Tag: caleb daniel

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.


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

Pick 20 – Kyle Langford


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


Pick 1 – Andrew McGrath
Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 20 – Jordan Ridley
20m Sprint




Pick 38 – Irving Mosquito
Vertical Leap


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

Pick 38 – Nick Bryan
Vertical Leap, 20m Sprint


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

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Gippsland Power vs. South Adelaide

OUR next All-Star Team battle is one between a Victorian region in Gippsland, and a South Australian club in South Adelaide. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Scott Pendlebury (Gippsland Power) and Simon Goodwin (South Adelaide).


These clubs are seeded 14th (Gippsland Power) and 19th (South Adelaide) respectively, forming another Round of 32 clash in our second half of the draw. The winner will qualify for the Round of 16 stage, set to face the victor of our Port Adelaide Magpies vs. Peel Thunder tie.


The midfield is undoubtedly South Adelaide’s strongest line, boasting over 650 games of AFL experience through the centreline and a star quartet at the centre bounces. Captain Goodwin is at the heart of it all, alongside fellow Adelaide Crows champion Mark Bickley, Ryan Griffen, and ruckman Brendon Lade. A couple of small defenders also complement Nigel Smart down back, in Michael Doughty and current Western Bulldogs gun, Caleb Daniel.

Gippsland’s midfield is also quite talent rich, with its skipper in Pendlebury also on-ball, joined by Collingwood premiership teammate Dale Thomas and Essendon captain Dyson Heppell. The star trio even pushed Brendon Goddard out onto the wing, alongside Richmond fan favourite Greg Tivendale. The Power’s proposed forwardline is also handy, laying claim to another current AFL captain in Sam Docherty, who would provide great rebound with the likes of Robert Murphy, Jason Gram, and David Wojcinski.


Mark Stevens is a slightly undersized choice at centre half-forward for the Power, although the height of Leigh Brown and marking power of Tim Membrey should make up for it alongside Jarryd Roughead. The team doesn’t particularly hold any glaring weaknesses otherwise, which is why it’s so solid.

Conversely, South Adelaide’s squad perhaps lacks the bench depth of Gippsland’s. Jason Torney is also undersized at full back, while the forward six lacks a bit despite the presence of Luke Darcy and Alwyn Davey.


For its wealth of pure depth and class across the board, we have Gippsland getting up in this clash. The midfield battle would be interesting, but the Power simply boasts greater firepower up either end of the ground and on the bench.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
South Adelaide
Gippsland Power

Draft Central All-Star Team: South Adelaide

SOUTH Adelaide Panthers have some serious top-end talent at their disposal in the Panthers’ All-Star Team of the AFL Draft era. With a strong midfield and multiple ruck options, the Panthers would win plenty of clearances and give their forwards first opportunity to score.


The South Adelaide side is riddled with a number of former-Crows, headlined by dual premiership winning midfielders Mark Bickley and Simon Goodwin – both of whom captained Adelaide. The Panthers have also produced two top tier ruckmen in Luke Darcy and Brendon Lade. Whilst they have not quite produced the same amount of talent in recent years, Caleb Daniel appears destined to have a long career in the AFL.


The South Adelaide backline features a strong tri-coloured flair, with four of the starting six having played for the Adelaide Crows. Dual premiership-winning utility Nigel Smart is named at centre-half-back for his ability to play on both small and tall opponents. Also a weapon up forward, ‘Smarty’ kicked 116 goals in 278 games at AFL level and was a three-time All-Australian. Smart’s premiership teammate Clay Sampson earns a spot on the back-flank. He played 64 AFL games and, like Smart, was also used up forward at times, kicking a total of 36 majors.

Skilful and extremely smart with high endurance, current-Bulldog Daniel is perhaps South Adelaide’s most successful product of recent years. An integral component of the Dogs’ successful 2016 campaign despite his small stature, Daniel has played 95 games since debuting in 2015. Durable and reliable former Crows defender Michael Doughty was an obvious selection in the back pocket, after playing AFL 231 matches. Jason Torney‘s 118 games with Richmond and 77 with Adelaide earned him a spot at full back, with Angus Brockhurst named beside him.


The Panthers onball brigade is headlined by a trio of South Australian footballing champions. A brilliant tap-ruckman and excellent tall forward, Lade kicked 182 goals in 234 games with the Power. A premiership player in 2004 and two-time All-Australian, the Kangaroo Island product is one of South Adelaide’s finest. AFL Hall of Famer and current Demons coach Goodwin played 275 games in a decorated career with the Crows. Amongst a multitude of personal accolades, ‘Goody’ was a dual-premiership player, a five-time All-Australian, three-time best and fairest winner and captain of the club from 2008 until his retirement in 2010.

Alongside Goodwin in the starting first ruck is Goodwin’s former-captain Bickley. Skipper of the club in their back-to-back premierships, Bickley was a skilful midfielder who managed 272 games in the AFL and was regarded as an exceptional team-man during his 13 year career. Goalkicking midfielder Darren Kappler earns a spot on the wing for his 187 AFL games with Hawthorn and Sydney. Another wingman with goal-kicking abilities, Matthew Rogers is also included in the Panthers ‘best 24 of the AFL era’, whilst former-Bulldog and Giant running machine Ryan Griffen is deserved of his selection as the starting centre-man.


Bulldogs great Darcy is the anchor of the Panthers forward-line. Although regarded as an excellent ruckman, Darcy has been pushed into the forward-line with the selection of Brendan Lade. However Darcy would provide an excellent target in attack, after he kicked 183 goals in 226 games with the Dogs. Darcy is paired up in the forward-line with Chris Groom, who was infamously involved in the trade which saw Andrew McLeod head to the Crows.

Although better-known for his comedy, third-tall Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald managed 23 goals in just 18 AFL games with Adelaide and Sydney. Providing speed and a tough of magic is former Bomber Alwyn Davey, who is selected after playing 100 matches and kicking 120 goals during his time at Windy Hill. Yet another Crows premiership player, Kym Koster earns a spot on the forward-flank. First drafted by Footscray, Koster returned to his native South Australia to play a role in the Crows back-to-back flags. A Crow before heading to Hawthorn, Randall Bone further adds to the Panthers tall timber in attack.


Despite their star power in the midfield, South Adelaide lacks a bit of depth on the bench. Journeyman ruckman Keegan Brooksby has certainly moved around since being drafted in 2015, playing 14 matches with Gold Coast before a one year stint at West Coast. He is currently listed with Hawthorn. Fellow tall Stephen Doyle and strong-built small defender Matthew Powell also gained selection, along with dreadlocked midfielder Mark West, who was yet another South Adelaide product to head to the Whitten Oval.

A two-time SANFL leading goalkicker with the Panthers, Brett Eddy earned an AFL call-up from the Power, where he played three games. Rounding out this side is current Demon midfielder Tom Sparrow, who has shown glimpses of his explosiveness and ball-winning talent in a couple of AFL games to-date.

2014 Draft Profile: Caleb Daniel


Caleb Daniel (South Adelaide)

Height: 168 cm
Weight: 68 kg
Position: Midfielder/forward
Strengths: Pace, agility, endurance, core strength, disposal, inside ability
Areas of improvement: Nothing within his control
Player comparison: Dayne Zorko (more skilled version)

Caleb Daniel is a special player. On ability he’s the best player in the draft crop, no player possesses close to the same natural talent. However, Daniel is one of the smallest players to play the game. It’s about the one thing that can make even the best drop down the draft boards. If drafted, Daniel will be the smallest player in the AFL.

In 2013 as an underaged player he averaged 17 disposals across 10 games. An ankle injury prevented him from playing early this year but he made his way back for the second half of the championships. Despite having no match practice and very little conditioning, Daniel managed to average 20 disposals at 90 per cent efficiency, four marks, four inside 50s, five tackles, two clearances and two goals in his three games. Particularly impressive was a 27-disposal, three-goal game in round five and a 21 disposal, three-goal and 217 champion data ranking point game in round six. In three SANFL games since the championships he’s averaged 16 disposals a game at 84 per cent efficiency.

Athletically Daniel excels. Last year he ran a 15.7 beep test, this year he reportedly ran a 16.1. There’s every chance he’ll break Billy Hartung’s record of 16.6 at the combine this year and at worst he’ll be in the all time top three. He also ran a 2.99 second 20-metre sprint last year and a 10.09 minute three-kilometre time trial, both likely to have improved throughout this year. Daniel is a very good chance of ranking in the top 10 for the 20-metre sprint, three-kilometre time trial, beep test, agility run and repeat sprints at the combine. It’s rare that a player is elite in both sprint speed and endurance, but Daniel is.

Daniel isn’t just an athlete though, he’s a footballer too. Below the knees his hands are excellent and he doesn’t ever fumble with his pickups always clean. When receiving a handball irrelevant of how poor the handball is, whether it’s behind him, on the ground or too far in front of him he collects it cleanly without breaking stride. By hand and foot he is excellent. Not only is he technically a good kick but his vision and decision making are elite. No matter the pressure he’s under, Daniel is able to effectively execute high degree of difficulty kicks with ease.

He spots targets in space others aren’t able to and whether it be across his body or on the outside of his foot, he’s able to execute the kick to perfection. By hand he’s able to hit targets to advantage and release runners with ease. While Daniel is an excellent user of the ball in space, under pressure he’s even better being able to always find targets even in heavy traffic. Daniel’s ability to evade the tackle is excellent and on the rare occasion he is tackled he’s able to get his hands free and fire off an effective handball. While Daniel’s disposal efficiency at both SANFL and under 18 level is excellent, not only are his disposals effective but they’re damaging; they’re not just cheap handballs out the back or long bombs to contests, nearly every time Daniel gets the ball you can be sure his disposal is going to lead to the team being closer to a goal.

Daniel has the ability to turn hard ball gets into uncontested possessions with ease, while also regularly winning 50/50 contests leading to an inside 50 mark. He breaks games. While in the championships Daniel played more of a forward flank/outside midfielder role, at SANFL level he’s played more of an inside role at times. He truly is a balanced midfielder and a volume accumulator. If he’s around the play he finds a way to win the ball whether it be gut running to provide an outside link up option or burrowing in hard and winning the contested ball.

Defensively Daniel works hard. With his pace and agility he’s able to corral and apply pressure with real intensity. He keeps track of his man and runs both ways. He’s always looking to tackle when not in possession and despite his small stature, at under 18 and SANFL level he’s been able to tackle with some real force and efficacy. At his size his tackling proficiency is no guarantee to translate to AFL level, but at worst with his work rate he’ll still be able to apply pressure. There isn’t much wrong with Daniel’s game.

In the championships he managed six goals from three games however of those three were handball receives into on the run shots from outside 50 and one was from an uncontested mark 45 metres out that he’d never have been allowed to get at AFL level. Before the championships he hadn’t shown much to indicate he had a forward game and while his performances in the championships were a real step forward, two games of three goals is a small sample to be making judgments on his ability in the forward 50. The other knock on his game is that when kicking long he is prone to swinging out onto his right foot and kicking across his body instead of through the ball, something that is easily fixed.

The knock on Daniel is his height. And it’s a big one – players of his height are traditionally looked over. While there aren’t any players of Daniel’s size in the AFL right now, that’s not to say there’s not a place for one – he is simply better than all the sub 170 players that have been rejected in the past. While at AFL level he won’t be afforded the same freedom he is at lower levels, with his skills, athleticism and football smarts there will always be a place for him regardless of size.

Jake Neade was given a chance at 170 centimetres and Daniel, being only two centimetres smaller, would be able to perform and impact like Neade did at the absolute worst. Dayne Zorko too is a small half forward/midfielder who found a place in the league through hard work and size hasn’t held him back. With Caleb Daniel’s work ethic and character there’s no reason why he can’t defy the odds and make the grade.

Caleb Daniel, a young man with a big future


The final two games of the recent under-18 championships saw a young man in the number one guernsey for South Australia impress a lot of good judges, attracting an impressive amount of the football for the carnival-winning Croweaters.

Caleb Daniel certainly garnered a lot of attention with both his lack of size and helmeted head, but importantly he accumulated 48 disposals across the two shortened games against Vic Country and Vic Metro, and his disposal efficiency of 92% was remarkable for the amount of ball he attracted. Further to this, Daniel booted six goals and laid 11 tackles and was one of the most influential figures in the South Australian victory in the championships.

On these numbers alone, one would imagine that Daniel would be an absolute monty to be drafted come November, but there is one key flaw in Daniel’s make-up he has no control over which may dismay recruiters. Of course, anyone that has seen Daniel up close will notice his lack of height and at just 167 cm, the 18-year-old seemingly has a natural disadvantage that could well prevent him being picked up in the national draft.

However, should his lack of size be the be all and end all for Daniel’s prospects of an AFL career?

Most AFL fans will recall Tony Liberatore digging in and under packs in 283 games for the Bulldogs, and at 163 cm, he remains the shortest ever player to take out the Brownlow Medal, as well as being named in the Western Bulldogs’ team of the century. Liberatore’s example shows that it isn’t impossible for the smaller players to be successful at league level, just that perseverance and luck will play a big role.

To Daniel’s advantage is the fact that he has already cracked the senior side at South Adelaide and in his three games this year, he has handled himself quite well, averaging 16 disposals per game at 73% efficiency, averages 1.7 tackles and has kicked two goals.

Current South Adelaide coach Brad Gotch has praised Daniel’s efforts under his tutelage. “He’s got unbelievable endurance, speed, he’s got elite agility, decision-making and foot skills,” Gotch said. “At the start of the year I thought it might be a bit difficult for him [to be drafted] but now I think he might be an exception to the rule.”

Clearly, as his disposal tallies in the Under-18 championships have shown, Daniel has the ability to win the football, and more importantly uses it extremely well. On exposed form, he appears to have the talent and potential to take his game to an AFL level, and while he is unlikely to be a first or second round selection, it would surprise if he isn’t picked up at all at this stage.

Furthermore, with the remainder of the season still to be played at South Adelaide, Daniel still has plenty of time to impress potential recruiters, and earn himself a place in the AFL.

For those footy fans that like an underdog story, for Caleb Daniel to make it to the big time should instantly make him a cult figure at any club he joins. He has the ability, all he needs is a club to take the chance on the little man from South Australia.

Under 18 National Championships player rankings


The championships are over for another year and we witnessed another great series of matches, with some fantastic talent showing what they could do on the big stage. To analyse who the best performers were over the course of the carnival, I have applied my power rankings formula to every player after every game to come up with the top 50 players from the carnival. Players are rewarded for being clean with the ball, and gain points for specific attributes related to their position. For example, contested marks and goals are high point earners for a forward while clearances, tackles and inside 50s gain good point scores for midfielders.

Division one and division two were separated because division two played just three games: their scores were elevated because of a smaller sample size.

Here are the top 50 players from division one:

1. Caleb Daniel (South Australia) – 126.0
2. Christian Petracca (Vic Metro) – 124.0
3. Connor Blakely (Western Australia) – 111.3
4. Damien Cavka (Vic Metro) – 107.8
5. Angus Brayshaw (Vic Metro) – 105.8
6. Jake Johansen (South Australia) – 103.1
7. Ryan Burton (South Australia) – 100.0*
8. Dean Gore (South Australia) – 96.6
9. Peter Wright (Vic Metro) – 95.6
10. Jack Lonie (Vic Country) – 93.5
11. Touk Miller (Vic Metro) – 92.5
12. Rhys Mathieson (Vic Country) – 92.2*
13. Paul Ahern (Vic Metro) – 91.0
14. Ed Langdon (Vic Metro) – 90.0
15. Sam Switkowski (Vic Metro) – 89.8
16. Josh Hone (South Australia) – 89.6
17. Jared Hardisty (Western Australia) – 89.5
18. Brayden Maynard (Vic Metro) – 89.0
19. Alex Neal-Bullen (South Australia) – 88.5
20. Corey Gregson (South Australia) – 88.2
21. Joe Maishman (Vic Country) – 87.8
22. Jayden Laverde (Vic Metro) – 87.6
23. Lukas Webb (Vic Country) – 86.4
24. Alec Waterman (Western Australia) – 86.4
25. Billy Stretch (South Australia) – 85.3
26. Josh Dunkley (Vic Country) – 83.0*
27. Harrison Wigg (South Australia) – 84.0
28. Nick O’Kearney (Vic Metro) – 84.0*
29. Tyler Keitel (Western Australia) – 83.7
30. Nick Dixon (Vic Country) – 83.0
31. Jacob Dragovich (Western Australia) – 81.5
32. Dan Howe (Vic Country) – 81.0
33. Nathan Drummond (Vic Country) – 81.0
34. Darcy Tucker (Vic Country) – 80.6*
35. Declan Hamilton (South Australia) – 80.3
36. Marc Pittonet (Vic Metro) – 80.0
37. Kade Stewart (Western Australia) – 79.5*
38. Tom Wilkinson (Vic Metro) – 79.5
39. Liam Duggan (Vic Metro) – 79.4
40. Caleb Marchbank (Vic Country) – 79.0
41. Corey Ellis (Vic Metro) – 78.6
42. Jarrod Pickett (Western Australia) – 78.5
43. Daniel Capiron  (Vic Country) – 78.3
44. Aaron Wilson (Vic Country) – 78.3
45. Darcy Parish (Vic Country) – 76.8
46. Daniel Butler (Vic Country) – 76.6
47. Patrick McCartin (Vic Country) – 76
48. Aidan Anderson (Western Australia) – 75.4
49. Tom Cole (Vic Country) – 75.0*
50. Billy Evans (Vic Country) – 74.3

The tiny South Australian, Caleb Daniel, shot to the top of the rankings after two super games against Vic Country and Vic Metro to finish off the series. Larke Medallist, Christian Petracca, finished second after a very consistent carnival while agile Western Australian midfielder, Connor Blakely, finished third.

The talls were quite inconsistent, and there were a number of matches played in poor conditions which were not suited to tall players which led to some lower numbers for them. Number one pick chance, Peter Wright, was the best performed tall finishing ninth, with the next best tall being Western Australian swingman Tyler Keitel.

A number of underage prospects featured in the list (marked with an asterisk), with South Australian Ryan Burton the best of the crop. Burton, a marking third tall forward, averaged 100 points per game before glandular fever ended his carnival prematurely. Victorian midfielders Rhys Mathieson, Josh Dunkley and Nick O’Kearney all featured in the top 30.

A number of highly rated prospects fell short of the top 50, including Clem Smith (56th), Jordan De Goey (62nd), Ed Vickers-Willis (73rd), Darcy Moore (75th), High Goddard (85th) and Tom Lamb (92nd).

The top ten players in division two were:

1. Matt Keays (Queensland) – 137.0*
2. Isaac Heeney (NSW/ACT) – 121.3
3. Abraham Ankers (Northern Territory) – 116.3
4. Tim Jones (Tasmania) – 115.6
5. Callum Mills (NSW/ACT) – 111.6*
6. Jack Steele (NSW/ACT) – 110.0
7. Errin Wasley-Black (Northern Territory) – 106.6
8. Kieran McGuinness (Tasmania) – 102.0
9. Lachie Weller (Queensland) – 99.0
10. Darcy Cameron-Reeves (Queensland) – 98.0

The division two prospects were headlined by underage Queensland forward Ben Keays, who earned All-Australian selection and averaged 137 points per game. Highly rated Sydney academy member Isaac Heeney was second while Northern Territory’s Abraham Ankers finished third.