Tag: AFL

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Melbourne Demons

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 Melbourne, an enigmatic side of late which narrowly missed out on returning to finals action in 2020. As they often find a way of doing, the Demons have traded back into the first round of this year’s draft, currently holding picks 18 and 19. They obtained those consecutive selections among a raft of deals made in a busy trade period, though some key list needs are still apparent. After another campaign defined by steep peaks and troughs, Melbourne fans and staff alike will be keen to again bring in a couple of first round talents who can impact in year one, much like Luke Jackson and Kysaiah Pickett did in their debut seasons.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 18, 19, 28, 50, 89

2021 PICKS*: BL Rd 2 | WB Rd 3 | NM Rd 4

* – denotes as of November 29

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

ELIGIBLE ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Deakyn Smith (NGA)

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

LIST NEEDS:

Running/outside midfielders
Dynamic forwards

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 18)

After the impending academy bids billed for round one, Melbourne’s first pick will inevitably be pushed back into the early-20s. It is the kind of range where the draft pool begins to even out, meaning a bunch of prospects could be in contention. Given the Demons still have a couple of pressing list needs to address, they have a good opportunity to do so and narrow the factor of evenness. Should a running outside midfielder be the priority, Nathan O’Driscoll may be a talent of interest. His value is a contended topic, but his work-rate, penetrative boot, and inside/outside balance could suit the Dees. Though akin to Trent Rivers, he could also end up a slider in round two.

Fellow West Australian Jack Carroll is in a similar boat as one who can develop on the outer or off half-back before moving to the inside. He may already be taken though given his suitors in the first round, but the upside is there aplenty. Oliver Henry suits a need as that dynamic marking forward who also finds the goals, theoretically taking a scoring load off Bailey Fritsch along with the inclusion of Ben Brown. The Demons could potentially kill two birds with one stone and look at Brayden Cook with this pick too, a wingman who also thrives close to goal. As one of this year’s great bolters, the South Australian managed to lead the disposal and goal charts for his side at times this season. The list goes on, but Melbourne will have great flexibility to assess what is on the board and ideally take two of their main targets back-to-back.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

Having already made their big move into the first round during trade period, the Demons may opt to stay a little quieter during live trading. There is still a bit the Demons could do though, starting with the potential to package a combination of picks 18, 19, and 28 to move up the order. Three may prove the magic number for Melbourne in terms of picks taken, so 50 could be passed on, and 28 might provide an avenue to strengthen the Dees’ 2021 hand, which currently features second, third, and fourth rounders tied to other clubs.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Which list need will Melbourne prioritise with its first rounders?

Will Melbourne fill one list need and then pick the best available?

Can Melbourne move up the order?

Can Melbourne nab a surprise slider?

Will Melbourne look to bolster its 2021 hand?

Featured Image: 2019 Melbourne draftees Luke Jackson (left) and Kysaiah Pickett | Credit: Getty Images

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: Club AFL Draft previews (Part 2)

OVER the past few weeks, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the next edition, special guest Tom Cheesman joined Chief Editor Peter Williams and AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro to breakdown how the this year’s draft may pan out for each club.

The clubs featured in part two are Brisbane, Fremantle, Melbourne, Port Adelaide, and St Kilda, teams which do not have overly stacked hands at the pointy end, but have some handy selections and big decisions to make. The Lions, Dockers, and Power all face dilemmas in regards to matching bids on their Next Generation Academy (NGA) talents, while the Demons and Saints will look to stock up and remain in the finals hunt.

Below are the picks held by each club, as of November 29.

Brisbane: 25, 53, 58, 66, 68, 69, 94
Fremantle: 12, 32, 55, 56, 63
Melbourne: 18, 19, 28, 50, 89
Port Adelaide: 35, 47, 57, 59, 73, 95
St Kilda: 21, 64, 67, 74, 93

To listen to the discussion in full, click here.

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

Past Episodes:

Club-by-club previews…
Club AFL Draft previews (Part 1)

The best…
AFL Draft hands
Best academy and father-son hauls
Non-aligned midfielders
Readymade prospects
Players under 175cm
Midfielders over 190cm

Player comparisons…
Logan McDonald vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Denver Grainger-Barras vs. Heath Chapman
Brayden Cook vs. Conor Stone
Key defenders kicking comparison

Further analysis…
Potential cult heroes
An early top 10 look
Offence from defence

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?

2020 AFL Draft Preview: GWS GIANTS

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 GWS, a team which will feature heavily in proceedings at the top-end of this year’s draft with five picks within the top 30, including four first rounders. It gives the GIANTS a terrific opportunity to again top-up with a wealth of highly touted talents, especially having just lost a raft of experienced players after finishing the season in 10th. This looms as an important intake for the expansion side, which will be looking to bounce straight back into the top eight next year. With such a flexible hand, the GIANTS could well move up the order and bring in players who can make an immediate impact on their stacked side.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 10, 13, 15, 20, 29, 52, 74, 88

2021 PICKS*: GWS Rd 1 | GWS Rd 3 | GWS Rd 4 | GEE Rd 4

* – denotes as of November 27

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

LIKELY ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Josh Green (Academy)

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

LIST NEEDS:

Speedy/outside midfielders
Long-term key position depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 10)

Pick 10 will likely slide back two spots after academy bids take place, and could even move down three or four places given the amount of club-tied talent available. Should the GIANTS opt not to trade the selection and move further into the top 10, a midfielder seems the best option. Finlay Macrae, the half-brother of Jackson fits the bill as a classy user who can play both inside and out. He would provide a handy point of difference to the GIANTS’ current raft of inside bulls. Tom Powell is another name linked to that range, an ultra-consistent ball winner who is improving his outside influence. Geelong Falcons graduate Tanner Bruhn is a similar player, though he will likely already be taken inside the top 10.

Should the Giants look at key position options, there are a few high-upside types of interest. Heath Chapman is a key defender who plays similarly to Nick Haynes, but could also be developed into a wingman given his running capacity and damaging ball use. Nikolas Cox will garner some attention too, a raw 200cm utility who is renowned for his endurance and ability to kick on both feet. He could plug a long-term gap either down back or up forward. In terms of academy bids, the Giants could realistically bid on Lachlan Jones at pick 10, though Port Adelaide would undoubtedly match. Collingwood’s Reef McInnes may also come into play if Essendon do not take a punt inside the top 10, but the Giants may also reserve a bid for pick 15, which lands in between two Collingwood selections. A bid in this range would make the Magpies sweat.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

There is plenty GWS could look to do with its current hand, whether it be to bolster this year’s stocks of its 2021 haul. With the three first rounders obtained from Geelong via the Jeremy Cameron trade, the GIANTS may see value in trading deep into the top 10. A combination of two of their top 20 picks could get the job done, depending on just how far into the top end they hope to go and which clubs arise as keen suitors. The GIANTS are expected to take four to five players this year and with academy prospect Josh Green in the frame later on, GWS may look to convert some of their five picks in the top 30 into higher selections if players they are targeting may otherwise be off the board.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Can GWS trade further into the top 10?

Will GWS maintain its current hand and pack up after pick 29?

Will GWS move up the order in live trading?

Will GWS place bids on academy prospects in the first round?

When will a bid come for Josh Green, if at all?

Featured Image: 2020 draft prospect Josh Green (right) with brother, Tom | Credit: Elesa Kurtz/The Age

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: Club AFL Draft previews (Part 1)

OVER the past few weeks, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the next edition, Special guest Tom Cheesman joined Chief Editor Peter Williams and AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro to breakdown how the this year’s draft may pan out for each club.

The clubs featured in part one are Carlton, Gold Coast, Geelong, Richmond, West Coast and Western Bulldogs – all teams which may not feature too heavily among action at the pointy end as it stands. The Tigers, Eagles, and Cats would consider themselves well within the premiership window and thus may not have any pressing list needs to cover at the draft, making them muted players this year. Geelong and West Coast will hope to find a gem with their respective picks 51 and 62.

The Bulldogs’ picks may be wiped off the board if Academy gun Jamarra Ugle-Hagan yields a bid with pick one, leaving little for their recruiters to work with down the line. Meanwhile, Carlton has only just gained another pick in the second round and may only make two selections overall. Gold Coast is again set to be called up in the top five, but it could prove the Suns’ only pick given Academy members Alex Davies and Joel Jeffrey will be automatically placed on their senior list.

Nonetheless, there could be some interesting plays to unfold and some exciting prospects taken with later picks by these clubs, much of which formed the basis of their previews. To listen to the discussion in full, click here.

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

Past Episodes:

Potential cult heroes
An early top 10 look
The best AFL Draft hands
Best readymade prospects
Best players under 175cm
Best midfielders over 190cm
Logan McDonald vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Best academy and father-son hauls
Brayden Cook vs. Conor Stone
Key defenders kicking comparison
Offence from defence
Denver Grainger-Barras vs. Heath Chapman
The top non-aligned midfielders

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

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

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

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

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

BENDIGO PIONEERS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

DANDENONG STINGRAYS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEELONG FALCONS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

GIPPSLAND POWER:

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

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

GWV REBELS:

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

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

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEFENDERS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FORWARDS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIDFIELDERS:

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

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

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

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

Max Spyvee | Claremont
176cm | 72kg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUCKS:

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

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

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

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

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

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Fremantle Dockers

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 Fremantle, a team which has fared phenomenally well at the pointy end of recent drafts to build one of the most vibrant young midfield groups in the competition. With sustained success among their Next Generation Academy (NGA) ranks, the Dockers again look set to bring in even more homegrown talent along with another valuable first round selection. A relatively quiet trade period has set some suspense ahead of draft night, with work to do to ensure Fremantle can extract the best possible outcome from its current hand and continue to build for the future. After a 12th place finish in 2020, the Dockers are clearly on the up.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 12, 32, 55
* – denotes as of November 24

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

LIKELY ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Brandon Walker (NGA), Chris Walker (NGA), Joel Western (NGA)

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

LIST NEEDS:

Dynamic forwards
Key position depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 12)

The fate of Fremantle’s first pick lies in some part with other clubs given there are are range of deals to be made which will help shape the top 10 picks. Sitting just outside that range, the Dockers have the terrific opportunity to snare a slider, pick the best available player, or secure a prospect which truly suits their list needs. Plenty of Dockers fans have been vocal about wanting 200cm utility Nikolas Cox with this pick, and for good reason. While their club currently boasts somewhat of an embarrassment of riches in defence, Cox looms as a long-term and genuine key position option who may also develop into the dynamic tall forward they require. Zach Reid is a similar player and former teammate of 2020 Rising Star Caleb Serong, but will likely be off the board at that stage.

Should Fremantle go down the medium-forward route, Archie Perkins would likely be a prime target. But along the same lines as Reid, he is expected to be snapped up within the top 10 picks with Essendon a prime candidate there. Oliver Henry could then be the Dockers’ man, another swingman type who thrives aerially and has a bit of x-factor. He is the brother of Geelong Cats defender, Jack and rates highly for upside. Local talent Heath Chapman is another who falls perfectly in Fremantle’s range, though the Dockers’ aforementioned defensive depth may ward them off that selection. Still, Chapman’s attacking prowess and athleticism could see him develop into a wingman or midfielder over time. Nathan O’Driscoll‘s range has gotten plenty of people talking and while he could be a good fit for the Dockers, picking him just outside the top 10 may be a stretch.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

The Dockers currently rank 11th for total draft points value and may need to get busy at the live trade desk depending on how highly other clubs value their NGA products. Their current pick 32 will slide down to something more in the 35-38 range after earlier academy bids, which puts Fremantle at risk of not being able to get a selection in before others bid on both Brandon Walker and Joel Western. Pick 32 may be one to split in order to stay away from another case of points deficit, and future picks may also come into the fold. The Dockers currently hold their 2021 selections in each round so have some flexibility. There was also talk that Fremantle would look to rocket up the order and secure Perth key forward Logan McDonald, but juggling such a move looks highly unlikely.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

What kind of player will Fremantle look for with pick 12?

Will Fremantle take any NGA players outside of Walker and Western?

Will Fremantle hold onto its current pick 32?

Could Fremantle be forced to take just one NGA player?

Will Fremantle table its 2021 selections?

Featured Image: Dockers NGA prospect Brandon Walker in action for the AFL Australian Under 17s | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

AFL Draft Whispers: 2020 Edition

WITH this year’s AFL Draft less than a month away, the rumour mill has been in full swing as supporters turn their attention from trade period, to draft period. There is some early general consensus already, mostly pertaining to where prospects are ranked, but not necessarily where they may end up come draft time. In our November 2020 edition of AFL Draft Whispers, Draft Central takes a look at some of the key factors which may shape the top 10, as well as some of the queries pertaining to academy and father-son bids among the most compromised intake in history.

With pick one, Adelaide has selected…

Starting at the top, it is thought by many that the race for pick one honours has been narrowed down to two players. Given Adelaide boasts the first selection, local talent Riley Thilthorpe has been put forward as a safe choice, though Logan McDonald is marginally considered the better talent. Both are key forwards with senior state league experience this year who the Crows will be able to form their rebuild around. The ‘go home factor’ is a slight some Crows fans may have against McDonald, who is from Western Australia, though a local bias has hardly presented at the Crows previously and the 18-year-old seems to have no qualms about shifting interstate.

The other factor in this discussion is Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, the consensus best prospect in this year’s pool who is tied to the Western Bulldogs. Adelaide could keep the Dogs accountable by bidding with pick one, but may seek to market their ties to the top selection by simply taking a player they can actually access. Elijah Hollands is another in contention, a midfielder with plenty of x-factor who is coming off a long-term knee injury and actually supports the Crows.

‘The fantastic five’

It is well known that along with McDonald and Thilthorpe, three other top-end prospects have formed a breakaway group which clubs are jostling to gain access to. Aside from Ugle-Hagan, who will find his way to the Western Bulldogs regardless of where a bid is placed, Hollands, Will Phillips, and Denver Grainger-Barras are the players who join the two aforementioned key forwards in this exclusive group.

Hollands, who suffered a serious knee injury during preseason, was touted as a potential challenger to the number one spot, and looks likely to be North Melbourne’s favoured pick. He is a tall midfielder/forward with serious game-winning attributes which include athleticism and scoreboard impact. Sydney’s top five pick is likely to come down to one of Phillips or Grainger-Barras, with interest in an inside midfielder growing, rather than the taller options. That of course brings Phillips to the fore, a 180cm ball winner who cut his teeth alongside Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson in Oakleigh’s 2019 premiership side.

What will Gold Coast look for with pick five?

The Suns were one of the big improvers in 2020, thanks in no small part to their top-end draftees who managed to make an immediate impact at senior level. With pick five, they have the chance to bring in another talent who may do the same next year. It seems the Queensland-based outfit will look to prioritise another midfielder, and Phillips would be the obvious choice as arguably the best pure ball winner available. Though, with growing talk that he may already be taken by the time Gold Coast gets on the clock, Geelong Falcons product Tanner Bruhn could be their man. He was Vic Country’s Under 16 MVP in 2018 and despite repeat injury setbacks, has shown his class through midfield when fully fit. Gold Coast is also able to pre-list Academy member Alex Davies, a tall clearance winner, but may look towards balance in acquiring the hard-running, 183cm Bruhn.

Will Essendon trade into the top two?

Though the Bombers have done well to secure the services of Peter Wright at little cost, the key forward slot remains an area which depth is desperately needed. Essendon currently holds picks 7-9 and could become the first team since the expansion era to utilise three top 10 picks in one draft. It would make for a hell of a story, though Adrian Dodoro will inevitably look to squeeze even greater value out of that significant hand.

With a wealth of high-level talls available at the pointy end of the draft, the Bombers may look to package a combination of their current top 10 picks to move up the order and gain access to one of those elite key position forwards. For example, North Melbourne may be a team of interest as they are in need of as much fresh talent as possible. Thus, the Roos could send pick two to Essendon in exchange for two of those top 10’ers in order to maximise their hand. It will unlikely be that simple, but that kind of thinking is perhaps what Essendon will have to do to obtain the likes of McDonald or Thilthorpe, who could become pillar key forwards in future.

Will Thilthorpe slide to Adelaide’s pick nine?

Plenty of talk has surrounded the proposed two-horse race pertaining Adelaide’s pick one (see above), but what happens to Thilthorpe should the Crows favour McDonald? Depending on the final order of the top 10, the South Australian may end up as this year’s slider despite being considered a top five or six talent. Essendon could be a potential suitor, though are said to have eyes on a certain other prospect in moving up the board, while the likes of North Melbourne, Sydney, and Gold Coast may look towards the midfielders available. Thus, Thilthorpe could slowly slip back to the Crows at pick nine, which would be a massive result for last year’s bottom side. A long shot, yes, but possible.

Will clubs take all of their Academy/father-son talents available?

In short, no. With cuts to list sizes, it just is not feasible for many clubs with rich academy cohorts to take every talent available to them this year. We saw with Brisbane in 2019 that if another club is interested in their homegrown products and the price is too high, they simply will not match the bid.

That may be the case for Brisbane once again, while Adelaide is another team of interest this year. The Crows have access to Tariek Newchurch and James Borlase through the NGA system, while Luke Edwards is a potential father-son choice. The latter is said to be weighing up whether to nominate for the open draft, and Adelaide’s current top-ended draft hand suggests it is only considering taking two of the three players.

Fremantle will look to secure NGA talents Joel Western and Brandon Walker. After the Dockers’ pick 12, they only have picks 32, 55, and a couple in triple figures to match any potential bids, so might get a little busy before their picks are locked in. Otherwise, they may prioritise one over the other. Collingwood is in a tricky spot too, with Reef McInnes attracting some added attention after his draft combine exploits. The bid will have to be fair on the Magpies’ end, and ideally after their current picks 14 and 16.

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: East Fremantle vs. Sandringham Dragons

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for the first quarter final clash, set to play out between a West Australian club and a Victorian region, in East Fremantle and the Sandringham Dragons respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were 2006 West Coast premiership teammates, Ben Cousins (East Fremantle) and Chris Judd (Sandringham).

These clubs are seeded first (East Fremantle) and eighth (Sandringham) respectively, forming an intriguing final eight clash in our draw. Our proposed Sharks squad outvoted the Calder Cannons after a first-round bye, while Sandringham’s path to this stage came through East Perth and Glenelg. The winner will qualify for the semi finals, set to face the Northern Knights/Murray Bushrangers.

>> SCROLL TO VIEW THE FULL TEAMS

TALKING POINTS

THE MIDFIELD BATTLE:

Where do we even begin with this East Fremantle side? The most obvious strength is its midfield, with a terrific balance among the centre bounce trio of Patrick Cripps, Simon Black, and Cousins. Cripps provides the inside grunt, while Black is the silk, and Cousins the hard-running accumulator. All three are terrific leaders too, but boy do they have support in spades. The trio of Paul Hasleby (wing), Elliot Yeo (half-back), and Andrew Swallow (half-forward), who have all been squeezed out, could well make up the midfield of a second Sharks All-Star side. That is not to mention those on the bench, with Brownlow medalist Shane Woewodin joined by Daniel Kerr as the rotational x-factor, while Dom Cassisi adds to the strong leadership core alongside Fremantle icon Shaun McManus. Perhaps most ominously of all, they will follow under the ruckwork of 211cm giant, Aaron Sandilands.

But if there is any side that can go pound-for-pound with any other midfield stock, it is Sandringham. The Dragons will fancy their chances of matching the Sharks for inside grunt, with Josh P. Kennedy and Luke Ball joined in the middle by Judd, who transitioned into a contested beast later in his career, at Carlton. Add Jobe Watson to the mix, as well as Angus Brayshaw, Tim Taranto, and Jarryd Lyons off the bench. Like East Fremantle, Sandringham also boasts a few elites squeezed out of the prime positions, with Andy McGrath out at half-back and Josh Kelly at half-forward. Meanwhile, Zac Merrett takes up a wing, tasked with matching the run and flair of Chris Mainwaring.

With the question of depth a non-factor at this point, it is difficult to seperate these two midfields. In terms of experience, accolades, and runs on the board, East Fremantle seems to sneak ahead – especially given six of the 11 names listed above for Sandringham are still playing out their careers. Furthermore, the Sharks seem to have an edge in terms of balance, with the run of Cousins, Kerr, and Mainwaring in particular greater than what any Dragon can offer, while the honest ball winners remain. Sandringham’s big asset, its inside power, is arguably matched too, especially with the likes of Hasleby and Yeo destined to rotate through the engine room. Max Gawn makes for a terrific adversary against Sandilands and beats him around the ground, but not in the ruck contest, which is crucial with such class to utilise at ground level.

THE SPINE:

The respective spines also provide a key area of interest, with champions scattered throughout, but one side coming out a clear winner in our eyes. There is not much you could do to improve the Sharks’ key position set-up, with Luke McPharlin and Harry Taylor making for a formidable defensive partnership, while Josh J. Kennedy and Paddy Ryder line up down the other end. Sure, Ryder is more of a ruckman, but the swingman support of Cale Hooker slots in as well should the latter fall to the bench. The versatility of Hooker, McPharlin, and Taylor is also handy, given all three have been known to swing forward from time to time.

Sandringham answers with goals in spades among its two key position forwards, with the career tallies of Tom Hawkins and Jack Gunston outweighing that of their counterparts in Kennedy and Ryder. However, the defensive pairing is perhaps what sets the two sides apart the most. Ted Richards is a fine centre half-back option, and St Kilda stalwart Jason Blake was a terrific servant in his own right, but both come up slightly undersized against East Fremantle’s monster forwards. That is not to say the likes of Tom LangdonBrayden Maynard, and Simon Beaumont could not provide aerial support, but in a pure man-on-man scenario, that factor gives the Sharks the edge in this department.

SUMMARY:

The competition is getting tighter by the round among our All-Star teams, and this is one of the closest calls yet. But given the two areas identified which see East Fremantle come out on top, we are inclined to stick with the Sharks. As the number one seed, they simply boast a greater amount of depth, and match up well against the key strengths of Sandringham here.

Which All-Star Team of the AFL Draft Era are you picking?
East Fremantle
Sandringham Dragons
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