Tag: athletes

Analysis | The importance of fitness testing in modern football recruiting

THERE has been plenty of debate when talking about potential AFL prospects pertaining to the differences between judging ‘athletes’ against ‘pure footballers’. There is an argument that fitness testing should be taken with a grain of salt and that the eye test is most important, but when it comes to players being drafted – especially in the first round – prospects are often at the pointy end in at least one fitness test.

For anyone still unfamiliar with the main fitness tests conducted during preseason and at the AFL Draft Combine, they are as follows:

  • Agility Test
  • 20m Sprint
  • Standing and Running Vertical Leap
  • Yo-Yo Test
  • 2km Time Trial

Last year’s number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan excelled in the 20m sprint and vertical leap tests, with his on-field speed off the mark and jump at the ball highlighting just why he excelled at those tests. The combine, if anything, gives reassurance that those traits are indeed elite and will help try and separate talents like Ugle-Hagan from any other key forwards in that year’s crop. Athleticism is very important in modern football, with players quicker and bigger than what most talented youngsters are used to at the development levels. One club which has seemingly identified this in modern times is the fast-rising Essendon Football Club.

Since 2014, Essendon seems to have had a clear strategy with the types of players they have looked at with their high picks. Below is a list of the Bombers’ top 40 selections since 2014 and which tests those players excelled at. In a lot of cases, they were top 10 in those tests at the end-of-year combine.

2014:

Pick 17 – Jayden Laverde
(Didn’t test but athleticism was a highlight of his game)

Pick 20 – Kyle Langford
Agility

2015:

Pick 5 – Darcy Parish
Average in most tests

Pick 6 – Aaron Francis
(Didn’t test but like Laverde, athleticism was a highlight in games)

Pick 29 – Alex Morgan (Since delisted)
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 30 – Mason Redman
3km time trial

2016:

Pick 1 – Andrew McGrath
Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 20 – Jordan Ridley
20m Sprint

2017:

Nil

2018:

Pick 38 – Irving Mosquito
Vertical Leap

2019:

Pick 30 – Harrison Jones
Vertical Leap, Yo-Yo, 20m Sprint

Pick 38 – Nick Bryan
Vertical Leap, 20m Sprint

2020:

Pick 8 – Nik Cox
20m Sprint, 2km TT

Pick 9 – Archie Perkins
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

Pick 10 – Zach Reid
Vertical Leap

Pick 39 – Josh Eyre
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

There is one big outlier here and that’s one of this year’s Brownlow contenders in Darcy Parish, who was only average in test results during his draft year. This could be seen as the biggest clue as to why athletic testing shouldn’t be so important, but it can also be argued that one of the main reasons for Parish’s form is due to improving his running capacity to an elite level.

Even their most recent mid-season selection, Sam Durham tested well for vertical leap and endurance, so its no surprise at least in Essendon’s case that athletic traits are a huge influence in whether the player gets taken. The current favourite for the Rising Star, Nik Cox has taken the competition by storm with his mix of athleticism and height, with that height another factor in the early Essendon selections. It was a matter of time before Cox got his nomination for the Rising Star award and in retrospect, we should have all seen his selection by Essendon coming considering all the traits he possesses are key indicators in the Bombers’ recent draft strategy.

Using this history, we can even try to narrow down the possible field of players that Essendon will look at with its first round pick in 2021. A trio of Sandringham Dragons instantly come to mind with Campbell Chesser, Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan. All three players tested well for the 20m sprint and vertical leap during preseason, highlighting their power and athleticism. With all measuring at over 185cm, they even fill a midfield need for the Bombers. They have another prospect right under their noses in Josh Goater who made his Essendon VFL debut not long ago and is an athletic beast. His speed and leap tests were all elite and at 190cm, he would be another Essendon style selection.

The modern footballer is taller, faster and can run all day, and it is getting harder and harder for pure footballers to make it at the top level. If young, pure footballers can start to develop athleticism in their game, even if it’s an elite endurance base, that’s at least a start in the right direction.

