Tag: AFL

A look back – 2020’s AFL Draft cult heroes

WITH a lot less live football to trawl through last year, there was plenty of time for keen draft watchers to think about a range of topics, ideas and categories in regards to the class of 2020. In the build-up to draft day, the Final Siren Podcast team took a look at some of the potential cult heroes who fans would be likely to warm to quickly. Today, we review the list of 10 and delve into some of the hits and misses it has produced thus far.

Podcast link: Click here!

The parameters for last year’s list included a bunch of factors; from each prospects’ style of play, character and work-rate, to their name and look. Below are the lists of five compiled by Draft Central Chief Editor Peter Williams and Draft Editor Michael Alvaro.

Michael Alvaro’s five:

Jack Ginnivan
Bailey Laurie
Nathan O’Driscoll
Caleb Poulter
Maurice Rioli Jnr

Peter Williams’ five:

Jackson Callow
Eddie Ford
Lachlan Jones
Phoenix Spicer
Brandon Walker

In no real surprise to anyone, all 10 players went on to be drafted and seven of them managed to earn AFL debuts this season. Looking back on the selections, the likes of Caleb Poulter, Lachlan Jones, and Maurice Rioli Jnr have already garnered great followings with fans across the footballing world – let alone their own clubs – warming to them quickly.

Along with Poulter, Collingwood supporters were itching to see Jack Ginnivan get a taste of senior action, enjoying his energy and goal sense once that eventually occurred. The vibes are strong at North Melbourne too, with Eddie Ford and Phoenix Spicer impressing, while Brandon Walker has long been a Fremantle fan favourite given his ties to the Dockers’ NGA program.

So, there were some handy choices among the bunch, but also a few oversights. Errol Gulden is arguably the most glaring omission, with plenty to like about the Sydney Swans small – from his page-popping name, to pure class on the ball and incredible first year form.

Fremantle Dockers forward Josh Treacy is another who suits the cult hero mould perfectly. The barrelling bigman has already earned a few nicknames, with ‘The Big Cohuna’ and ‘Cyclone Treacy’ arguably the picks of the bunch. He certainly caught the eye on-field too and loves to throw his weight around – as was also the case at junior level.

Essendon fans didn’t take very long to appreciate top 10 picks Nik Cox and Archie Perkins. Cox, the 200cm ‘unicorn’ who can does pulls off outrageous feats for a player of his stature was an early Rising Star candidate, while Perkins is a stylish type who exudes confidence both on and off the field.

Elsewhere, Adelaide fans were stoked to get James Rowe in the door and the sheer delight he brings as a small forward makes him hard not to like. The mature-age draftee was one of the great stories of last year’s crop and went on to feature heavily in his maiden AFL campaign, providing highlights even neutrals could appreciate.

Image Credit: Paul Kane via AFL Photos

Down but not out – Draft prospects struck down by long-term injuries

ON top of disruptions and an overall lack of complete opportunity for many budding draft prospects over the last two years, the ever-present misfortune of injuries has also lingered. Some said tongue-in-cheek last year that if there was any time to suffer a long-term injury, especially as a Victorian, 2020 would have been it.

That was an exact reality for Elijah Hollands, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee during training last February. His bottom-age performances had put him in good stead, but clubs were made to consider the impacts of his injury before calling his name. Considered a top five candidate, he was snapped up quickly by Gold Coast at pick seven.

Luckily for Hollands and recruiters alike, there has been precedent for such occurrences. Looking at the last handful of intakes, the likes of Max King (pick four, 2018) and Brodie Kemp (pick 17, 2019) were taken within the first round despite their own ACL tears. Conversely to Hollands, both enjoyed at least some top-age footy, but all three played zero AFL games in their first years.

In 2015 there were fears surrounding the long-term impacts of Jy Simpkin‘s badly broken leg. A year later, Jaidyn Stephenson‘s top 10 hopes were put up in the air as clubs pondered the risk of his genetic heart disorder. Both were touted as genuinely elite talents, and ended up rightly finding homes with picks 12 and six respectively. At AFL level, both have shown that kind of potential too.

Arguably the best case study for this kind of analysis will be the class of 2019. Cooper Stephens, Kemp, and Mitch Georgiades were taken consecutively within the first round, despite all suffering long-term injuries as top-agers. Stephens played just two full NAB League games before a broken leg derailed his year, but he recovered in time to impress at the National Draft Combine.

Kemp’s ACL tear was an untimely one as it came towards the end of his draft year, meaning he would have to wait until 2021 to make his top flight debut. A versatile prospect with top 10 talent, he ended up a steal at pick 17 for Carlton. Arguably the biggest surprise of the trio was Georgiades, who Port pounced on despite three surgeries on his quad which kept him out for an entire year. The rest is history.

Further down the order, Adelaide utility Josh Worrell (pick 28) slipped in the rankings during his top-age season and a shoulder reconstruction may have further hindered his first round chances. Conversely, North Melbourne was not deterred by Flynn Perez‘s ACL tear, and the Western Bulldogs took in Riley Garcia despite suffering the same injury late in the year while representing WA.

While some like Garcia have continues to prove unlucky with injuries upon entering the AFL system, many others like Simpkin, King, and Georgiades have already rewarded their clubs with their play. It will be interesting to see how Kaine Baldwin fares, as he was once considered a top 20 candidate but entered Essendon’s ranks after back-to-back ACL tears. There were also examples in the mid-season draft of clubs selecting players despite them carrying existing injuries at the time.

Those kinds of stories should give renewed hope to some of this year’s brightest prospects. Many of them have endured the frustration of injury setbacks on top of pandemic-related interruptions to their seasons, compounding the stress of wondering whether they have done enough to impress.

Being heavily managed will hardly matter for a player like Nick Daicos, but the roaring success of Ben Hobbs‘ return is one example of how exposure at high levels is the best way to impress. The likes of Tyler Sonsie, Josh Sinn, and Campbell Chesser would all have benefitted from one final run at the top 10, while a player like Cooper Murley has previously shown high potential, but has lost so much of his season due to repeat injuries.

Then there are examples of players like Lachlan Carrigan, who returned for 19th-year campaigns after being overlooked in 2020, but have not been able to build on their promise after being struck down for the entire 2021 season. Despite the hard knocks, if there is anything previous years have taught us, it’s that talent will be found if it is there. It may not matter as much at the top end, at least in the long run, but should not dismay those who have to fight a little extra on their way back from the sideline.

2020 AFL Draft Standouts: Geelong and Port Adelaide

AHEAD of the 2021 AFL National Draft, we cast our eyes back 12 months ago to when the newest draftees had their names read out, and what they have accomplished since at the elite level. In the fifth piece of 2020 AFL Draft standouts (first chance at AFL level), we look at the 3rd and 4th placed teams in Geelong and Port Adelaide.

Geelong

#20 Max Holmes
#33 Shannon Neale
#47 Nick Stevens

Geelong would be satisfied with their decision to trade a future first round draft pick to Richmond to secure the services of Holmes at pick 20. The speedy forward made his way into the Geelong senior team as early as round three, in their annual Easter Monday clash against Hawthorn. In his debut, Holmes was fantastic, gathering 16 disposals to go with four marks in a composed effort, but was unluckily dropped to serve as medical sub the following week. He found himself in and out of the team throughout the season, before cementing his spot in the forward line as the team geared up for another finals campaign. Holmes had strong performances of the home-and-away season, including gathering a career-high 18 disposals in the heartbreaking loss to the Demons in round 23. His place in the team was strong during the Cats’ finals appearances, and had career-high tackles and clearances in the semi-finals victory against the GWS Giants. Holmes has certainly impressed with his work when the ball is on the deck, and looks to be a big part of the future down at Kardinia Park.

Neale and Stevens did not feature at senior level, but were able to work on their craft at VFL level throughout the season.

Port Adelaide:

#16 Lachie Jones
#49 Ollie Lord
R: Taj Schofield

Jones proved to be a strong addition to the Port Adelaide list, featuring in six matches for the Power, a number that would have likely been higher if not for an unfortunate ankle injury sustained in round five against the Blues. Jones instantly won the hearts of the Port Adelaide faithful with his impressive play and even more impressive mullet. Jones had firmly established himself in the Power 22 with a spot across half-back thanks to strong defensive work and line-breaking run, and the injury ended up interrupting a promising season. Jones wouldn’t be able to cement a spot in the in-form Power squad as he recovered from the injury, but regardless, the future still looks strong for the cult hero.

Lord was able to develop at SANFL, learning from some of the veterans of the club in the art of a key forward in the modern game, booting 10 goals in 14 games at state league level. The other player taken in the Rookie Draft without any prior AFL experience was father-son prospect Taj Schofield, and whilst he did not get to step up to AFL level,  he averaged 16.9 disposals across 10 matches at SANFL level.

PODCAST EXPLAINER | The Midfielder’s Draft

THE Final Siren Podcast team returned this week for another pocket podcast edition, this time breaking down why the upcoming AFL intake has been deemed a midfielder’s draft. Chief Editor Peter Williams again took over the host chair to grill Draft Editor Michael Alvaro on some of the prime midfielders available, and why they are likely to feature at the pointy end.

Among the group of likely first-rounders, the team broke prospects into three different categories to get a better understanding of how each of them play, and perhaps help fans narrow in on the exact type of ball winner they want their club to pursue. In this week’s explainer, we delve into said categories and the players which suit them respectively.

Podcast link: Click here!

PODCAST AGENDA

FIRST ROUND PROSPECTS

The top two

It is no secret that Nick Daicos and Jason Horne-Francis are regarded by many as the top two prospects in this year’s draft, and they just so happen to both be midfielders. While clear of the competition, they are very different types and have varying weapons which they lean on.

Daicos is an accumulator who offers an outrageously consistent output with his work-rate, unrivalled smarts, and team-oriented play. While he brings class and grace, Horne-Francis is more of a bull at the coalface with his explosiveness and noted aggression at both ball and carrier. He can open games up with penetrating kicks and high marks, bring his impact per possession to a high level.

The safe/reliable picks

Reliability is a major factor in what clubs look for in their potential draftees, and there are a selection of midfielders which can certainly offer as much among the 2021 crop. For much of the pathway, Ben Hobbs has been one who looks ready to go with his mature frame and strength in contested situations now complimented by hard running and consistent disposal outputs.

Fellow Victorian Josh Ward has added inside elements to his game this season to rise into top 10 contention, complimenting his running ability and wonderfully clean skills with some real grunt in midfield. Over in Western Australia, Neil Erasmus has put up exceptional numbers at PSA and WAFL Colts level, while Matthew Roberts has taken well to senior football in the SANFL.

While Hobbs, Erasmus and Roberts have all battled injury this year around their runs of form, all four players here are the types who will perform each week and look safe bets as 200-game players for the future. They are reliable, tough, and hard-working, so should provide great value in the first round.

The classy types

Many clubs will value midfielders who can not only win the ball at a good rate, but also use it well. This year, there are a few who fit this category with enviable class on the ball and elite decision making which really puts them above many others in the draft class.

Arguably atop the list, and one who could fit a range of categories is Finn Callaghan. The Sandringham Dragons powerhouse has been a big improver this year, developing from a half-back and wingman to become an outstanding centre bounce operator. At 189cm, he has the build of a modern day midfielder but moves so gracefully in traffic, never rushed and always able to manufacture a bit of space before delivering effective disposals.

Tyler Sonsie is a prospect who fits this mould perfectly, and was considered a top five candidate coming into the year. Injury has interrupted his campaign, but the Eastern Ranges midfielder is as poised as they come in possession with top level vision and skills coming out of congestion. His ability to roll forward and find the goals is another string to his bow, and an important point of difference.

Another couple of dynamic types with plenty of class are Matthew Johnson and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera. While one has slid a touch as the other has risen this year, there is no denying that both players use the ball beautifully by foot and are two of the more elite kicks going around. At 193cm, Johnson features more at the centre bounces and moves well in traffic, while Wanganeen-Milera has tricks on the outside and can carve up the opposition in space.

The versatile/hybrid types

Hybrid is a bit of an in-vogue word at the moment, but in this sense we’re talking about the players who are versatile and can impact in other areas of the ground before eventually becoming more permanent midfielders, or pinch-hitting there.

There is a good handful of first round talent which suits this mould, starting with South Australian Arlo Draper. He fares well at stoppages and can certainly get his hands on the ball there, but adds a point of difference with his ability to take marks and kick goals up forward. He has been more of a midfielder-forward at Under 18s level, but has spent more time among the front half in senior grades.

Prominent Sandringham Dragons pair Josh Sinn and Campbell Chesser are players who have notable outside traits, including their speed, line-breaking ability, and kicking skills. Both have developed across half-back and the wing, but can just as capably play on the inside and are true metres-gained assets in all roles.

Along with the above pair, Josh Rachele has been a standout throughout the pathways and while he has more often been used as a half-forward for Murray and Vic Country, can certainly impact with his speed and skill in midfield. From small to tall, Josh Goater is a big-bodied type on the inside who can essentially play anywhere. He has clean hands and unreal athleticism, which boded well for his most recent move to half-back with plenty of run and intercept marking.

DEPTH – OTHERS TO CONSIDER

It’s not just a midfielder’s draft in the first round, with many top ball winners rising into contention or remaining around the mark. There is a healthy scattering of players from different regions, offering a diverse range of skills and mostly being available in the open draft.

Zac Taylor and Mitch Knevitt offer very different styles, but both were in sensational form before the latest Victorian lockdown. Dandenong Stingrays pair Judson Clarke and Connor Macdonald are smaller types with terrific craft, while Jake Soligo is another in that mould. Elsewhere, St Kilda fans with have their eyes on exciting NGA pair Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens, while Northern’s Ned Long is one to keep an eye on.

Western Australia’s engine room has proven very strong in representative hitouts, with a good mix of hardened inside types and accumulating outside runners. Josh Browne is as consistent as they come, while Corey Warner offers some forward drive on the outer, and Taj Woewodin is a Melbourne father-son candidate with nice traits. On the inside, Kade Dittmar and Angus Sheldrick are absolute bulls, with Dittmar’s East Perth teammate James Tunstill another to consider.

Port Adelaide has its own father-son prospect in Jase Burgoyne, who is a really classy type. He is quite light-on though, and may have to lean on his versatility to play off half-back before entering the midfield fray. Elsewhere, Hugh Jackson had an outstanding first half of the season to put his name in the spotlight, and Cooper Murley arguably possesses top 25 talent, but has been struck down by injury for much of the year.

Pocket Podcast | The Midfielder’s Draft

THE Final Siren Podcast team returned this week for another pocket podcast edition, this time breaking down why the upcoming AFL intake has been deemed a midfielder’s draft. Chief Editor Peter Williams again took over the host chair to grill Draft Editor Michael Alvaro on some of the prime midfielders available, and why they are likely to feature at the pointy end.

Among the group of likely first-rounders, the team broke prospects into three different categories to get a better understanding of how each of them play, and perhaps help fans narrow in on the exact type of ball winner they want their club to pursue. Below is an ordered run sheet for all the topics covered.

Podcast link: Click here!

Podcast Agenda:

  • The top end – first round prospects
    • The top two – Daicos and Horne-Francis
    • The safe/reliable picks – Hobbs, Ward, Erasmus, Roberts
    • The classy types – Callaghan, Sonsie, Johnson, Wanganeen-Milera
    • The versatile/hybrid types – Draper, Sinn, Rachele, Goater, Chesser
  • Depth – those also in contention

Stay tuned to Draft Central, as tomorrow we’ll have an explainer piece to accompany your listen.

>> Top 30 Ranked: September Power Rankings

PODCAST EXPLAINER | September Power Rankings update

THE Final Siren Podcast returned this week with another special edition Power Rankings breakdown, fielding your questions following Draft Central’s September update. With the list extended out to 30 names and including six previously unranked prospects, there was plenty to discuss this time around.

Chief Editor Peter Williams took over the host chair to grill Draft Editor Michael Alvaro about the current state of things, before passing on the queries sent through by you, via Instagram. In the latest podcast explainer, we run through the key points of the episode to provide some depth and context to your listen.

Podcast Link: Click here!

PODCAST AGENDA:

Extending the list to 30 players

As is the case towards the end of each year, this month we added five extra spots to fill and with such an even crop, it arguably made things even more difficult. Past the top 10 or so prospects, the rankings have been difficult to consolidate given the wealth of players vying for spots from around the 15-35 mark. With the final five selections, previously unranked players snuck in but there are plenty more who could easily have slotted in instead.

Six fresh faces

Four completely new prospects entered the rankings in September, lead by South Australian wingman Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera. The classy ball user is a terrific decision maker and given his level of play against SANFL League and Under 19 championship competition, he simply had to enter the top 20.

While they lacked any real action in August, Victorians Zac Taylor and Mitch Knevitt were deserving of spots between the 25-30 mark, having produced outstanding levels of output before the NAB League’s latest hiatus. Fremantle NGA candidate Jesse Motlop (29) is the other new name, coming in with WAFL League experience and plenty of tricks as a small forward.

Among those returning to the rankings are Blake Howes (26) and Jacob van Rooyen (30), who featured among our top 25 earlier in the year. The former was beginning to find his feet as an athletic wingman in the NAB League, while the latter proved his worth as a key position swingman in representative colours and looks physically ready for senior football.

Risers and sliders

Along with the previously unranked Wanganeen-Milera catapulting into 18th, West Australian spearhead Jye Amiss proved his top 15 credentials with another outstanding month. The East Perth forward now boasts 51.14 in his 13 WAFL Colts games and kicked a couple in WA colours to stamp his mark as a top tall talent.

Going the other way are the likes of Matthew Roberts (15) and Matthew Johnson (19), who have previously been regarded as top 10 prospects. Both have tasted senior football and Roberts remains a safe and reliable midfield option, but a knock on his disposal under pressure and ability to play inside at senior level remains. For Johnson, others are simply rising around him and his output up the grades has been a touch inconsistent, despite his obvious class.

Other factors – National Championships, scrapped Victorian season, injuries

With South Australia and Western Australia facing off last month in an Under 19 clash, the risk of recency bias comes into play given those in the remaining states and territories have been afforded less opportunities to impress. While there are some clear risers, weighing up prospects against one-another is difficult when half of them aren’t currently playing. Injuries have also impacted the crop this year, with some unable to gain the continuity needed prove their top potential.

In the mix

West Australian accumulator Josh Browne was one of the unlucky ones to miss out this month, having featured among August’s allotment. East Fremantle teammate Corey Warner has also been pressing his case on the back of big performances at PSA, Colts, and League level, while intercept marking machine Rhett Bazzo came close after his outstanding championships performance.

Over in South Australia, Norwood midfielder-forward has been dreadfully unlucky with injury this year but has brilliant potential, while North Adelaide ball magnet Hugh Jackson looked primed for a top 25 push before a slight dip in form.

204cm Geelong Falcons prospect Toby Conway looks poised to be considered the best pure ruck in the pool, so should also be thereabouts. Meanwhile, the rise of St Kilda NGA and Sandringham Dragons pair Mitch Owens and Marcus Windhager has not gone unnoticed. Saints fans and recruiters will be sweating, but they should be safe for now.

Instagram Q&A

Your questions answered!

30 added to 2021 AFL Draft Combine list

30 PLAYERS were added to the 2021 AFL Draft Combine list yesterday, taking the total invitees up to 120 after last month’s announcement of the initial 90. AFL clubs lodged the expanded list of prospects, who will participate in fitness testing events among their respective states.

>> SCROLL to see the list of additions

South and Western Australian have contributed eight players apiece to the updated allotment, including players with ties to top level clubs. Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) product Isaiah Dudley is among the SA representation, while West Coast NGA candidate Richard Farmer joins Melbourne father-son hopeful Taj Woewodin and his East Fremantle teammate Josh Cripps, the brother of Carlton’s Patrick, on the list.

There are also a few mature-age prospects vying for higher honours, headlined by 20-year-old Williamstown key defender Charlie Dean. The Sandringham Dragons graduate attended 2019’s Victorian draft combine but was overlooked in consecutive intakes, before impressing at state league level in 2021.

Fellow 2001-born talent Ronald Fejo Jnr also features. The Northern Territory native lit up his local competition and has since impressed for West Adelaide in the SANFL with his speed and skill off the wing. West Perth bigman Noah Pegoraro rounds out the mature-age selection, having put up career-best numbers in the WAFL this season.

13 NAB Leaguers will earned an opportunity too, adding to the strong selection seen among the overall crop of 120 invitees. Among them are another four Sandringham Dragons and seven defenders, with clean kicking and intercept marking types clearly in vogue. Metro regions hold the majority of the split, contributing nine prospects.

Draft Combine Dates:

Victoria – Sunday October 10
South Australia – Saturday October 16
Western Australia – Sunday October 17

>> Top 30 Ranked: September Power Rankings

2021 AFL DRAFT COMBINE ADDITIONS:

South Australia:
Oscar Adams (Glenelg)
Zac Becker (Sturt)
Isaiah Dudley (Central District)
Ronald Fejo Jnr (West Adelaide/Northern Territory)
Harvey Harrison (North Adelaide)
Alastair Lord (Norwood)
Jordan Lukac (Woodville-West Torrens)
Will Spain (Sturt)

Vic Country:
Sam Breuer (GWV Rebels)
Justin Davies (Dandenong Stingrays)
Oscar Morrison (Geelong Falcons)
Cooper Whyte (Geelong Falcons)

Vic Metro:
Braden Andrews (Oakleigh Chargers)
Luke Cleary (Sandringham Dragons)
Ben De Bolfo (Northern Knights)
Joel Fitzgerald (Northern Knights)
Felix Flockhart (Sandringham Dragons)
Caleb Lewis (Sandringham Dragons)
Luke Nankervis (Sandringham Dragons)
Sam Paea (Calder Cannons)
Jed Rule (Oakleigh Chargers)

VFL:
Charlie Dean (Williamstown)

Western Australia:
Joshua Cripps (East Fremantle)
Richard Farmer (Subiaco)
Kaden Harbour (East Perth)
Judd McVee (East Fremantle)
Noah Pegoraro (West Perth)
Luke Polson (Peel Thunder)
Jake South (Subiaco)
Taj Woewodin (East Fremantle)

>> Initial 90 AFL Draft Combine List

PODCAST EXPLAINER | Indicative Top 10 AFL Phantom Draft

THE 2021 AFL regular season is done and dusted, meaning the indicative top 10 AFL Draft order has been confirmed. With that in mind, the Final Siren Podcast team returned this week to take an early look at which players may be in prime draft contention, putting their recruiters hats on for a top 10 phantom draft.

Draft Central Chief Editor Peter Williams took over the host chair once again as Draft Editor Michael Alvaro and Guest Analyst Declan Reeve were put on the clock representing five teams apiece. While live trading was excluded, the total number of selections was pushed out to 12 with a couple of likely father-son bids featuring in the mix.

We take you through each selection and the podcast agenda in the latest explainer.

Podcast Link: Click here!

Indicative Top 10 AFL Phantom Draft:

Pick 1 – Nick Daicos, Collingwood (North Melbourne bid matched)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 183cm | 72kg

Rated first in the latest Draft Central Power Rankings, Daicos is a very realistic chance of being bid on with pick one but will inevitably end up in black and white. Magpies fans have very much been looking forward to his addition to the squad and it is easy to see why after such dominant displays in every Under 19s outing he has had in 2021. He offers remarkable consistency, work-rate and an uncanny understanding of the game, which will put him in good stead to be the quickest matched bid in draft history.

Pick 2 – Sam Darcy, Western Bulldogs (North Melbourne bid matched)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Utility/Ruck
19/08/2003 | 204cm | 75kg

Another father-son bid and one which would not be out of place either, Darcy seems a top three lock. Akin to Collingwood with Daicos, the Bulldogs will quickly match this bid regardless of where it comes, gaining access to another top key position prospect. The 204cm talent can play on each line but has most recently excelled up forward and is near unbeatable in the air against players his age. His rate of development has been rapid, putting him well in the conversation for pick one contendership.

Pick 3 – Jason Horne, North Melbourne
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder
21/06/2003 | 184cm | 78kg

With the two father-son bids out of the way, North Melbourne can finally pick up a player they have full access to in Horne. The South Adelaide product was touted as the top 2021 prospect coming into the season and has hardly put a foot wrong to remain in contention. His explosiveness and ability to impact the scoreboard makes for a relatively complete midfield package, and he is as ready as any other prospect to play at the elite level given his build and two-year SANFL League apprenticeship.

Pick 4 – Josh Gibcus, Greater Western Sydney
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Tall Defender
4/04/2003 | 195cm | 84kg

With the likes of Phil Davis and Lachie Keeffe getting on, Giants fan Declan noted his side’s need for key defensive depth and went with the best available in this year’s crop – Gibcus. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels talent boasts incredible aerial ability, able to read the play well and utilise his sizeable leap to clunk many an intercept mark. His distribution is also improving, and he will provide great fold for the likes of Nick Haynes and Sam Taylor in defence.

Pick 5 – Finn Callaghan, Gold Coast
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

Gold Coast is a team whose first pick may well be on the table, but with the absence of live trading in this phantom draft edition, the Suns went for a best available talent. Callaghan is just about a certainty to be snapped up by pick five and that is the case here, as the Sandringham Dragons riser finds a home in the Sunshine State. His evasive ability and wonderfully clean skills at 189cm makes for an exciting package, able to play either side of midfield or off half-back.

Pick 6 – Arlo Draper, Adelaide
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
20/01/2003 | 185cm | 71kg

Citing Adelaide fans’ liking for some of the local talent coming through in 2021, Michael went a touch early on another South Adelaide midfielder in Draper. The dynamic 185cm talent recently broke through for a League berth and promises to bring some class and flair to the Crows’ engine room in time, but will likely start off as a forward. He marks cleanly overhead and can find the goals, comparable to the likes of Connor Rozee in terms of raw ability.

Pick 7 – Josh Rachele, Hawthorn
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
11/04/2003 | 180cm | 78kg

A pick which could effectively hit two birds with one stone, Hawthorn ended up with the mercurial Rachele at pick seven. The Murray Bushrangers talent would likely start as a forward and generate a bit of creativity around goal, with the potential to then pinch-hit in midfield and bring elements of class and speed. At his best, Rachele is arguably a top five talent and proved as much in 2019 as the Division 1 Under 16 MVP. He has that ‘wow’ factor.

Pick 8 – Ben Hobbs, Carlton
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
16/09/2003 | 183cm | 80kg

Picking for the team he supports, Michael opted for even more midfield depth in Hobbs. The hard-nosed GWV ball winner is a reliable sort, willing to do all the tough stuff on the inside with clean distribution skills by hand and punishing tackling pressure. He would offer that inside support to Patrick Cripps, while relieving pressure for Sam Walsh and releasing his running game. Key defensive depth and small forward depth could be other areas Carlton targets.

Pick 9 – Mac Andrew, Richmond
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Ruck/Tall Utility
12/04/2003 | 200cm | 70kg

A high ceiling prospect is what the Tigers get in this hypothetical, with Melbourne NGA product Andrew snapped up at pick nine. He has bolted into top five calculations on the back of his showings of pure athleticism and upside across each line, but remains quite a raw 200cm talent at just 70kg. His room for development is exciting and while the Tigers may instead look for a prime midfielder this early, Andrew could essentially fill any key position slot in future.

Pick 10 – Neil Erasmus, Fremantle
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder/Forward
2/12/2003 | 188cm | 80kg

With the hurt of Adam Cerra‘s trade request still a touch raw for Dockers fans, they will unlikely have any qualms about their side picking up a local midfielder in his spot. Those same fans may also be eying some of Western Australia’s prime key forward options, but they may come into play later in the piece. Erasmus has been a real riser this year, finding mountains of the ball in the WAFL Colts and PSA competitions to consolidate his top 10 quality.

Pick 11 – Tyler Sonsie, St Kilda
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Midfielder
27/01/2003 | 181cm | 76kg

Seeking some class in midfield to compliment the Saints’ current engine room mix, Sonsie was taken off the board at pick 11. The Eastern Ranges standout was touted as a top five contender coming into the season, but has slid a touch on the back of injury and some inconsistency. Still, his talent is undeniable, offering slick skills and the ability to navigate out of tight spots with great poise and agility. He also made a VFL outing this year, notching 24 touches and two goals for Box Hill.

Pick 12 – Josh Sinn, West Coast
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Half-Back/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

Rounding out the selections is West Coast with Sinn, who perfectly fits a need for the Eagles. The Sandringham Dragons skipper has endured somewhat of a frustrating campaign, but brings some unbelievably good attributes applicable at the elite level. Likely starting as a dashing half-back, Sinn breaks the lines with his speed and penetrative left-foot kick, with the potential to roll up to the wing or through midfield.

>> Top 25: August Power Rankings

In the mix:

Declan and Michael identified Northern Knights midfielder Josh Ward as arguably the most unlucky player to miss out in this selection of picks. He has proven a consistent ball winner with a terrific appetite for the contest and developing impact away from it, and would be a player the likes of Richmond and Carlton consider.

In terms of pure Power Rankings order, Matthew Roberts was ranked 12th at the start of August and clubs may value his reliability in midfield. Tall Subiaco midfielder Matthew Johnson may have the kind of upside clubs take a chance on within the top 10, while Josh Goater is rising steadily and has a raft of athletic traits which may appeal.

Top of the Tree: The Larke Medal production line

VOID of an Under 18 National Championships for the past two seasons and with fading hope of some competition next month, keen draft watchers have been itching to see the nation’s best prospects in one place. While interstate action is on the back burner for the time being, we can always reflect on what greatness we’ve seen and just why the annual carnival is so special.

One of the most important reasons for the championships is granting prospects the opportunity to play at the highest level possible, locking horns with others striving just as hard for the same dream. It’s true the cream always rises to the top, and the top is often marked by who earns the Larke Medal – awarded to the best player in each year’s Division 1 championship.

The recipient is immediately marked as a player to watch among generation next and while the award dates all the way back to 1976, there have been many more hits over the last decade or so. Since 300-game Carlton champion Marc Murphy won the award in 2005, nine Larke Medallists have been taken with the first or second National Draft selections.

While the likes of Paul Salmon (1981), Paul Williams (1990) and Shaun McManus (1993) were among them, winners in the first 22 years of the medal’s history averaged 75 games at VFL/AFL level. That number has been bumped up to 120 games since 1999 with 11 recipients still active at the top level – including Tom Hawkins (2006) who is nearing his own 300-game mark.

Showcasing the elite pathway’s development, expansion sides Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) snared Larke Medal winners with top two picks for four consecutive years, producing respective future club captains in David Swallow and Stephen Coniglio. Soon after them came the likes of Dom Sheed and Christian Petracca, who have also risen to become premier players at the elite level.

Even more recently, Sam Walsh and Deven Robertson set new benchmarks with their respective disposal hauls at the championships, with the latter’s 30-touch average surpassing the former’s total disposal record, set just a year earlier. While Walsh was long viewed as the top pick in 2018’s crop, Robertson’s feats boosted his stocks massively in 2019.

Still, three of the last four Larke Medallists, including Robertson, have been taken outside the top 20 picks. They have shown their quality nonetheless, with 2017 winner Oscar Allen currently one of the competition’s most exciting young key position players, while 2016 recipient Jack Graham could not find a home until pick 53, but has gone on to win two AFL premierships with Richmond and looks a future captain.

Should we achieve some form of a championship this year, there are a bunch of top talents who would be worthy of such honours. Vic Metro’s Nick Daicos has proven a level above his peers in each game, so would be a hypothetical favourite, while fellow top pick contender Jason Horne would give him a great run in midfield for South Australia. Vic Country ball winner Ben Hobbs is another you could see taking over, while Western Australia’s Neil Erasmus always puts up eye-catching numbers.

Imagine Western Bulldogs father-son prospect Sam Darcy kicking bags for Vic Metro, or one of WA’s many key forwards like Jye Amiss or Jack Williams stamping their claims with massive goal tallies. Then there’s someone like Finn Callaghan, who could cement his rise to top five contention, while Under 16 carnival MVP Josh Rachele has the mercurial talent to shine again.

As was the case last year, we may not get a Larke Medal winner in 2021, but we can dream. With or without, the game’s future is in good hands with the next crop of draftees and there are many of them who would likely make themselves worthy of such credit should the opportunity present.

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