Tag: afl draft prospects

A look ahead: The 21 top prospects for 2021

WHILE we are only a day removed from the 2020 AFL National Draft, Draft Central is already looking forward to the next crop of elite level hopefuls. This year’s AFL Draft Guide featured 21 of the best top-age prospects eligible to be drafted in 2021, providing pocket profiles and an insight into what to expect from a upcoming bumper crop. Clubs have already been jostling for position among next year’s order, as plenty of players do the same at the top end with their on-field efforts. We have already identified an early frontrunner, with a familiar father-son name not far off and plenty of variety in terms of representatives from each state and territory.

21 in 2021

The top contender:

Jason Horne (South Adelaide/South Australia)
21/06/2003 | 182cm/75kg
Inside Midfielder/Forward

Horne is the current frontrunner among next year’s crop after returning a sensational season of football. Having already established himself among South Adelaide’s Under 18 setup, he quickly came to dominate this year’s proceedings and earned a call-up to the senior side. He adapted well to the speed of the game playing mostly as a forward, soaring for high marks and backing his speed across the ground. The 2019 SA Under 16 MVP has very few weaknesses, but plenty of weapons at his disposal.

Braden Andrews (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
21/02/2003 | 189cm/83kg
Midfielder/Utility

Somewhat a jack of all trades, Andrews plugged gaps on each line for Vic Metro at last year’s Under 16 championships; showing clean hands, a cool head, and match-winning abilities. Rates highly for upside.

Samuel Banks (Clarence/Tasmania)
2/04/2003 | 186cm/72kg
Midfielder/Half-Back

Arguably Tasmania’s leading 2021 prospect, Banks was the Under 16 Division 2 MVP last year and has already turned out for the Tasmania Devils Under 18 side. The balanced midfielder/half-back has also played senior football for Clarence, showing plenty of class while disposing by foot.

Rhett Bazzo (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
17/10/2003 | 194cm/74kg
Tall Defender

One of Western Australia’s top talents heading into 2021, Bazzo is a versatile defender renowned for his intercept marking ability. He could well blaze a trail similar to that of fellow Swan Districts product, Denver Grainger-Barras having established himself among the Colts side and in the PSA competition this year.

Cooper Beecken (Glenelg/South Australia)
24/02/2003 | 188cm/72kg
Defender

A tall and rangy defender, Beecken staked his claim as a potential high-end prospect for 2021 with a promising showing in this year’s Under 18 All-Stars game. It capped off a solid season overall for the 17-year-old, who holds similarities to Will Day with his stature, marking and kicking abilities.

Lachlan Brooks (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
1/02/2003 | 179cm/75kg
Inside Midfielder

Brooks earned Under 16 All Australian honours after an outstanding carnival for Vic Metro where he showcased great grit and ball winning ability at the contest. He was looking to make his way into Sandringham’s side as a small defender this year, while also playing midfield for Brighton Grammar.

Campbell Chesser (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country)
27/04/2003 | 185cm/79kg
Half-Back/Wing

Hailing from Murray’s region, Chesser boards at Melbourne Grammar and is set to represent Sandringham during his NAB League stints. He is a rebounding half-back who can also provide dash off the wing, boasting great speed and a wicked boot on the outer.

Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
01/03/2003 | 183cm/72kg
Balanced Midfielder

He has only just entered the Oakleigh Chargers system, but Daicos is already well-known not only for his exploits with Carey Grammar in the APS competition, but also for his ties to Collingwood as a father-son prospect. He has terrific skills and ironically supports Carlton. Already a top five chance.

Arlo Draper (South Adelaide/South Australia)
30/01/2003 | 185cm/71kg
Midfielder/Forward

A smooth-moving type with plenty of upside, Draper returned a fantastic bottom-age season with South Adelaide to prove on of South Australia’s brightest 2021 candidates. He wins a good amount of contested ball while also providing marking and goal threats up forward.

Joshua Fahey (Gold Coast Academy/NSW/ACT)
11/11/2003 | 186cm/76kg
Half-Back/Outside Midfielder

While formerly tied to the GWS Academy, Fahey represented that of the Gold Coast Suns this year and showed fine form. He is a damaging rebound defender who gains plenty of meterage with his daring dash and raking left boot.

Ben Hobbs (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
15/09/2003 | 182cm/76kg
Inside Midfielder

There are few others who show quite the appetite Hobbs does for the contest, and soggy conditions at last year’s Under 16 championships saw him thrive. Having since made his NAB League debut, Hobbs continues to pump the ball forward and tackle hard at the coalface.

Matthew Johnson (Subiaco/Western Australia)
16/03/2003 | 192cm/80kg
Inside Midfielder

Subiaco Colts premiership player, Johnson developed well in 2020 to become one of his state’s leading midfielders. He has a terrific balance of aggression and class, able to win his own ball and carve ways around his opponents on the exit. Has great upside as a raw, tall ball winner.

Alex Lukic (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
7/01/2003 | 195cm/86kg
Key Forward

Lukic is an athletic tall forward who fares particularly well close to goal. After leading the Under 16 Division 1 goalkicking with nine majors, he made his NAB League debut in a stacked Oakleigh side and showed plenty of promise. Has good speed and can compete at ground level.

Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
23/01/2003 | 186cm/78kg
Midfielder/Utility

A hard-working midfielder who can play a role on each line, Molan brings a true team-first attitude. He made his NAB League debut last year and has some good upside given his size and versatility. One who you can rely on to compete.

Cooper Murley (Norwood/South Australia)
20/06/2003 | 177cm/66kg
Small Midfielder/Forward

Part of Norwood’s Under 18 premiership side, Murley already looks a class above the grade. His speed out of congestion, repeat forward running, and excellent skills made for scintillating viewing in 2020, making him a prime prospect for next year. Still has some filling out to do.

Joshua Rachele (Murray Bushranger/Vic Country)
11/04/2003 | 179cm/77kg
Small Midfielder/Forward

Rachele rightly took out the Division 1 and Vic Country MVP awards at last year’s Under 16 carnival, putting him firmly in the pick one race. He went on to average two goals per his four NAB League games, bringing plenty of x-factor up forward and spark through midfield.

Lewis Rayson (Glenelg/South Australia)
14/01/2003 | 181cm/64kg
Half-Back

A small defender who impacts in a big way, Rayson provides plenty of drive from half-back. His ability to read the play and break forward quickly in transition is a real asset, capped off by damaging use by foot.

Matthew Roberts (South Adelaide/South Australia)
31/07/2003 | 183cm/76kg
Midfielder/Forward

Roberts is a standout wherever he plays and dominated both the school football and SANFL Under 18 scenes at times in 2020. He is capable of racking up huge numbers through sheer work-rate and competitiveness, while also posing a scoring threat when resting up forward.

Josh Sinn (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
28/01/03 | 186cm/72kg
Half-Back/Midfielder

Was captain of Vic Metro’s carnival-winning Under 16 side in 2019 and adapted well between multiple roles. Originally employed as a half-back for his run and damaging use by foot, Sinn also thrived in midfield and somewhat of a wildcard. Has plenty of desirable traits and potential.

Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
27/01/2003 | 181cm/74kg
Midfielder/Forward

Another who has plenty of runs on the board already, Sonsie is silky smooth on the ball through midfield and dangerous around goal. He made his NAB League debut for minor premiers, Eastern Ranges after winning Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP award.

Jacob Van Rooyen (Claremont/Western Australia)
16/04/2003 | 194cm/88kg
Key Forward

A dominant key forward with terrific aerial presence, Van Rooyen is one of the leading prospects in his position for 2021. He booted 19 goals in 10 WAFL Colts games this season, finding the big sticks at least once in each outing.

In the mix:

In such a promising crop, there are plenty of names who could have easily squeezed into the initial list. From a Victorian perspective, the likes of Lachlan Rankin and Youseph Dib are two exciting talents from the Oakleigh Chargers who featured strongly in the Metro Under 16 squad. Dib is tied to Collingwood as an NGA and plies his trade both inside, on the wing, or up forward, while Rankin is a classy user off half-back. Blake Howes was another standout on the Metro end and has great upside as a high-marking, athletic forward.

South Australians have benefitted greatly from a full state league season, albeit improvised. Morgan Ferres is a tall forward with terrific athleticism and the ability to dominate at centre half-forward. Nasiah Wanganeen and Jase Burgoyne were others to show plenty in the SANFL Under 18s this year, with the latter the son of Peter Burgoyne and thus tied to Port Adelaide as a father-son. Isaiah Dudley, the cousin of Kysaiah Pickett also has links to a club already in Adelaide. He is small, but has plenty of talent and should not be forgotten after an injury-riddled year.

West Australian prospects also benefitted from a season of football, with the likes of Lochlan Paton and Judd McVee both getting some Under 18 midfield minutes. Paton is a solid mover who can roam forward, while McVee is an explosive stoppage player who can also move on the outer. Joshua Browne is another name right up there after his efforts for East Fremantle in 2020, with Max Chipper another to keep in mind as a clean outside user.

Featured Image: Jason Horne is our top pick for 2021 | Credit: Deb Curtis/SANFL

Overlooked – The prospects hoping for a Rookie Draft lifeline

AS was predicted come the end of the 2020 AFL Draft, there are plenty of hard luck stories to go with all the feel-good aspects of such an event. But plenty more opportunities lie ahead for overlooked prospects to scrape into the elite grade and make their dreams a reality. Fresh off a National Draft which lasted an eternity, we take a look at the top young talents who were stiff to miss out on finding a home last night, but will be hoping for a lifeline in today’s Rookie intake. Note: We have not included Next-Generation Academy or Northern Academy prospects who could be selected outside the traditional format.

Below are pocket profiles of 11 players who may remain in the mix, with full profiles available in our AFL Draft Guide.

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

Baldwin was one of the more understandable sliders among this year’s pool given the fact that he has missed two full seasons of football with consecutive ACL tears. But the South Australian forward has previously shown signs of top 20 talent with dominant contested marking and great presence in the forward half. His capacity to get up the ground and impose himself on the contest is another key trait, which clubs looking for a developmental key forward may look fondly upon.

What he offers: Contested marking
The knock: Durability and mobility after consecutive ACL tears

Jackson Callow
Tasmania Devils/Allies | Key Forward
11/06/2002 | 194cm | 101kg

The Tasmanian was linked with a few clubs in need of key position depth across the draft, but was ultimately passed on at each stage of a brutally shallow intake. He could provide massive value for one of those clubs in a rookie spot; with his senior experience, readymade body, aggression, and natural ability all appealing traits. Callow is another strong contested marker and while he is known as a goalkicker, was also swung down back at times this year to further test his versatility.

What he offers: Contested marking
The knock: Mobility

Oliver Davis
Tasmania Devils/Allies | Inside Midfielder
18/07/2002 | 182cm | 75kg

Another Tasmanian in the mix given no prospects were taken from the Apple Isle, you know exactly what to expect from Davis each week. He is a reliable inside midfielder who has no trouble finding the ball and thrives in contested situations. Having taken out this year’s TSL Rising Star award while turning out for Clarence, Davis has proven his credentials over the course of a full senior season and could be a solid choice for midfield depth.

What he offers: Consistency
The knock: Hurt factor

Zac Dumesny
South Adelaide/South Australia | Medium Utility
26/04/2002 | 187cm | 80kg

One of the most highly touted prospects on this list for some time, Dumesny was pegged as one of his state’s premier draft chances coming into the year. Injury interrupted what was a promising start to his campaign at SANFL League level, but the utility came back strongly towards the end of the Under 18s season. His clean skills, reading of the play aerially, and versatility all make for desirable attributes which he was able to showcase consistently across different levels.

What he offers: Versatility
The knock: Athleticism

Jack Ginnivan
Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
19/12/2002 | 183cm | 77kg

A real character out of the Bendigo Pioneers, Ginnivan is a talent rated highly by many. His chances in the National Draft were inevitably hampered by being robbed of a top-age season, though the hard-running midfielder/forward showed plenty of promise as a bottom-ager. He could still find a home with clubs always on the look out for smaller types who are creative and can use the ball effectively in the front half.

What he offers: Forward run
The knock: Midfield development

Max Heath
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Ruck/Key Forward
24/10/2002 | 203cm | 94kg

A ruckman who came from the clouds to land on the draft radar, but one which clubs were not brave enough to snap up within the National Draft. Heath was a massive improver during preseason, proving a force in trial games both in the ruck and up forward. He was pegged as the first choice Vic Metro ruck and even touted as a top 30 talent by some, so should be a great option for clubs after a developable tall.

What he offers: Competitiveness
The knock: Lack of exposure over a full season

Liam Kolar
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Tall Forward/Utility
23/04/2002 | 195cm | 82kg

Another bolter in the mix, Kolar’s raw athleticism and speed-endurance mix had him pegged for big things at this year’s draft. Adelaide was said to be the major club of interest, so he may be snapped up quickly among the rookie intake given the Crows boast pick one and are impartial to a Knights talent. He debuted late in last year’s NAB League season and showed off some nice versatility, but really shone during this preseason to put himself in contention.

What he offers: Athleticism
The knock: Rawness

Kalin Lane
Claremont/Western Australia | Ruck
5/12/2001 | 204cm | 96kg

Lane was a surprise inclusion in this year’s WA state academy after managing just one WAFL Colts outing as a top-ager in 2019, but fully repaid the faith with a terrific season for Claremont. He has filled out nicely and is perhaps a touch further along that others on this list given he is a 19-year-old, with his ruck craft and steep rate of improvement key to his overall chances. At 204cm, he has the potential to be an imposing ruck force with his coverage of the ground and follow-up efforts.

What he offers: Ruck craft, upside
The knock: Football development

Zavier Maher
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
5/05/2002 | 184cm | 83kg

One who was said to have attracted interest within the top 25, Maher slid all the way out of that range and now into rookie contention. He has some in-vogue traits as a midfielder, with his explosive turn of speed used to break quickly from congestion once he gains a clean handle on the ball. His athletic base is strong but disposal on the move is one of the areas he is working on.

What he offers: Explosiveness
The knock: Kicking at pace

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

Trew was among our own top 30 ranks for much of the year, but copped a fair whack from WA state academy coach Peter Sumich in the lead up to the draft and has slid way past his value. He is a clean extractor and terrific exponent of the handball who finds plenty of it, but has had his troubles with injury and thus, consistency over a full season throughout his journey. Would be a bargain for his natural ability alone.

What he offers: Clean extraction
The knock: Durability

Henry Walsh
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Ruck
27/06/2002 | 203cm | 87kg

Often billed with the ‘brother of Sam‘ tag, Walsh is a much different prospect to his elder sibling. The raw 203cm ruck is competitive at ground level but is working on his running and sustained impact around the ground to better suit the modern game. He has good potential and obviously comes from handy pedigree, so may warrant a shot.

What he offers: Competitiveness
The knock: Mobility

Featured Image: Tasmanian Jackson Callow will be hoping for an AFL Draft lifeline | Credit: Solstice Digital

Value picks: This year’s potential AFL Draft sliders

YESTERDAY, we took a look at this year’s bolters – the players who have come from seemingly nowhere to put their names in lights as genuine draft chances. Now, we turn our attention to the potential sliders – those who have long been highly touted but for one reason or another, might find themselves sliding down draft boards. It is not necessarily a negative, with sliders like James Worpel, Jack Graham, Curtis Taylor, and Trent Rivers all making good impressions early in their AFL careers. Among one of the most even drafts in recent memory, there are bound to be a bunch of prospects who end up providing great value despite falling down the order, proving many a doubter wrong.

You can find full draft profiles for all the players mentioned in our 2020 AFL Draft Guide.

ALLIES:

The Allied states and territories (Northern Territory, NSW/ACT, Queensland, Tasmania) are difficult to pin down for sliders, given the Northern Academies remove a bunch of prospects from the open draft. Nonetheless, there are some well known Tasmanian talents who could turn out to be handy late pick ups, among others.

Oliver Davis and Sam Collins were both named in the 2018 Under 16 All Australian side and had been pegged as ones to watch from an early age. They have since gone on to play regular NAB League football for Tasmania and proved key figures in their respective senior TSL sides this year. Davis is a reliable inside midfielder who has no trouble finding the ball, which helped him take out the 2020 TSL Rising Star award. Collins is a medium defender who can play above his size, soaring well to intercept while also providing good value on the rebound with his damaging left boot.

Fellow Tasmanian Jackson Callow could also be considered in this category as he has blazed a similar trail, but he is equally as likely to attract interest in the second round for any clubs keen on a readymade key position talent. One academy talent who has long been billed as one of his state’s brightest is Saxon Crozier, who is tied to the Brisbane Lions. He is a tall outside midfielder with good potential and a raking kick, but Brisbane have a bunch of academy products to keep tabs on. Thus, another club could snap him, Carter Michael, or a number of other aligned players up. That includes Brodie Lake, who Gold Coast lays claim to. The Suns have not yet committed to the Northern Territory native, but his versatility and athleticism point towards great upside at a gettable late range.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

Having been able to put together a near-full season of football, South Australia boasts arguably the deepest talent pool outside of Victoria, which typically provides over 50 per cent of drafted players. This batch of Croweaters also took out the Under 16 National Championships back in 2018, which marked a sign of just how good the upcoming talent would be. MVP of that carnival was Corey Durdin, a tenacious ground level player who racked up plenty of ball and impressed with his turn of speed. Having reached such lofty heights, Durdin was very quickly given opportunities at SANFL League level and has adjusted his game to transition from midfield work to becoming a small forward. That role is said to suit his 173cm frame better, but he still holds great value and senior experience as a potential late pick.

Among the decent list of early standouts also lies Zac Dumesny and Luke Edwards. While neither are particularly athletic types, they are both natural footballers who managed to crack the senior grade in 2020. Dumesny is a medium utility with quick and clean skills who is often utilised on a wing or half-back flank. Edwards is more of an inside type who rotates either forward or back into defence from midfield, and much has been talked about the Glenelg product given Adelaide refrained from committing to him as a father-son nominee in the National Draft. Opportunities may still present for the pair though, who were recognised as top talents early in their junior careers.

Others in a similar boat include Taj Schofield and Kaine Baldwin. Like Edwards, Schofield is father-son eligible and has garnered attention for much of his journey throughout the state pathways. He was poised to prove his top 30 potential in a more inside-leaning role this year, but remains arguably more comfortable on a wing or at half-forward with his silky skills and agility. Port Adelaide will hope the Woodville-West Torrens product slips through to the Rookie Draft. Baldwin looms as one of the hard luck stories of the draft given the early potential he showed, but was subsequently hampered by consecutive ACL tears. Despite not playing any competitive football for two seasons, he could be one to repay a club’s faith ten-fold if he can get on the park, with contested marking a truly dominant part of his game.

VICTORIA:

It is difficult to put a finger on just which Victorian prospects might slide, purely because none of them were able to add to their resumes as top-agers. Still, there are some who perhaps do not get the amount of plaudits they deserve – starting with Gippsland’s Sam Berry. The hard-working midfield bull addressed the stigma, in his own words, that he is slow at this week’s Victorian training session, but is rated by some clubs as a top 25 talent. His performances as a bottom-ager and high-level endurance will appeal to those clubs, who may either pounce early or trust that they can get him with a slightly later pick.

Clayton Gay was identified early as a prospect with good natural abilities, but was looking to iron out his consistency in 2020 as a key member of Dandenong’s side. His clean hands versatility to play up either end bode well for steep future development. Calder’s Jackson Cardillo is one who was recognised with selection in Vic Metro’s Under 17 side and the 2020 state academy hub intake, but did not earn a combine invite. He is a lively midfielder/forward with terrific, explosive athletic traits and plenty of room to grow.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

While Western Australia is another state to have put together a state league season, there are slightly less prospects in the slider category given how many of their highly rated talents have gone on to meet expectations. That is not to say the players mentioned here have not done so, but they could perhaps slide under the radar. Zane Trew seems to be the one most suited to this listing, a player who was well poised to push for top 25 status at the start of the year, but suffered injury setbacks and could not quite find the consistency required. He is a ball winning inside midfielder who uses the ball effortlessly by hand. Nathan O’Driscoll is rated as a top 10 talent by some clubs, but may instead find a home late in the first round or among round two. His upside includes a phenomenal work-rate and the balance to play both inside and out of midfield.

Featured Image: South Adelaide’s Zac Dumesny is a potential draft slider | Credit: Nick Hook/SANFL

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

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

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

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

THE BOLTERS

STATE BY STATE

South Australia:

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

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

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

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

Victoria:

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

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

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

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

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

Western Australia:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

>> Download our FREE AFL Draft Guide

RECAP:

By: Ed Pascoe

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

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

Group A

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

Group B

Cody Brand
Nikolas Cox
Josh Eyre
Liam Kolar
Ollie Lord

Group C

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

Group D

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

Injured Group

Max Heath
Campbell Edwardes

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

Group A

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

Group B

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

Group C

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

Injured Group (Laps)

Elijah Hollands
Charlie Ham
Noah Gribble

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

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

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

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

In Contention | AFL Draft smokies to consider: 19-year-olds

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

In Draft Central’s newest series, we take a look at some of the draft prospects who remain in contention to fulfil their draft dreams despite missing out on invites to their respective states’ draft combines, or being overlooked as top-agers. 19-year-old talents are next to go under the microscope, and there are plenty of prospects around the mark having come on strongly after initially being overlooked. Of course, those from Victoria were unable to add to their resumes in 2020, but some have put strong runs on the board already.

Profiles for many of the players mentioned below can be found in our free to download AFL Draft Guide.

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

One over-age prospect has already realised his AFL Draft dream, with Gold Coast Academy graduate Hewago Paul Oea recently placed onto the Suns’ Category B Rookie List. ‘Ace’, as he is better known, is a Papua New Guinea native and earned an International Scholarship before his promotion. Last year, he remained one of the many Northern Academy products who were unlucky to be overlooked at the draft table. Former teammate Josh Gore was another, a small forward who has an uncanny knack of finding the goals. After a terrific senior QAFL campaign with Broadbeach, he could well remain in contention.

Sydney also has access to some fine over-age talent, of whom stood up during this year’s Academy Series. Sam Gaden put together a strong top-age campaign in 2019 before injury hit, but the strong and versatile bigman served a reminder of his talents this year. Likewise, Jackson Barling booted three majors in Game 1 of the Academy Series to put his hand up, while Sam Thorne‘s impact at ground level was evident as he shone in midfield. Both are solid operators, with Barling arguably the more flexible of the two, while Thorne is a reliable small with less expansive upside.

Still in NSW/ACT, the GWS Academy continues to produce some strong talent, albeit not quite in the same ballpark as Tom Green last year. Diminutive ball winner Harry Grant was impressive in his outings for the Giants Academy this year, as well as at his state’s draft combine come season’s end. The 173cm midfielder is tough and deceptively strong over the ball considering his size. Liam Delahunty is one who was widely considered unlucky last year, with his athleticism, marking ability, and versatility at over 190cm all desirable traits. He was set for a switch to the Northern Knights and North Melbourne VFL side before COVID intervened.

Continuing the Allies theme, Tasmania had a couple of 19-year-olds on the cusp after promising 2019 seasons. Jared Dakin attracted some interest after a couple of strong showings towards the end of last year, and his more recent TSL form saw him earn a late call-up for his second combine appearance in as many years. He is a tough inside type with terrific defensive attributes and a solid athletic base. Tall utility Jake Steele was another late inclusion to this year’s combine and has showed his wares on every line thus far. His competitiveness and versatility are key pillars of his overall game.

Of the other states in action this year, Western Australia has one of the deepest over-age pools and many of the prospects in this category boosted their standings in 2020. Max Spyvee is at the pointy end of that list, having burst onto the League scene and earned best afield honours in game two of the WA Under 18 All-Stars fixtures. Fellow Claremont product Kalin Lane, a 204cm ruckman, showed a similarly impressive rate of improvement and looms as a developable ruck option. Nick Martin was another tall to stake his claim having led Subiaco’s League goalkicking charts, while the likes of Conor McPartland and Callum Johnson found mountains of the ball at Colts level before earning promotions. Johnson’s West Perth teammate Brady Alvaro also showed handy balance through midfield, rotating in off the wing.

South Australia’s stocks have also proven to be quite strong, with plenty of mature-agers also entering the draft radar. In terms of 2001-births, Glenelg pair Callum Park and Luke Parks were outstanding after being overlooked in 2019, slotting straight into the reigning premiers’ League side and providing great intercept/rebound value from defence. Parks is also a former Swans Academy member. South Adelaide’s Beau McCreery was another to impress with his goal sense and defensive pressure, while Lachlan McNeil was a key part of Woodville-West Torrens’ premiership midfield, and Nic Couroupis earned an All-Stars call-up for his form across multiple levels. North Adelaide defensive pair Dyson Hilder and Karl Finlay also rotated through the senior squads having been key members of the SA Under 18 squad as top-agers.

Last, but certainly not least are the Victorians, who typically make up over 50 per cent of the overall draft pool. There were a bunch of over-agers set to prove doubters wrong with another strong NAB League campaign but alas, that was not to be. Darcy Chirgwin would be near the top of that list, and the tall inside midfielder has not given up on his AFL pursuit having added nearly 10kg to his frame. He was set to rejoin the Geelong Falcons after a stint with Sandringham as he boarded at private school. Jay Dahlhaus, the cousin of Luke was also set to go around with the Falcons again, keen to impress after injury scuppered his top-age season. He earned a NTFL Rising Star nomination recently for Southern Districts, bringing his forward creativity and pressure to the Top-End.

A December-birth, Isaac Wareham also had his top-age run foiled by untimely injuries and could have developed quickly this year. Gippsland’s Jai Newcombe could have been a feel-good story having missed the cut in multiple preseasons prior to his selection in 2020, and the Power are high on his talents as a big-bodied inside mid. Another fast developer is former volleyballer Blake Kuipers, who represented Vic Country last year and has great potential as an athletic key position utility. On the Metro scene, Felix Flockart was set for a big year after impressing in the 2019 APS competition, but is still very much a raw prospect. Would-be Sandringham teammate Oscar Lewis has similar upside, but as a running outside midfielder with good height. Lachlan Gawel, who would have switched from Eastern to Northern, is forward with high class, but like many on this list, was looking to prove his value with a consistent season.

Featured Image: Max Spyvee was best afield in game two of WA’s Under 18 All-Star fixtures | Credit: @WAFLOfficial via Twitter

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Port Adelaide

WITH the 2020 trade period done and dusted, it is now time for clubs and fans alike to turn their attention to the draft. Between now and draft day (December 9), clubs will have the opportunity to exchange picks until the final order is formed a couple of days out. While the chaos ensues, Draft Central takes a look at how each club may approach the upcoming intake opportunities with the hand they formed at the close of trade period. Obviously they are still subject to heavy change, so perhaps we can predict some of that movement here.

Next under the microscope is Port Adelaide, this year’s minor premier and a side which has very few glaring list needs. The Power fared notoriously well in the first round of the last two drafts, establishing its future with the likes of Zak Butters, Connor Rozee, Xavier Duursma, and Mitch Georgiades at the pointy end. Given the team’s soaring success, its 2020 intake looms as a slightly different one to the aforementioned efforts. Next Generation Academy (NGA) product Lachlan Jones will inevitably be the Port’s first pick with a matched bid, leaving only late selections and a potential match for Taj Schofield as the only plays left.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 35, 47, 57, 59, 73, 95

2021 PICKS*: PTA Round 1 | PTA Round 2

* – denotes as of December 1

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

LIKELY ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Lachlan Jones (NGA), Taj Schofield (father-son)

>> Podcast: The best academy/father-son hauls

LIST NEEDS:

Classy/efficient midfielder

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 35)

You can essentially ignore the Pick 35 figure here as Port’s first selection will inevitably be bumped up into the first round, where academy product Lachlan Jones is expected to yield a bid. Even with future selections added to the equation, it is highly unlikely that Port would or could move up far enough to get another player in before Jones. Any bid before Pick 12 would wipe out Port’s next four selections (35, 47, 57, 59) upon matching, leaving a pick in the 60s or 70s to work with. The Power would then be sweating on whether a club is interested in father-son hopeful Taj Schofield, who may have suitors within the National Draft. That would force Port to decide whether to match and most likely leave with just those two players, or pass and take another prospect they may have their eye on in the latter stages.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

There is not too much Port may look to do in terms of live trading, but the Power’s first and second rounders for 2021 are banked as it stands. That second rounder could be used to secure another pick in this year’s intake and aid the matched Jones bid, potentially giving Port the option to take both Schofield and another player within the National Draft. Down the line, Port may look to get busy should a bid for Schofield come in, splitting or packaging their very late picks.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Will a bid for Lachlan Jones come within the top 10?

Will Taj Schofield slip through to the Rookie Draft?

Will Port Adelaide look to take three players in the National Draft?

Featured Image: Port NGA hopeful Lachlan Jones gets a kick away for WWT | Credit: Cory Sutton/SANFL

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

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

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

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

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

CALDER CANNONS:

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

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

EASTERN RANGES:

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

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

NORTHERN KNIGHTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WESTERN JETS:

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

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

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

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

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Hawthorn Hawks

WITH the 2020 trade period done and dusted, it is now time for clubs and fans alike to turn their attention to the draft. Between now and draft day (December 9), clubs will have the opportunity to exchange picks until the final order is formed a couple of days out. While the chaos ensues, Draft Central takes a look at how each club may approach the upcoming intake opportunities with the hand they formed at the close of trade period. Obviously they are subject to heavy change, so perhaps we can predict some of that movement here.

Next under the microscope is Hawthorn, arguably the most successful team of the modern era and one which has not held a top five pick since taking Xavier Ellis third off the board in 2005. After a period of sustained success, the Hawks have missed finals in three of the last four seasons and are beginning to look back at the draft as a means of regenerating on top of their usual mature-age coups from other clubs. A 15th place finish in 2020 sees them likely to break the aforementioned top five streak, with at least one a couple of key list needs able to be bolstered at the pointy end.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 4, 24, 45, 46, 49, 72

2021 PICKS*: HAW Rd 1 | HAW Rd 2 | HAW Rd 3

* – denotes as of November 28

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

LIKELY ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Connor Downie (NGA)

>> Podcast: The best academy/father-son hauls

LIST NEEDS:

Midfielders
Long-term key position depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 4)

While placed nicely up the order, Hawthorn’s selection here still depends largely on what other clubs do beforehand. The Hawks were smashed at the contest at times this year despite boasting a strong starting midfield mix, meaning engine room depth and contested ball winners should be at the top of their wish list. Will Phillips fits the bill perfectly as a competitive and reliable midfielder with readymade attributes. He joined Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson in Oakleigh’s premiership midfield last year, holding his own as one of the competition’s premier players. The only problem for Hawthorn is that he may be snapped up by Sydney a pick earlier.

Elijah Hollands could well be in the same boat as Phillips given the interest coming from Adelaide (pick one) and North Melbourne (pick two), but would be another shrewd selection for Hawthorn. He could free up Chad Wingard to spend more time in the midfield early on, before transitioning into that position himself. As far as other mids go, Tanner Bruhn would arguably be the next best inside ball winner behind Phillips, while Archie Perkins is also said to be a surprise contented for the pick. He is an explosive type with rare athleticism and upside which will likely see him bolt into the top 10. A bid on Sydney Academy member Braeden Campbell may also be in the offing, but the Swans would inevitably match.

Should Hawthorn take the key position route, there are a couple of exciting prospects with senior state league experience up for grabs. 201cm South Australian Riley Thilthorpe is in contention to be taken with pick one, but may slide otherwise and would be a terrific fit for the Hawks as a long-term key forward option who doubles as an athletic ruckman. West Australian key defender Denver Grainger-Barras may be considered by Sydney, but is also around Hawthorn’s range. He is renowned for his intercept marking ability and has plenty of development left.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

Much of the Hawks’ live trading movement may surround where a bid comes for Next Generation Academy (NGA) member Connor Downie. The Eastern Ranges captain is a wingman/half-back who loves to take the game on and boasts a booming left boot. His range is said to be around the 25 mark, which is dangerously close to Hawthorn’s pick 24. Said pick will inevitably slide down three to five places by then, making it even more likely that another club would swoop in and bid on the Hawks’ man. Hawthorn would unlikely think twice on matching it, but would be sweating on getting a selection in beforehand. A combination of picks 45, 46, and 49 could be used to match the Downie bid after pick 24, or alternatively to move up the order and come away with three quality players overall. Pick four, 24, Downie, and one other could be Hawthorn’s ideal haul.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Will Hawthorn be tempted by the key position options available, or look for midfield depth with pick four?

Will Archie Perkins come into consideration at pick four?

Can Hawthorn find the next Hodge, Franklin, or Roughead with pick four?

Will a bid for Connor Downie come before Hawthorn’s pick 24?

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

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

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

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

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

BENDIGO PIONEERS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

DANDENONG STINGRAYS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEELONG FALCONS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

GIPPSLAND POWER:

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

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

GWV REBELS:

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

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

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS:

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

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

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

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

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

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