Height used to be a detractor for clubs but now with the likes of Caleb Daniel, Kysaiah Pickett, Brent Daniels and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, that is no longer the same obstacle for potential draftees as it used to be – though you also need to have that speed and class. If you are small and have the athletic traits and determination to make it as an AFL player, then you will be on the right track. If you are tall and have those traits, your chances of making an AFL list are even higher.

Fitness testing is an important tool, not just for clubs and recruiters, but also for up and coming players – especially those at the very early level. I’m hopeful coaches of junior football are able to set up some of these tests to help young players find their best traits, enhance them and embrace them. Understandably, it takes time, money and effort on their part and not every junior club or parent has that available. Programs such as Rookie Me, the official fitness testing partner of the AFL, allow junior athletes to experience professional environments at an early age, proving another handy head-start for budding footballers.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

Top 10s: 2020 National AFL Draft Combine

AFL DRAFT combines have wrapped up around the nation, giving an insight into how each elite level hopeful stacks up athletically. For most prospects, it was a chance to showcase just how much they had improved since preseason, especially after a full season of football – albeit compromised. For the Victorians in action, they finally got to show their wares after a substantial amount of time away from the field, with a number of them registering results indicative of remarkably hard work in the meantime.

Having taken a look at the top 10 results from each test, we now look back at the combines as a whole to further put under the microscope those who performed well across the board. Needless to say, these athletes can certainly play too, with plenty of first round prospects scattered across the pointy end of each leaderboard. Furthermore, these are the players who have earned National Combine invites; meaning they have done so at the request of at least three-four AFL clubs, or by having previously earned passage into their respective academy hubs.

>> SCROLL for all the top 10 results

Among the top overall performers, three West Australians managed top 10 results across four different tests. Peel Thunder’s Isiah Winder is arguably the best draft prospect of the lot, a classy small midfielder who achieved top two results in the standing vertical jump and running vertical jump (right). To top it off, he also came fifth in the 20m sprint and sixth in the agility test. He uses all those traits on-field too, and looms as a potential second round pick. West Perth defender Kellen Johnson and Fremantle Next Generation Academy (NGA) member Chris Walker were the other two WA products to complete the feat, doing so in all three jumps and the agility test.

Godfrey Okerenyang, who took out the 2018 AFL Grand Final sprint and comes from a strong athletics background, was the only other player to manage top 10 results in four different tests. The GWS Academy hopeful leapt for the biggest standing vertical jump (84cm) and running vertical jump (right, 92cm), while also placing third in the 20m sprint. His podium finish in the running vertical jump (left) rounded out the four-peat. He looms as a more prospective pick at this year’s draft, having only recently committed to pursuing a footballing career.

Another two high-upside late chances who are already tied to clubs in Josh Eyre (Essendon, NGA) and Aiden Fyfe (Gold Coast, Academy) each racked up hat-tricks of top 10 features. Like most of the others, they were prominent in the jumping tests, while also respectively running the eight and ninth-best 20m times. In the most compromised draft crop ever, the likes of Reef McInnes (Collingwood NGA) took out first place in the speed test with a searing time of 2.78 seconds, while Sydney Academy member Braeden Campbell and Bulldogs NGA gun Jamarra Ugle-Hagan were also among that top 10 with equal times of 2.90 seconds. The latter two are expected to attract bids within the top 10.

There were plenty of other first round prospects to light up the track, too. WA key defenders Denver Grainger-Barras and Heath Chapman showed their wares in the agility and endurance departments respectively, while fellow sandgroper Jack Carroll was a standout jumper – even while sporting a cast on his broken wrist. Archie Perkins was another to impress in multiple categories, with Vic Metro hub teammates Finlay Macrae and Nikolas Cox acing the 2km time trial. Others to excel across the board included Nathan O’Driscoll, a second round candidate, and Brodie Lake, who hails from the Northern Territory but made the move to South Australia this year. He is eligible to be pre-listed by the Gold Coast Suns via their access to the Darwin zone.

NATIONWIDE AFL DRAFT COMBINE TOP 10s

Standing Vertical Jump:

1. Godfrey Okerenyang (GWS Academy) – 84cm
=2. Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder) – 76cm
=2. Pierce Roseby (Sydney Academy) – 76cm
=4. Jack Carroll (East Fremantle) – 74cm
=4. Chris Walker (East Fremantle) – 74cm
=6. Kellen Johnson (West Perth) – 73cm
=6. Shannon Neale (South Fremantle) – 73cm
8. Harry Grant (GWS Academy) – 70cm
=9. Jaiden Hunter (Perth) – 69cm
=9. Sam Frost (GWS Academy) – 69cm

Running Vertical Jump (R):

=1. Godfrey Okerenyang (GWS Academy) – 92cm
=1. Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder) – 92cm
=3. Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo Pioneers) – 91cm
=3. Archie Perkins (Sandringham Dragons) – 91cm
5. Chris Walker (East Fremantle) – 90cm
=6. Josh Eyre (Calder Cannons) – 87cm
=6. Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts) – 87cm
=8. Liam McMahon (Northern Knights) – 86cm
=8. Shannon Neale (South Fremantle) – 86cm
=10. 4x players (Isaac Chugg, Aiden Fyfe, Jack Carroll, Kellen Johnson)

Running Vertical Jump (L):

1. Dominic Bedendo (Murray Bushrangers) – 99cm
=2. Godfrey Okerenyang (GWS Academy) – 95cm
=2. Aiden Fyfe (Gold Coast Academy) – 95cm
=4. Kellen Johnson (West Perth) – 94cm
=4. Sam Berry (Gippsland Power) – 94cm
=4. Brodie Lake (NT Thunder/Central District) – 94cm
=4. Jack Briskey (Brisbane Academy) – 94cm
=4. Eddie Ford (Western Jets) – 94cm
=9. Chris Walker (East Fremantle) – 93cm
=9. Josh Eyre (Calder Cannons) – 93cm

20m Sprint:

1. Reef McInnes (Oakleigh Chargers) – 2.78 seconds
2. Max Holmes (Sandringham Dragons) – 2.80
3. Godfrey Okerenyang (GWS Academy) – 2.86
4. Liam Kolar (Northern Knights) – 2.87
5. Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder) – 2.873
=6. Zavier Maher (Murray Bushrangers) – 2.89
=6. Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo Pioneers) – 2.88
8. Joshua Eyre (Calder Cannons) – 2.89
9. Aiden Fyfe (Gold Coast Academy) – 2.898
=10. Braeden Campbell (Sydney Academy) – 2.90
=10. Fraser Rosman (Sandringham Dragons) – 2.90
=10. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh Chargers) – 2.90

Agility Test:

1. Brodie Lake (NT Thunder/Central District) – 7.90 seconds
2. Mitchell Duval (West Adelaide) – 7.98
3. Harry Grant (GWS Academy) – 8.00
4. Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth) – 8.12
5. Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts) – 8.13
6. Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder) – 8.18
7. Marc Sheather (Sydney Academy) – 8.23
=8. Kellen Johnson (West Perth) – 8.27
=8. Chris Walker (East Fremantle) – 8.27
10. Taj Schofield (WWT Eagles) – 8.31

2km Time Trial:

1. Harry Sharp (GWV Rebels) – 5 minutes, 28 seconds
2. Fraser Rosman (Sandringham Dragons) – 5:52
3. Liam Kolar (Northern Knights) – 6:02
4. Nikolas Cox (Northern Knights) – 6:03
5. Sam Berry (Gippsland Power) – 6:10
6. Ryan Angwin (Gippsland Power) – 6:11
=7. Matthew Allison (Calder Cannons) – 6:17
=7. Finlay Macrae (Oakleigh Chargers) – 6:17
9. Heath Chapman (West Perth) – 6:20
=10. Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth) – 6:23
=10. Archie Perkins (Sandringham Dragons) – 6:23
=10. Will Bravo (Dandenong Stingrays) – 6:23

>> Power Rankings: November Update

Combine results in full:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
2km

Preseason testing results:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

Featured Image: Oakleigh’s Finlay Macrae runs the 20-metre sprint | Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos