palmed down straight to him around the defensive 50 mark, handballing back and then getting it again closer to the boundary line, unable to hit his intended target by foot in the middle of the ground. 

He worked hard to assist in defence when it was down there, earning himself a free kick at one stage and initiating a promising bit of play with his switch kick. From there, Murley’s work was done exclusively at ground level, able to pick the ball up cleanly, even when under direct pressure, and fire off precise handballs to teammates. His approach to ground balls was near perfect in the first quarter, positioning his body well to protect himself and keep his arms free from contact, then getting the handballs away quickly as he stood up, rather than standing up then handballing. 

It was a strong start to his Under 18’s return, looking a class above when he had the ball and in contests, able to beat bigger opponents at ground level almost exclusively with how he positioned his body when picking the ball up.

Q2:

Murley once again started the quarter in the forwardline but looked to push up straight away, in a high half-forward sort of role. This got him pushing up the ground deeply and more involved in transition from the defensive half for Norwood, where he was the target of a lot of kicks early on. In those situations, he utilised his speed to run onto the ball, even taking a mark running with the flight. He showcased his clean hands below his knees a few times, with the most impressive being a clean pickup off the ground as soon as the ball hit it, so much so it could’ve been paid a mark. To follow that up he handballed to a teammate, then worked hard to u-turn and get in front of the running pack of players, getting a handball over the top and having a shot on goal from 50 out, which was touched just before the line. 

Two things were really obvious in the second quarter in regards to Murley; number one was how good his repeat efforts are, having a couple of marks spoiled or just not being able to hold them, but following up superbly at ground level to win the footy and shoot off a quick handball to a teammate. Number two was how dangerous he was when given even the slightest bit of space to work with, taking the advantage from a couple of free kicks for teammates, where he’d burst away, take a bounce and deliver well forward, with a moment like this leading to his second goal of the quarter right before the siren. 

His first goal was a great showing off his work rate and danger in transition, where a teammate put the ball in front of him, he ran onto it and picked up cleanly, then delivered a pinpoint kick to a teammate inside 50, ran hard to get the handball receive and snapped it through. 

Overall it was definitely a higher production quarter from Murley as he got more involved. As he did so, it got him more attention from opposition as he was being stuck to like glue around stoppages towards the end of the quarter, and given a bit of rough treatment in tackles, which he handled well. His use by foot improved from the first quarter which made Norwood more dangerous in transition.

Q3:

A quieter quarter than the last for Murley, though he still chimed in with moments of class when he was given the space and used by teammates, with his kicking taking yet another step up to hit essentially every target, or be put to their advantage, perfectly.

Murley’s hands were extra sticky in the third, holding onto a few handball receives he got at pace, before quickly composing himself to deliver a kick forward. His first real involvement played out exactly like this, with the kick and inside 50 that should’ve been marked, but wasn’t. He took a mark a little later at the back-end of the centre square, quickly wheeling onto his right side and kicking it a good 50 meters to go out the back of a pack for Norwood’s quick smalls to run onto. Later on in the quarter, he took an impressive contested grab on the far wing, not breaking stride to play on and deliver it well to a teammate at the top of the 50. 

It was more of the same brilliance for Murley overall, with his one-grab pickups below his knees continually impressive and his vision excellent to hit targets most others wouldn’t even attempt.

Q4:

Started the quarter in the midfield for the first time all game as the Redlegs needed to find a way to put the game to rest. He was in and under from the get go, getting first hands to the ball from the ruck tap and being wrapped up straight away. Unfortunately he had to spend some time on the bench as early on he copped a corkie after being ran into on the boundary line, coming on about five minutes later. 

Murley didn’t let the injury stop him throwing himself into contests and getting involved, earning a free kick in the defensive half for a good tackle and looking to spread it out wide. He took a mark later on in the quarter and sent it deep inside 50 for a teammate to mark, but unfortunately miss the resultant shot on the goal. 

It’s no surprise that Norwood started to struggle when Murley had to go off to deal with the corkie, highlighting his importance to their play in what was the worst time to see it.

Final thoughts…

There’s no doubting Murley’s quality as a player and it’s clear to see why he’s part of the AFL Academy for 2021. Despite being smaller in stature he wasn’t phased when in contests with bigger bodies, using his smarts to gain the advantages he could and win most contests reliably. At ground level there was no one better, Murley never fumbled and his hands were too quick for opponents to react to in close. Balancing himself as a midfielder is a real strength of Murley’s as well, working hard on the inside and outside to fill the roles well, and that versatility is an asset to any team he ends up a part of in future. Whilst his kicking and marking were more often good than not, they’re two areas from this game he could look to sharpen up on.

Image Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL