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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.

Draft Central Power Rankings: September 2021

IT has been a long wait, but the Draft Central Power Rankings are back for another edition. The September update sees our list of top prospects stretched to 30 after a last-gasp National Championships fixture and some handy showings from rising stars amid the on-again, off-again nature of season 2021. While changes are scarce at the top-end, there are six fresh faces among the overall intake and a couple of notable risers who continue to garner attention.

Note, the list is ordered purely on our opinion of each players’ current ability and potential, not taking into account the bidding system, or AFL clubs’ lists and needs.

>> 2021 AFL Draft Combine List: 90 prospects earn invites

#1 Nick Daicos (COL F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 183cm | 72kg

August Ranking: #1

Snapshot: Daicos has an unrivalled understanding of the game; able to bring his teammates into it and anticipate where his next possession will come from, leading to utter domination.

The Collingwood father-son prospect (son of Peter) has more than justified all the hype leading into 2021, solidifying his status as a bonafide number one contender. Daicos made his long-awaited NAB League debut in Round 1 and has gone on to dominate the competition, putting up ridiculous numbers through the engine room as the skipper of a talented Oakleigh Chargers group. Much like his brother, Josh, Daicos was only due to enter the Chargers’ program last year but was made to wait for his unveiling in Oakleigh colours. It was well worth it, though keen watchers already knew of his supreme ability having seen him hold his own in a Carey Grammar side featuring Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson. The Magpies are in for a rare talent.

Last month:

In what was a quiet month for Victoria’s metropolitan prospects, Daicos still managed to dominate headlines. The father-son candidate officially nominated Collingwood as his destination of choice, committing two years on top of his original starting contract as he waits to join the senior squad in November. He looks a lock to be bid on with one of the first two picks.

>> Q&A
>> Head-to-Head: Daicos vs. Sonsie
>> NAB League POTW: Round 3
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

Nick Daicos on the ball for Oakleigh Chargers

#2 Jason Horne-Francis
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder
21/06/2003 | 184cm | 78kg

August Ranking: #2

Snapshot: A midfielder with next to no weaknesses whose power bodes well for tough ball winning and impressive aerial marking, as well as damaging scoreboard impact.

Heralded as the clear number one choice coming into 2021, Horne-Francis retained his crown for our first two rankings updates. The South Adelaide talent impressed in his debut SANFL League outings as a bottom-ager, and has since transitioned into a more prominent midfield role with guidance from former Carlton and Adelaide champion, Bryce Gibbs. He has long been a standout among the South Australian crop, participating in back-to-back Under 16 carnivals and being crowned his state’s MVP in 2019 as captain. Only 18 in June, Horne-Francis boasts a well-balanced game with plenty of damaging strengths and very few weaknesses, with his exposure at senior level another factor which sees him well in contention for number one status.

Last month:

We got to see some of Horne-Francis’ blinding best during August, as two of his four SANFL League appearances yielded high level returns. He kicked off the month with 22 disposals and three goals against Central District, before bookending it with 24 disposals, five clearances, seven tackles, nine inside 50s and a goal against West Adelaide. In between those outings, he also skippered South Australia’s Under 19 squad. While down on his usual lofty standards, Horne-Francis spent plenty of time forward and made his presence felt – particularly during a productive final quarter.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

Jason Horne-Francis captaining South Australia | Credit: SANFL

#3 Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

August Ranking: #3

Snapshot: Callaghan is a classy mover with great agility for his size, and has shown a high level of development to prove his balance of outside and inside traits.

One who seems destined to crack the top five picks come year’s end, Callaghan has enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back has recently transitioned to an inside role, but continues to prove difficult to stop at full flight with his blend of straight-line power and swift agility. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his clean kicking, and seems to manufacture time on the ball in the clinches.

Last month:

While there ended up being no football for Victoria’s metropolitan regions, Callaghan was arguably set for a pretty steady August in any case. The smooth mover was due to return from a foot injury which kept him from representative honours in July, but can now rest up ahead of the combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

Finn Callaghan in Vic Metro colours

#4 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Utility
19/08/2003 | 204cm | 75kg

August Ranking: #4

Snapshot: Darcy is a fast-developing tall talent who can play in each key position post, is athletic, and marks the ball cleanly.

They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top three candidate on potential and the clear best tall in the draft, with his versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy initially impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck at NAB League level, but went on to consolidate his top-end credentials with outstanding performances up forward. Bulldogs fans, you have another key position jet on the radar.

Last month:

Another Vic Metro prospect who did not get on the park in August due to a lack of NAB League and APS football, Darcy remains in top three contention and like Daicos, will inevitably attract a very early bid.

Sam Darcy is the leading tall in this year’s crop

#5 Ben Hobbs
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
16/09/2003 | 183cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #5

Snapshot: Hobbs is a hard-nosed, hard-working inside midfielder who loves to compete both defensively and in a ball winning sense.

The GWV Rebels ball winner had an interrupted start to his 2021 campaign due to injury, but has well and truly proved his top 10 credentials since getting back on the park. He featured at NAB League level as a 16-year-old in 2019 after earning All Australian honours for Vic Country, slowly getting accustomed to the rigours of midfield work in the elite talent pathway. His best traits are shown at the contest, with a hard edge and competitive streak seeing him win plenty of the ball on the inside. The nuggety soon-to-be 18-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and has taken full toll with dominant numbers upon his return to action.

Last month:

Victoria’s Country regions briefly got back on the park in August, and Hobbs managed to sneak in a couple of outstanding performances for his GWV Rebels. Consistent as ever, he racked up 34 and 32 disposals across the two games while also finding the goals in each. Hobbs’ hard edge, ball winning ability, and reliability continue to be his key strengths, despite both of his August outings resulting in losses.

>> NAB League POTW: Round 9

Ben Hobbs kicks Vic Country forward

#6 Josh Gibcus
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Tall Defender 
4/04/2003 | 195cm | 84kg

August Ranking: #7

Snapshot: An intercept marking defender who reads the play well and has a sizeable leap, Gibcus’ eye-catching form has propelled him into top 10 calculations.

Once again, Gibcus is the second tall prospect on our list and has earned his spot with superb form this year. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) defender is an intercept type who uses his strengths to advantage; reading the play beautifully and timing his movements to float onto the scene, before rising with his springy vertical leap to take series of marks and force turnovers. While he is working on his ground level game, Gibcus is so clean in the air and usually a sound distributor across the last line, showing great composure on the ball. He was one of the many AFL Academy call-ups and truly held his own in that fixture, as he continues to improve at a great rate.

Last month:

Like Hobbs, Gibcus got on the park for a couple more appearances in GWV colours. He was also consistent in his output, managing 12 and 13 disposals in the respective losses, while also rising for three marks in both games. The tall talent may be quiet at times, but has terrific upside and some eye-catching strengths across the backline.

#7 Mac Andrew (MEL NGA)
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Ruck/Tall Utility
12/04/2003 | 200cm | 70kg

August Ranking: #6

Snapshot: A raw tall prospect who has proven his worth in each key position post, Andrew’s vertical leap and fast-developing craft really catch the eye.

Another key position talent who rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew is well and truly out of reach for Melbourne as a Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate by now. He currently sits inside the top 20 group quite unanimously, boasting raw athleticism and bucketloads of upside given his ever improving ability to be utilised at either end of the ground, or in the ruck. While he has proven his versatility, the Demons NGA talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap and clean follow-up work stands out.

Last month:

While considered a Country region, much of Dandenong’s list lies within the Metro ring and thus, the Stingrays’ last game came on August 1. Andrew was afield for the loss to Eastern Ranges, notching 17 disposals, four marks and 16 hitouts. He looked quite raw and struggled for footing at times, but popped up with a couple of typically impressive overhead marks as he rotated forward from the ruck.

>> ‘Rays on the rise

#8 Josh Ward
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Midfielder
15/08/2003 | 181cm | 79kg

August Ranking: #8

Snapshot: A classy midfielder who is consistently capable of winning mountains of possessions, Ward proves a centre bounce mainstay with his clean skills and work rate.

Having started the year on the precipice, Ward has broken into and consolidated his spot well among the 2021 crop’s first round bracket. The Northern Knights midfielder is one who works hard both ways and gets stuck in at the contest, able to win his own ball and distribute with clean skills to the outer. He is also beginning to showcase his own traits on the outside and can impact while resting forward, but holds clear value as a reliable ball winner at the stoppages. A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Ward won the same honours this year as a rising draft eligible Under 19 talent.

Last month:

Like many of his Metro-based counterparts, Ward did not see any action over the last month due to a lack of APS and NAB League competition.

Josh Ward captained Vic Metro this year

#9 Neil Erasmus
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder
2/12/2003 | 188cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #9

Snapshot: Initially an exciting forward who has since transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching traits both aerially and at ground level.

Arguably Western Australia’s leading prospect, Erasmus has built on the promise he showed in last year’s WAFL Colts grand final which saw him come into 2021 as a first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 decider, showcasing clean hands up forward after putting in a terrific PSA Football campaign. While he was played off half-forward and the wing as an AFL Academy call-up, Erasmus has proven himself to be quite the consistent ball winner through midfield this year, bringing some spark to the engine room. He has a great vertical leap and can impact both aerially and at ground level, with scoreboard impact remaining in his back pocket.

Last month:

Western Australia’s vice-captain returned emphatically via the state side at the end of July during trials, but did not get to take the field in last week’s National Championships bout. The Hale School skipper sustained a corked thigh in his August 14 PSA outing and played the next week despite it, but saw said injury flare up just before he was set for representative duties. Erasmus was brave in his school outings as he endured the knock, impacting as one of his side’s best players with more time up forward. He has not played in any WAFL grade since May, and may well have played his last game for the year – pending another state Under 19s clash.

>> WA U19s Player Focus: Neil Erasmus

#10 Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Midfielder
27/01/2003 | 181cm | 76kg

August Ranking: #10

Snapshot: A smooth-moving midfielder with terrific poise and class, Sonsie opens up the play with his clean disposal and ability to find the goals.

One of the most highly-touted Victorian prospects before a ball had been bounced in 2021, Sonsie’s absolute best is exceptionally good. The Eastern Ranges prospect was Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP in 2019 and is one of the few 2003-born NAB Leaguers to have already experienced the Under 19 competition. He was part of his region’s 2019 minor premiership-winning side, rolling forward off a wing. Now a draft eligible talent, Sonsie has moved more permanently into midfield and while he is developing his defensive running, has plenty of attacking traits to offer. His ability to exit stoppages with poise and make good decisions with ball in hand is top notch, with that exceptional skill level also translating to dual-sided finishing in front of goal.

Last month:

Sonsie has been on the sidelines since late-June due to injury, sustaining bone bruising in the second half of Eastern’s Round 9 loss to Sandringham. He was thus ruled out of Vic Metro duties in July, and did not manage to get on the park last month with metropolitan NAB League regions out of action.

>> VFL Player Focus
>> Head-to-Head: Sonsie vs. Daicos
>> NAB League POTW: Round 1

#11 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Defender/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

August Ranking: #11

Snapshot: A line-breaking half-back who has shown promising development in midfield, Sinn’s greatest strengths are his speed and kick penetration.

Another established leader among the Victorian crop as one of Sandringham’s co-captains, Sinn’s best is as damaging as anyone in the overall draft pool. He is regarded as the most damaging technical kick in the Dragons’ program and is given the license to look for options others simply wouldn’t. His penetrative boot and line-breaking speed make him a meters gained machine, observed most significantly with his well-timed runs off half-back or on the wing. Sinn has also moved onto the inside to good effect, showing a handy balance of traits and utilising the size he added during last year’s lost season. His campaign has been interrupted by injury, but he looked close to regaining top form at times.

Last month:

Injured during the final term of July’s Victorian Challenge Match, Sinn was set to make his return in the back-end of the NAB League season. With that now scrapped for Metro regions, he can look forward to turning out at the Draft Combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

Josh Sinn carries the ball forward for Sandringham Dragons

#12 Josh Rachele
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
11/04/2003 | 180cm | 78kg

August Ranking: #13

Snapshot: A mercurial forward who has drawn comparisons to GWS star Toby Greene, Rachele has unbelievable smarts, skills, and a keen eye for goal.

Rachele is rightly a standout among his draft class, having taken out the Under 16 Division 1 MVP award for Vic Country in 2019. He quickly went on to represent the Murray Bushrangers, averaging a tick under 18 disposals and two goals in four games as a 16-year-old. The exciting forward hails from an elite soccer background and has quick feet to show for it, as well as the smiling celebrations you’d expect on the end of well-finished goals. Rachele is lauded for his skills and smarts in the forward half, but has shown an aptitude for midfield work with his turn of speed and ability to find the ball at ground level. He’s capable of highlight-reel moments.

Last month:

The Murray Bushrangers only played once, at the very start of August but had the bye during the competition’s mid-month return. Rachele did not turn out in the aforementioned fixture, and his three-goal APS dig with Caulfield Grammar on July 31 was his last outing.

#13 Arlo Draper
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
20/01/2003 | 185cm | 71kg

August Ranking: #14

Snapshot: Draper is a classy midfielder-forward who utilises his agility in tight spaces through the engine room, and brilliant marking ability to impact when stationed inside attacking 50.

One of the more intriguing and versatile prospects in the draft pool, Draper has garnered attention with his promising bottom-age form and continued success in all three SANFL grades this year. The smooth-moving midfielder has had no trouble getting his hands on the ball with more consistent time in midfield, before impacting in his resting stints up forward. He is yet another South Adelaide prospect in the mix, with his stylish form and clean hands making him easy on the eye to keen draft watchers. He is one who will feature highly on many draft boards despite being snubbed by the AFL Academy, and has great upside in his current role.

Last month:

Draper returned from injury through the Reserves last month, with his 14 disposals and four clearances enough to earn a League debut the following week. He looked classy in possession while averaging 11 disposals and five marks in his two top flight appearances, before turning out for South Australia in the Under 19 championships fixture. The first round talent was a touch down on his usual output but did some nice things rotating through midfield from the forwardline. He then dropped back down to Under 18s level, producing 24 disposals, five marks and six clearances in a finals loss to West Adelaide.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus
>> Feature

#14 Jye Amiss
East Perth/Western Australia | Tall Forward
31/07/2003 | 195cm | 85kg 

August Ranking: #19

Snapshot:

You’ll hear plenty of puns regarding the key forward’s ironic surname but it’s true that Amiss is more hit than, well, miss. The East Perth spearhead has dominated the 2021 WAFL Colts season thus far, booting 51 goals in 13 games with a ridiculously good conversion rate of 78 per cent from his scoring shots. He proved undeniable for selection in a West Australian state squad stacked with key position talent, and doesn’t need a wealth of opportunities to make an impact. With sound overhead marking and an improving ground level game, Amiss is an irresistible threat inside attacking 50. He bolted into our rankings with a debut inside the top 20, and makes another move having excelled on the big stage.

Last month:

Amiss has skyrocketed into top 15 contention over the last two months, with his latest patch of form only consolidating said status. He started out with 18 disposals, 11 marks and six goals against the bottom WAFL Colts side after starring in state trials, before snaring two goals on each side of his National Championships outing. As WA’s spearhead, Amiss snared two goals and passed off some gettable opportunities in a terrific display where he constantly found separation on the lead, marked cleanly overhead, and kicked a highlight reel goal.

#15 Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 81kg

August Ranking: #12

Snapshot: Roberts is a hard-working and consistent midfielder with senior experience who racks up plenty of the ball, but can also rotate forward.

Another member of South Adelaide’s football factory, Roberts’ form over the last few seasons has seen him prove difficult to deny of first round contention. Like Horne, he represented South Australia at back-to-back Under 16 carnivals, playing a key role as he split his time between midfield and the forwardline. The 18-year-old broke through for his League debut in 2021, skipping the Reserves grade after a scintillating start in the Under 18s competition. As one of the hardest and smartest runners in the draft crop, looks towards fellow left-footer Marcus Bontempelli as a model for his own game. His ability to hit the scoreboard matches said archetype, though Roberts also has a hard edge and competitiveness which sets him apart.

Last month:

Like South Adelaide teammate Draper, Roberts returned from injury through the Reserves where his 18 disposals and five marks were enough to yield a League call-up. He had not trouble finding the ball with 20 disposals and seven inside 50s in his game back in the top flight, before kicking two goals from 13 touches on the other side of his National Championships appearance. Roberts found indifferent form in said fixture, putting in a shift during term two to keep SA in the contest, but proving a touch scrappy with his disposal at times. He found plenty, nonetheless and continues to put up strong numbers.

>> Q&A
>> Feature
>> SANFL League Player Focus

Matthew Roberts gets a kick away | Credit: Nick Hook Photography

#16 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Outside Midfielder/Defender
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

August Ranking: #16

Snapshot: A speedy and productive mover on the outside, Chesser breaks the lines from half-back or the wing but has also shown a good balance in his ball winning.

A third Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 20, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser had only just cracked Sandringham’s stacked midfield in a bid to showcase his balance, having lacked continuity while battling a knee injury earlier in his campaign.

Last month:

Another who was primed to impress in the back-end of the year, Chesser did not get the chance to prove his worth given the lack of APS and metropolitan NAB League football. He already missed a chunk of time earlier in the year having undergone knee surgery, but will be preparing for the Draft Combine.

#17 Josh Goater
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Midfielder/Defender
2/06/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

August Ranking: #17

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with explosive athletic traits and clean hands on the inside, Goater is a prospect with great potential and versatility.

Goater lays claim to one of the more impressive athletic profiles in the draft pool, particularly in a power sense. His explosive turn of speed and impressive vertical leap are traits which catch the eye at testing events and are transferred on-field, with the Calder Cannons product able to produce exciting passages of play. He has proven his worth in midfield with good ball winning strength and clean hands on the inside, but can also roll out to a wing, pinch-hit up forward, and has proven his class off half-back. He is another who stakes his claim on high upside.

Last month:

Goater technically made an appearance in August, albeit on the first day as his Calder Cannons beat the Murray Bushrangers. The talented utility continued to showcase his versatility, starring in defence with 28 disposals, 11 marks and eight rebound 50s before Metro regions again went into lockdown. His intercept marking ability and clean kicking skills proved weaponous.

#18 Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera
Glenelg/South Australia | Wing
22/02/2003 | 188cm | 70kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A smooth-moving wingman with plenty of tricks, Wanganeen-Milera can carve up the opposition with his combination of agility and elite decision making by foot.

Wanganeen-Milera comes from good pedigree as the nephew of Gavin Wanganeen and son of Terry Milera, but is blazing his own trail en route to first round contention. Class is the word which often comes up when describing the flying Glenelg wingman, as he dances around opposition players and delivers pin-point passes by foot. The 18-year-old started out in the Bays’ Reserves team this year but has since made an impact at League level, and was a late call-up to the AFL Academy squad in April. He has proven one of the most exciting draft prospects to watch over the last two months, performing well against high levels of competition and holding his own. The scary thing is, he still has plenty of room to grow and improve.

Last month:

While he made his SANFL League debut in July, Wanganeen-Milera made arguably his biggest impact in August. He kicked a clutch goal in Glenelg’s dramatic win over Norwood, and booted another major from 13 disposals the next week before slotting into South Australia’s Under 19 state squad. He was a standout at that level, tearing up the wing and oozing class with each disposal to thrust his name into top 15 calculations. His last outing was back in the League grade, managing nine touches as Glenelg lost its first game for the season on the eve of finals.

>> SANFL Player Focus

#19 Matthew Johnson
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder
16/03/2003 | 193cm | 80kg

August Ranking: #15

Snapshot: With smooth agility and clean hands at the contest, Johnson is one of the premier tall midfielders in this year’s draft crop and has plenty of upside.

Hailed as the best tall midfielder in this year’s crop coming into the season, Johnson is one with a point of difference and a good amount of development left. The 193cm Subiaco prospect continues to put on size and can win the ball at the coalface, but stands out most with his smooth movement in traffic and clean skills around the ground. He suits an in-vogue modern day prototype and will inevitably yield comparisons to some of the currently dominant midfielders over 190cm. Johnson is already well versed in terms of representative duties and was part of Subiaco’s WAFL Colts premiership side in 2020. He also earned a senior debut this year and would have done so earlier if not for injury on the eve of season proper.

Last month:

Johnson turned out for back-to-back games in the WAFL Reserves grade to start the month, returning mixed results. While he was quiet with seven touches in his first dig, the tall midfielder backed it up with 22 disposals and 10 marks to showcase the range between his best and worst form. He had previously proven all class against his peers though, and that was no different as he represented WA in last week’s National Championships showcase. Running through midfield, Johnson’s kicking was outstanding and he proved a top level type with ball-in-hand.

#20 Darcy Wilmot
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Small Defender
31/12/2003 | 182cm | 70kg

August Ranking: #18

Snapshot: Wilmot is a tenacious and brave half-back whose most flashy weapons show on the attack, as he breaks the lines with great speed and ball use.

Wilmot has thrust his name into contention with increasingly impressive performances for the Northern Knights in 2021, as well as an impressive senior debut at local football level. The small-medium defender has all the typical class and running prowess you would expect on the rebound, but is also willing to compete above his size in aerial contests. The 17-year-old still has plenty of development left as a December 31 birth, meaning he only just makes the cut to be eligible for this year’s draft. His run-and-gun style is sure to catch many more eyes as the season continues, with Wilmot a prospect truly on the rise.

Last month:

Like many of his Metro-based Victorian counterparts, Wilmot’s last game came on August 1. The speedy half-back was one of Northern’s best in a home loss to Bendigo, contributing 16 disposals, four rebound 50s, and plenty of run out of the back half. A vocal kind of leader, he also read the play well and got behind his teammates with great voice. There have, unfortunately, been no opportunities since.

Darcy Wilmot on the fly for Northern Knights

#21 Jack Williams
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Ruck
1/12/2003 | 195cm | 91kg

August Ranking: #20

Snapshot: Williams is a versatile tall prospect who thrives aerially and consistently kicks goals up forward, while also rotating through the ruck or even to defence.

One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams has been in sensational form at WAFL Colts level. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 35 goals in 12 WAFL Colts games to this point and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung forward this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

Williams continues to prove an ominous type at WAFL Colts level, consistently kicking multiple goals and dominating in the air. He booted eight goals from a combined 29 disposals and 13 marks in his two games in the lead up to state Under 19 representation, before returning with another three majors from 17 touches and nine marks last week. In his National Championships outing, Williams showed promising signs up forward and found the big sticks, but could have ended up with more had he converted and stuck even more overhead marks inside 50.

#22 Sam Butler
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
10/02/2003 | 184cm | 73kg

August Ranking: #24

Snapshot: Butler has wonderfully clean hands and burning pace, traits which have translated well from an initial forward role, to a more recent midfield venture.

Another prospect with ties at the elite level, Butler is the brother of St Kilda forward, Dan. He is an exciting player in his own right though, with sharp skills by hand and a terrific turn of speed which serve him well in a creative sense. Having proved himself in the forward half, Butler went on to impress with his clean ball winning ability in midfield before injury struck. He missed out on representing Vic Country as an Under 19 having done so at Under 16s level, but is a player who catches the eye and would have been a lock for said honours if the opportunity presented once again.

Last month:

While Butler was steady with 10 disposals and 1.2 in his August 1 outing upon returning from injury, he built back to form in his next appearance. Turning out in a loss against Gippsland, the midfielder-forward racked up 27 disposals and four marks to be one of the Rebels’ better players on the day, before all Victorians were sent back into the current state of lockdown.

>> NAB League Player Focus

#23 Josh Fahey
GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Medium Defender
11/11/2003 | 186cm | 76kg

August Ranking: #21

Snapshot: A run-and-gun rebounding defender who gives his all and boasts a raking left-foot kick, Fahey is arguably this year’s leading Northern Academy talent.

Our top-ranked Northern Academy prospect in 2021, Fahey is clearly the best prospect out of the Allies crop and a real top 25 round contender. He returned to the GWS GIANTS Academy program this year to confirm his eligibility as an academy product, having previously shifted to Queensland and joined forces with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy. The Queanbeyan native has impressed onlookers across both states with his dash out of defence and penetrative kicking, both damaging weapons for a player of his position. He has earned a VFL berth with the GIANTS and was named best afield in April’s AFL Academy showcase against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

The sole NSW-ACT representative on this list, Fahey has also been impacted by lockdown over the last month but managed to sneak in a senior game. He turned out for local, AFL Canberra First Grade outfit, Queanbeyan on August 7 and produced the goods. Fahey snared three goals and was among the Tigers’ best players in a 129-point win over Gungahlin. Opportunities continue to prove scarce though, unfortunately.

>> Feature

#24 Tom Brown
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Medium Defender
30/07/2003 | 186cm | 71kg

August Ranking: #22

Snapshot: A dashing half-back with terrific athleticism in the form of speed and a vertical leap, Brown is a bolting talent who you’ll likely miss if you blink.

While Geelong gained access to sister, Millie via father-daughter rules, Tom Brown is ineligible to be drafted by the Cats under the father-son category as his father Paul falls just short of the 100-game qualification. Nonetheless, the Murray Bushrangers prospect has plenty of eye-catching traits which will help him blaze his own trail. A Vic Country Under 16 and now Under 19 representative, Brown is capable of playing on each line but looks to have found a home across half-back, where his dashing style and overhead marking shine. An ankle injury kept him out for a large chunk of the season, but he since returned and looked raring to break into first round contention.

Last month:

As has proven a repeated tale for Victorians on this list, Brown only managed one NAB League outing in August. He was steady with 12 disposals, two marks and three tackles in Murray’s low-scoring loss to Calder at the start of the month, but has not had any further opportunities to impress with no APS competition, and the Bushranger’s bye on August 15.

#25 Zac Taylor
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Small Midfielder/Forward
31/01/2003 | 180cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A crafty small prospect with outstanding vision, skills and decision making, Taylor has no trouble finding the ball and makes things happen when in possession.

A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Taylor proved undeniable for repeat honours in the Under 19 grade this year given his outstanding NAB League form. The 180cm midfielder-forward combines toughness with high level smarts; not afraid to work hard to win his own ball, but most effective when able to accumulate and tear sides apart with his sharp skills. The 18-year-old has a great turn of speed and looks to be creative with each possession, breaking into space with his zip before hitting targets further afield. He is particularly reliable by foot and puts up ultra-consistent numbers each week, making him a deserved entrant to the top 25 up our September update.

Last month:

There has been no NAB League action for Metro prospects past August 1, but Taylor made than lone appearance count after impressing at representative level. He racked up a whopping 37 disposals, four marks and four inside 50s in a tight win against Murray on that day, having built into a ridiculous strong vein of form.

>> NAB League Round 15 POTW

Zac Taylor is a crafty user of the ball

#26 Blake Howes
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Wing

7/04/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: One of the best athletes available in this year’s draft, Howes boasts a terrific aerial game but also competes well at ground level and shows promising versatility.

While unranked last month, Howes is one who previously featured in our top 25 and is a player who should be well known to keen draft watchers. He was an All Australian at Under 16 level, plying his trade as a high-marking medium forward with wonderful athleticism and clean hands. While he started the year off in that usual forward post, Howes has since shown his versatility with a shift to the wing and is a classic high-ceiling type of prospect. He was included in this year’s initial AFL Academy intake and continues to back up that selection with form fitting of his potential as a mainstay in the Sandringham Dragons’ side.

Last month:

It was unlucky for a player like Howes that the latest lockdown came, given he had been building into some really promising form for Sandringham Dragons up on the wing. He notched 20 disposals and two goals against strong opposition in GWV on August 1, continuing to show his potential and genuine upside.

#27 Mitch Knevitt
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
8/01/2003 | 193cm | 81kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with great size and reach, Knevitt dominates at the coalface and impacts around the ground with his strong overhead marking, a feature also sighted up forward.

One who was marked by his teammates as one to watch during preseason, Knevitt has taken full advantage of finally getting the opportunity to impress with some outstanding form in 2021. The 193cm midfielder provides range and size which proves difficult to combat at the coalface, as he digs in to win contested ball and stands up in tackles while dishing it out. The Geelong Falcons product is also developing his outside game and is athletically sound, getting to more contests around the ground and making an impact with his contested marking. He fits the modern day midfielder-forward prototype given his built and ability, with the performances to match his potential now coming to the fore.

Last month:

Knevitt had been building ominous form before the latest Victorian hiatus, with his sole outing in August an absolute blinder. The big-bodied midfielder dominated with 36 disposals, 10 marks, eight inside 50s and a goal against the Bendigo Pioneers, steering Geelong to victory in his most complete performance yet. He had also put in a massive shift in late-July and was impressive at representative level, helping him climb into top 30 range.

>> NAB League Player Focus
>> NAB League Round 16 POTW

#28 Judson Clarke
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Small Forward/Midfielder
17/10/2003 | 179cm | 69kg

August Ranking: #25

Snapshot: Clarke is a zippy small forward/midfielder who can light up the game in a flash with his forward run, tricky agility, and eye for goal.

While his exploits were on full show earlier in the year, Clarke stamped his credentials with a breakout performance in the Under 19 Victorian trials, bagging five goals in a starring display. The crafty Dandenong Stingrays product represented Vic Country at Under 16 level and continues to show promising glimpses both in the NAB League and at school footy level. He is nimble in possession with a mix of speed and agility, and looks to make things happen in the front half with creative energy and smarts at the fall of the ball. Clarke often finishes his work with spearing left-foot kicks, making for an exciting package as far as small prospects go. While he can roll through midfield, the 17-year-old looks most damaging up forward and can cement his spot here with more eye-catching big game showings.

Last month:

The Yarra Valley Grammar student had his last outing on July 30, playing against Peninsula Grammar in the AGSV football competition. As a result, he missed out on Dandenong’s August 1 bout and was then impacted by Victoria’s restrictions on metropolitan areas.

#29 Jesse Motlop (FRE NGA)
South Fremantle/Western Australia | Small Forward/Midfielder
23/11/2003 | 176cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A highly skilled small forward with great goal sense, speed and smarts, Motlop comes from good pedigree and can make his presence known in a flash.

Another player with ties to the elite level, Motlop is the son of former Port Adelaide and North Melbourne forward Daniel, but is ineligible for father-son selection. He is part of Fremantle’s NGA, though it will be difficult for the Dockers to secure his services via bidding as Metro-based WA prospects can only be matched on with a bid after pick 40. To any club, Motlop offers an exciting mix of speed and skill as a small forward, able to find the goals regularly with clever finishes while also providing forward pressure. An Aquinas College student, he topped the PSA goalkicking charts last year as a bottom-ager and has cracked the WAFL League grade this season, spending more time in midfield against his peers.

Last month:

Motlop capped off a strong PSA football season with Aquinas College in August, spending more time in midfield after his forward feats in Year 11. He then turned out for Western Australia in last week’s National Championships fixture, snaring a classy small forward’s goal and showing flashes of his brilliance. Upon returning to the WAFL League grade, Motlop booted 2.2 from 13 disposals in a productive display as South Fremantle downed West Coast. He is well poised to now feature in the Bulldogs’ finals campaign.

#30 Jacob van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Defender
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands and a booming kick, but has also shown great potential as a swingman and even in midfield.

Having been earmarked as potentially Western Australia’s best tall prospect coming into the season, van Rooyen has overcome some adversity en route to recapturing his best form. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games as a bottom-ager. He donned the Black Ducks jersey in 2020’s West Australian All Stars fixtures and was a lock for the AFL Academy intake in 2021. A glandular fever diagnosis halted his progress a touch, but van Rooyen started out the season at League level and has shown he is physically a level above the Colts grade.

Last month:

van Rooyen was in serious form heading into last week’s National Championships showcase, booting 11.5 from a combined 44 disposals and 16 marks in two WAFL Colts appearances. Having starred in his usual forward post with all the physicality expected of him, van Rooyen translated that form to a defensive swing for WA’s Under 19 side. He was exceptional against South Australia, helping out on the last line and popping up as an aerial force to clunk multiple intercept marks. He was more steady with seven touches and two goals in his latest Colts dig, but has proven his swingman credentials.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

Jacob van Rooyen is a powerful prospect | Credit: Claremont Football Club

IN THE MIX:

West Australian midfielder Josh Browne is the only player who comes out of last month’s list of 25, but remains around the mark in an even bunch having returned to his ball winning best post-injury. East Fremantle teammate Corey Warner has produced an eye-catching season in the APS and at League level, while intercept marking machine Rhett Bazzo came into consideration after his outstanding National Championships performance for WA. Claremont ruck-forward Eric Benning has also put his hand up of late, but Fremantle fans will want to keep the athletic bigman’s potential on the down-low.

Fellow tall Toby Conway is arguably the best pure ruck of this year’s crop and has hardly put a foot wrong when given the chance. Sandringham Dragons and St Kilda NGA pair Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens have also risen into second round calculations on the back of their desirable traits, while midfielders Connor Macdonald and Jake Soligo are consistent performers who earned representative honours this year.

Over in South Australia, Cooper Murley remains unlucky having again been sidelined through injury (collarbone), but has serious talent. North Adelaide accumulator Hugh Jackson put up some extraordinary early-season numbers and made his Reserves debut last week, with Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne continues to perform and state Under 19 vice-captain Lewis Rayson was a member of our top 25 earlier in the year.

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

Ones to Watch: The draft prospect bottleneck brimming with talent

WHILE the top end of the 2021 AFL Draft pool is shaping up nicely despite constant injuries to gun players, unexpected season intermissions, and the absence of an Under 19 National Championships, a massive bottleneck remains just outside of first round contention. Draft Central released its August Power Rankings update on Monday, which ranked the nation’s 25 best prospects, but had about 40 in contention for said honours.

With such an even crop forming around the 20-35 mark, we nominate a player from each national carnival region who could soon rise up the ranks to feature in future rankings, while also highlighting a bunch of other players to watch as regular season fixtures wind down. Some of the talents listed below were also spoken about in the latest Final Siren Podcast episode, where the Draft Central crew fielded your questions.

VICTORIA

Potential Riser: 

Zac Taylor (Calder Cannons)
31/01/2003 | 180cm/74kg | Midfielder

Arguably the 26th player in our August Rankings, Taylor may have already made a case for pushing into the top 25 come September’s edition. The small midfielder boasts excellent skills, vision, and decision making, which is exactly what you want from a player who finds the ball as much as he does. At 180cm, Taylor can also double as a pressure forward and utilise those reliable skills in the front half, but has really found a home as Calder’s primary ball winner of late. Over his last three NAB League outings, the 18-year-old has averaged 34 disposals, seven marks and six tackles en route to taking out the Round 15 Player of the Week. He is one of the form players of the draft pool right now, and is proving difficult to deny.

Ones to Watch:

There are plenty of Victorians in the mix as usual, with most already sneaking into the top 25 – like Tom Brown, Sam Butler, and Judson Clarke this past month. Arguably the next biggest riser has been St Kilda Next Generation Academy (NGA) hopeful Mitch Owens, a winger from the stacked Sandringham Dragons regions. The 190cm gloved goer has done plenty of growing over the last year and was a late call-up to last month’s Vic Metro side. He took his chance well, and was in fine form for the Dragons with 25 disposals, six marks, and seven tackles in their most recent outing.

Fellow Sandringham wingman Blake Howes has previously featured in our rankings and remains around the mark, with his athleticism and versatility boding well for a talent with incredible upside. Having rolled up to the wing from his usual forward post in 2021, the 190cm Vic Metro representative has added strings to his bow and booted two goals from 20 touches in his latest NAB League appearance.

Connor Macdonald and Jake Soligo are a couple of small midfielders with handy turns of speed who have no trouble finding the ball, and can also roll forward to impact the scoreboard. Collingwood NGA prospect Youseph Dib is another in that small category at 174cm, but has a mature body which stood up to the rigours of VFL football earlier in the year. He has stood up in midfield recently with his strength and speed around the contest, but is also able to play pressure roles at either end of the ground. Oakleigh teammate Lachlan Rankin is another to monitor; offering versatility, natural smarts, and clean skills in a range of roles.

At the taller end of the midfield scale, Geelong Falcons ball winner Mitch Knevitt has consistently been a standout for his region at the coalface. While he has plenty of room left for improvement, clubs will likely look at his speed, contested work and 193cm frame as traits which point towards workable upside. Fellow big-bodied mid Ned Long has been sidelined of late, but was in promising form at the start of the NAB League season.

There are a couple of defenders who have also impressed throughout the year to prove their potential, in Justin Davies and Oscar Morrison. Both represented Vic Country and have nice combinations of tall and small traits at just under 195cm. Meanwhile, Morrison’s Geelong Falcons teammate Toby Conway has firmed as one of the premier rucks available, standing at over 200cm with handy craft in that department and evolving influence around the ground.

Dandenong Stingrays midfielder Connor Macdonald

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Potential Riser:

Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (Glenelg)
22/02/2003 | 188cm/70kg | Wing

A smooth-moving wingman with elite pedigree, Wanganeen-Milera is among one of the more eye-catching South Australian prospects. The nephew of Essendon and Port Adelaide champion, Gavin, he caught the eye last year with his speed and dare on the outer for Glenelg’s Under 18s, and has since plied his trade in the senior grades. After 11 Reserves outings, the 18-year-old earned a League berth with the Bays this season and was even a late addition to the AFL Academy squad in April. His skill and poise on the ball made him a standout in South Australia’s Under 19 trial game last month, and with his collection of high-level attributes as a tall and raw wingman, Wanganeen-Milera is certainly on the rise.

Ones to Watch:

After being considered among the top 10-20 prospects coming into 2021, Norwood midfielder-forward Cooper Murley was squeezed out of out latest top 25. It’s through no real fault of his own though, with the productive attacking runner first missing out on AFL Academy duties due to an ankle injury in April, before suffering a collarbone injury in the opening minutes of a SANFL Under 18s outing last month. With an extended run and some more senior action, he can quickly improve his stocks.

A trio of club-linked prospects have put themselves in contention with sustained form in 2021, particularly at Under 18s level. Port Adelaide father-son prospect Jase Burgoyne is quite highly regarded in his state, with versatility and clean foot skills among his best traits. While he is quite light-on, he enjoyed a steady three-game stint with Port’s SANFL outfit this season and has no trouble finding the ball.

Adelaide NGA products Blayne O’Loughlin and Isaiah Dudley are crafty smalls who will also come into consideration, and both have even managed to crack the Reserves grade. North Adelaide leader O’Loughlin is the nephew of Michael and loves to generate defensive rebound with his speed and kicking, while Centrals’ speedster Dudley also has good pedigree, with his high-level footy smarts boding well for a future in the small forward role.

North Adelaide midfielders Hugh Jackson and James Willis have both thrown their hats in the ring as potential bolters, but offer quite different strengths. Jackson has clearly been the SANFL Under 18s’ top ball winner with an average of 31.7, while also leading the league for handballs and inside 50s. He has a handy turn of speed, as does the explosive Willis. While a touch more raw in his finished product, Willis certainly catches the eye with his power and agility in the engine room.

State Under 16 and Under 19 teammates Lewis Rayson and Morgan Ferres continue to be thereabouts too. Rayson’s drive and kick penetration on the outer has proven a consistent feature of his game, while Ferres booted 13 goals from a whopping 21 scoring shots in his two SANFL Under 18s outings this season. Both have earned Reserves berths, while Centrals midfielder-forward Shay Linke has broken through to the top flight this year and showed some promise.

Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera in SA colours | Image Credit: AFL Photos

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Potential Riser:

Jesse Motlop (South Fremantle)
23/11/03 | 176cm/74kg | Small Forward

Fremantle staff and fans alike will be cursing a technicality in the NGA rules which may see Motlop snatched from their grasp. NGA products from metro regions in South and Western Australia are only eligible to join their aligned clubs with a bid past pick 40, and Motlop has certainly staked his claim to be taken well within that range. The speedy small forward has a terrific eye for goal and applies valuable pressure, which he showed in his WAFL League debut for South Fremantle last month. The son of former Port and North Melbourne forward, Daniel, has also featured at PSA level for Aquinas College and led the competition’s goalkicking as a Year 11 last year. He can also roll into midfield but will likely pique the most interest with his work inside attacking 50.

Ones to Watch:

Twin talls Jacob van Rooyen and Rhett Bazzo were highly touted coming into the season and while they have shown glimpses of top 25 potential thus far, may have fallen just outside that range. Claremont’s van Rooyen is a noted key forward who has shown his versatility this year with time in midfield and more recently, down back. A glandular fever diagnosis halted his initial run at League level. Bazzo, an Under 16 All Australian defender, has arced back to his intercept-marking roots of late after being trialled up forward earlier in the year. Both are AFL Academy members and will be key state Under 19s figures.

Among the recent League debutants are Corey Warner and Luke Polson, who are quite different prospects. Warner, the brother of Sydney’s Chad, is a real goer out on the wing while Polson is a mobile and versatile tall talent who is not afraid to run with the ball. Along with this pair, one of the state’s biggest risers has been West Coast NGA product Ethan Regan, out of East Perth. At 189cm, he is an explosive unit with terrific aerial prowess and the ability to cover good ground in transition.

It would be remiss not to mention some of WA’s top performers in the recent state Under 19s hitouts. Big-bodied midfielders Kade Dittmar and Angus Sheldrick have been superb across the three games, while Dittmar’s Royals teammate James Tunstill is a promising type. The likes of Jahmal Stretch and Kaden Harbour are lively small forwards entering the conversation, while Taj Woewodin should have Melbourne’s attention as a potential father-son pick-up. Meanwhile Lochlan Paton and Brady Hough have been solid across a few different roles for the Black Ducks.

Jesse Motlop celebrates a goal on his League debut | Image Credit: South Fremantle/WAFL

ALLIES

Potential Riser:

Sam Banks (Tasmania Devils)
2/04/2003 | 187cm/73kg | Half-Back

Banks has long been on the radar as Tasmania’s standout draft prospect for 2021, having taken out Under 16 Division 2 MVP honours in 2019. He also made eight appearances for the Devils’ NAB League side in the same year and has turned out in the TSL for Clarence. While he was sighted up on a wing and through midfield in the past, Banks has played almost exclusively in defence this season upon battling injury. A broken wrist saw him miss out on representing the AFL Academy in April, but the 18-year-old made his NAB League return in Round 11 and has looked promising with his rebound running and skills by foot across half-back. He could be in for a boost with an extended run and some more showings of his potential in roles further afield.

Ones to Watch:

Banks’ fellow Tasmanians Oliver Davis and Sam Collins have gotten back on the horse after being overlooked last year. Hard-nosed midfielder Davis attracted mid-season draft interest and is currently part of Adelaide’s reserves squad, while Collins has moved up to Victoria and linked with reigning NAB League premier, Oakleigh Chargers, where he has featured in midfield upon returning from injury. Forward Jye Menzie is another in the top-age category, and recently snared a bag of goals in the Devils’ Under 17 vs. Under 19 clash.

There are plenty of Northern Academy prospects who their respective clubs will look at closely. Brisbane has seen the likes of Saxon Crozier, Tahj Abberley, Toby Triffett, Charlie Bowes, and Will Tasker take strides at state league level this year, having all remained in the Lions’ system as 19-year-old talents. Gold Coast has more 2003-born talents in the pipeline, including AFL Academy member Austin Harris. He, too has gained VFL experience along with defender Bodhi Uwland and twin talls Will Bella and Jack Johnston.

Elsewhere, Giants Academy member Josh Green (brother of Tom) trained with Richmond during preseason and may still have some interest, while Murray Bushrangers prospects Charlie Byrne and Cameron McLeod were among those to have some interest at the next level – both during preseason and in this year’s mid-season intake.

Sam Banks in action for Clarence | Image Credit: Solstice Digital

Scouting Notes | 2021 U19 National Championships: Vic Country vs. Vic Metro

VIC Metro came up trumps in the 2021 Under 19 National Championships opener against Vic Country, winning bragging rights at Windy Hill via a comprehensive 15.15 (105) to 7.7 (49) scoreline. From pick one contenders, to first round hopefuls and fast-rising talents, the current Victorian draft crop shone in its showcase game for the year. We highlight some of the top performances in our latest edition of Scouting Notes. Note, they are the opinion of the individual author.

>> Top 25 Ranked: July 2021 Power Rankings

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Declan Reeve

#2 Ben Hobbs (GWV Rebels)
16/09/2003 | 183cm/80kg | Inside Midfielder

Doing what he has always done well, Hobbs was a consistent first possession winner in and under packs and stoppages, pushing opponents out of the way to win the ball and fire it out via hand with deadly precision. Those quick hands were especially dangerous in the early stages of the game when the scores were close, where Hobbs could get hand to ball quickly to release runners. Whilst his kicking wasn’t at its best, when he had time to steady himself up he placed his kicks well and made good decisions. He demonstrated his usual high work rate, with a gut run from the defensive 50 mark to the forward 50 resulting in him getting a mark and converting in the third quarter. His marking was strong for the game as well, spreading wide to be a switch or inboard kick option.

#4 Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers)
11/04/2003 | 180cm/78kg | Forward/Midfielder

It was a game of two halves for the mercurial forward, struggling to consistently impact the contest in the first half, admittedly with limited forward 50 entries, but moving up into the midfield in the second half and providing a spark for Country around stoppages. He still provided an option when in the forwardline, getting good separation on his leads even if he wasn’t always used by teammates. When he moved into the midfield, he immediately impacted as he started roaming down into the defensive 50 and making smart leads to help Country get further up the ground, following up with his own classy use by foot. He became the best option to receive a handball from first possession winners at stoppages quite often, bursting away and kicking long forward in the latter stages of the contest, and getting himself on the scoreboard.

#6 Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays)
13/01/2003 | 184cm/77kg | Midfielder

Forming quite the partnership through the midfield with Hobbs, Macdonald brought some of the same strengths through the midfield. His positioning around stoppages meant he was at the fall of the ball at times where his teammates weren’t, winning first possession and following up with a quick handball or kick out of the pack. Macdonald’s game sense also allowed him to be the receiver from the first possession winner pretty consistently, balancing his game around stoppages quite well and allowing his teammates to play to their strengths. He presented well as a shorter option around the ground, being used a few times as a short inboard kick option, then following up with a bomb down forward. His kicking was shaky early on but ended up improving by the end of the game, getting better distance and placement. He brought his usual high workrate around the stoppages as well, flicking out handballs midair and laying tackles in close.

#17 Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels)
23/01/2003 | 186cm/83kg | Defender/Wing

Whilst not necessarily winning a massive amount of ball, Molan was one of the harder workers for Country around the defensive half of the ground. Molan’s most notable play came as he ran from the back pocket to receive a switch kick on the wing, handballing to a teammate and continuing his run to then receive a kick over the top from the same teammate, before slotting Country’s second goal. It was a play which perfectly demonstrated the hard work he’s become renowned for. He worked hard to pressure opponents in the defensive half as well, laying some good tackles – one where his opponent tried to fend him off was particularly eye catching. Molan pushed up the ground more and more as the game wore on, using his skills by hand to set up some scoring opportunities around the top of the forward 50.

#18 Tom Brown (Murray Bushrangers)
30/07/2003 | 186cm/71kg | Defender

Brown was particularly impressive in the second half of the contest, winning more possession and showcasing his impressive leap to beat taller opponents in the air. That leap didn’t always get him a mark, but often got him high enough to get a fist in to stop taller Metro opponents like Sam Darcy from taking marks inside 50. When he was the extra number in a contest, he flew high and took intercept marks in front oncoming packs. He took kick-ins for most of the game, balancing it up between short options and running it out before kicking long, where he looked faster than the Metro forwards were able to match. His kicking was measured and generally placed to the advantage of teammates.

#21 Josh Gibcus (GWV Rebels)
04/04/2003 | 195cm/84kg | Tall Defender

Gibcus was a typically assured aerial presence in the Country defence, taking impressive intercept marks in contested and uncontested fashion. His confidence to push off his opponent and impact the ball higher up the ground meant he intercepted in areas where Country was a bigger chance to score in transition, rather than from deep in defence. His leap meant he could afford to concede some ground on his opponents, as he would jump and spoil the ball against any opponent afield without issue. His handballing in tight was especially impressive for a tall player, appearing to prefer to handball it off rather than kick and looking comfortable delivering it even through traffic. A lot of onlookers came wanting to see Gibcus play on Metro’s Sam Darcy, as two of Victoria’s highest ratted key position prospects, and they were treated to the match up in the final quarter where the pair competed in a few one-on-one contests. Gibcus arguably came out on top of the battle, spoiling a lot of the balls that came in and keeping Darcy quiet.

#28 Mitchell Knevitt (Geelong Falcons)
8/01/2003 | 193cm | Midfielder

Whilst not winning a massive amount of the ball, Knevitt looked one of the most well rounded players on ground with his skillset, showcasing well weighted kicks, high contested marks, quick hands in tight, burst around stoppages, and spread around the ground. It was around stoppages and in the thick of congestion where he did his best work, winning first possession well and then feeding out a handball to release runners into space. His kicking was good when he had time to compose himself, placing them well in front of leading forwards or distributing out wide for his teammates, but he was prone to the odd hack kick forward out of the stoppages. 

#36 Mac Andrew (Dandenong Stingrays)
12/04/2003 | 200cm/70kg | Tall Forward/Ruck

Pushing himself up draft boards after another big game performance, Andrew showed a lot of eye catching traits throughout the contest. Starting up forward, early on Andrew wasn’t holding a lot of his marks due to the pressure, but would treat aerial contests almost as ruck situations in open play, tapping the ball straight down in front of teammates and putting them in dangerous spots inside 50. He kicked the opening goal of the contest after getting separation and taking a mark on his chest, slotting it from about 50 out. Andrew used the ball well through the game, handballing into the right spots and taking safer shorter kicks more often than long bombs, keeping Country in possession. He looked to be the best ruck on ground when rolling through there as well, placing taps well for his midfielders and having moments where he followed up his own taps and won the ball at ground level. The highlight from Andrew’s game was his aerial work around the ground however, demonstrating his positional awareness and athleticism with some high leap contested marks, plus the ability to quickly get separation when up forward. He took one of his most impressive marks when stationed up forward, where at full pace on the lead he was nudged from the side, but managed to hold his balance and juggle the ball with one hand to take the mark. So strong was his aerial work, that Metro started to double team him down the line in an effort to body his leap and nullify his impact.

VIC METRO:

By: Ed Pascoe

#1 Youseph Dib (Oakleigh Chargers)
25/02/2003 | 174cm/76kg | Small Utility

The Collingwood NGA prospect played his role well as a creative small forward. Having played in the backline and midfield at times for Oakleigh, Dib is also a dangerous forward which he showed early in the game, providing a lot of spark and looking dangerous whenever he was around the ball. His agility stood out along with his clean hands at ground level, but he showed he could win the hard ball as well, as in the second quarter when he won a free kick in the process of attacking the contested ball at pace. Although Dib didn’t hit the scoreboard, he still caused headaches for the Country defenders with his ability to impact and stay involved, playing a mostly high half-forward role.

#4 Zac Taylor (Calder Cannons)
31/01/2003 | 180cm/74kg | Midfielder

The elusive Calder Cannons midfielder has been in fine form in recent weeks and that continued again against Country, as he offered plenty of skill and composure through the engine room. Taylor’s agility and vision were key features of his game, able to turn on a dime to evade tackles and find a teammate by foot on his left, or preferred right side. Although he leans more to the outside as a midfielder, it suits his style with his composure and skill by hand and foot. He could have added scoreboard impact to his game with a tough attempt on the run in the last quarter, but it was nonetheless a solid hitout for Taylor, finishing with 21 disposals.

#6 Josh Ward (Northern Knights)
15/08/2003 | 181cm/79kg | Midfielder

Its been an incredible month for the Northern Knights midfielder, with his recent form putting him amongst the better performed ball winners in this year’s draft class, and his game against Country only further enhanced his stocks as he returned another stellar performance. It was no surprise to see Ward named as captain of Vic Metro, with his consistency and reliability undoubtedly loved by both his coaches and teammates, and Ward showed his ability to run both ways while leading from the front. Clean with ball in hand around the ground and barely missing a target by hand or foot, Ward would go on to impact the scoreboard in the second half with two classy goals; one in the third quarter after spinning nicely and kicking from long range, and then in the last quarter from a standard shot on the run. With 29 disposals, eight clearances and two goals, this was one of Ward’s most complete games to date.

#9 Darcy Wilmot (Northern Knights)
31/12/2003 | 182cm/70kg | Defender

Wilmot has made a reputation for himself as a courageous and team orientated player, and that was of course a staple of his game on Saturday. The Northern Knights defender started the game well, taking a nice courageous intercept mark in front of incoming players. That same marking ability was also apparent in a contest in the second quarter, winning a mark against highly fancied prospect Josh Rachele, who he kept well under wraps in the first half before moving off him. Second and third efforts were a feature of his second half, constantly going for marks and tackles and his willingness to go and go again often had him winning possession eventually. On the bench and on-field Wilmot was a supportive teammate, giving encouragement and showing he wasn’t just out there to prove his own wares, but try and lift the whole team’s performance which will certainly be noticed by recruiters.

#12 Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers)
3/01/2003 | 183cm/72kg | Midfielder

Writing about Daicos this year has felt like déjà vu, you could almost copy and paste any write up from his performances this year and it would describe his game to a tee. It was a clinical display from the highly rated Collingwood father-son prospect, with the silky ball magnet a presence around the ground for all four quarters. His obvious class was highlighted early with handball over his shoulder, easy as you like, and it’s a typical play from Daicos as he seems to make football seem like a breeze whenever he gets possession. His ability to win the ball around the ground stems from his workrate to get to spots that any seasoned midfielder would get to, which stems from a pure ability to read the game. Daicos, as usual, hit the scoreboard with his first coming from a steady set shot goal in the second quarter, and in the last quarter with a classy crumb and snap on his non-preferred. Daicos finished the game with 41 disposals, six clearances and two goals in what was a clinical display, made all to easy for the highly rated prospect.

#16 Josh Sinn (Sandringham Dragons)
7/01/2003 | 186cm/82kg | Defender/Midfielder

Still on the comeback trail from injury, the Sandringham prospect wasn’t quite able to showcase his top line speed against Country, but it was another positive step with a more prolific game compared to previous weeks – before injury struck again with an ankle knock sustained in a marking contest during the last quarter. Sinn offered plenty of drive with his kicking from half-back and despite a poor kick to start, he was able to work on it and even kicked nicely on his non-preferred. Sinn was involved heavily in five minute spurts in the first and third quarters, using his ability to follow up his disposals and get meterage with his long left foot. It’s a shame for Sinn to get injured again and hopefully he gets a more sustained run at it soon.

#24 Josh Goater (Calder Cannons)
2/06/2003 | 190cm/79kg | Midfielder

The Calder Cannons prospect has had a rich vein of form and that continued again with the athletic midfielder improving his draft stocks once more with a strong game. Goater showed plenty of traits you want to see in a midfielder with his ability to escape congestion via a burst of speed or spin out of tackles. He showed great composure in those situations, which was highlighted in the second quarter as he rode a Ben Hobbs tackle, who is one of the toughest and strongest tacklers in this year’s draft crop. Standing at 190cm his ability to show off his athletic traits along with his obvious talent with ball in hand will make him a very sought after prospect come November in this year’s draft. Goater’s kicking was the one area that let him down at times but his run and carry on the outside and his composure and skill by hand from stoppages was impactful. It couldn’t be doubted that he was amongst the very best players on the day, finishing with 23 disposals.

#36 Sam Darcy (Oakleigh Chargers)
19/08/2003 | 204cm/75kg | Tall Utility/Ruck

Although it wasn’t the same goal fest like his last outing, the Western Bulldogs father-son prospect still showed why he is considered one of the leading prospects in this year’s draft pool, as the tall key forward provided a great target for Vic Metro inside 50. It took until he second quarter for Darcy to hit the scoreboard, kicking a lovely snap goal on his left after taking a strong mark in the pocket. His second and final goal came in the following quarter after taking a strong contested mark just inside 50, converting the long range set shot. Although it wasn’t his most prolific game on the season, Darcy was a real threat in the air and his skill really stands out for a player standing at 204cm.

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League Boys – Round 11

A RAFT of draft eligible representative guns returned to the NAB League in Round 11, ensuring squads were stacked in one of the strongest weekends for talent so far this year. There were plenty of top showings across the six fixtures, as players stepped up across a generally competitive round – which featured three games decided by a goal or less. We take a look at some of the top performers from each side in our opinion-based Scouting Notes.

>> RESULTS | NAB League Round 11 snapshot

CALDER CANNONS 8.5 (53) def. GEELONG FALCONS 7.8 (50)

By: Michael Alvaro

Calder Cannons:

#5 Zac Taylor

It seemed Taylor was everywhere at times, with the small midfielder a consistent figure at each contest and a hard-worker around the ground. While Geelong applied decent pressure, Taylor often looked to back his pace and nearly always steadied before delivering by foot. That kind of trait made for better efficiency going forward, with the Calder midfielder very creative in possession. He also claimed the game’s first goal after launching a huge set shot from the arc in a tone-setting act.

#6 Flynn Lakey

Another constant in Calder’s midfield mix, Lakey continues to play an under-appreciated and selfless role for the Cannons. He was often the one digging in for first possession before dishing out to runners, bringing his teammates into the game with slick handballs. Even when accumulating away from the contest, Lakey did not bite off too much and continued to feed his runners, allowing Calder to flow forward. He defies his size in terms of toughness too, a factor observed as he laid a big hit on big-bodied Falcon, Mitch Knevitt.

#25 Josh Goater

Shifting from midfield to half-back, Goater was simply superb in a game which fully showcased his rare versatility. His clean hands have been evident within his midfield craft, but Goater transferred that same skill to be a reliable intercept marker in the backline. When in possession, he used the ball typically well by foot with precision passes and hardly wasted a touch. In motion, Goater leant on his athleticism with eye-catching turns of speed to weave through traffic and spark rebounding chains. He worked well with others too, starting one-two passages to move the ball down the field in style. The draft eligible talent did it all and was near-untouchable at times.

#30 Sam Paea

Paea was the dominant key forward afield and proved far too much for his opponents to contain across a five-goal game. He made good on two set shot chances in the opening term and never looked back, harnessing the confidence gained from his conversions to provide marking presence up the ground and get dangerous inside 50. Paea did not always clunk the ball cleanly overhead, but showed good athleticism in his follow-up work to snare two more goals. His fifth was a lovely snap from the boundary in the third quarter, capping a promising display from the developing tall.

Geelong Falcons:

#11 Cooper Whyte

While others had more of the ball, Whyte was one of the more productive midfielders out there on Saturday. He often got his legs pumping to exit the contest with speed and looked to break tackles, proving aggressive in his approach to driving Geelong forward. He hardly took a backwards step and defied his size to clunk overhead marks in important areas, before again generating that forward momentum and moving the ball on quickly.

#12 Noah Gribble

One of the league’s most consistent accumulators, Gribble racked up another 39 touches for the Falcons in his latest effort. He runs as hard as anyone at the level and leans on that work rate to find the ball at either end of the ground, while also following his disposals to get the ball back and go again. Gribble sometimes halted the Falcons’ momentum when turning back into traffic, but did well to find more ball on the outer after half time and lifted when the game was up for grabs late. His intent to achieve penetration with each kick during that period was clear, but ultimately to no avail.

#28 Mitch Knevitt

Spending a good chunk of time forward in this outing, Knevitt enjoyed a handy little purple patch late in term two. The big-bodied midfielder continually worked his direct opponent over, finding separation on the lead inside 50 and being afforded shots on goal. He missed a set shot and sent a snap into the post, before eventually converting before the half was up. When running though midfield, Knevitt’s hard tackling and clean hands were key features of his game.

#56 Oscar Morrison

Morrison was handed a tough match-up for most of the day in Calder spearhead Sam Paea, but looked effective when he was able to roll off and take intercept marks. The Falcons defender clunked some nice grabs early, stretching well overhead to cut off Calder’s forward forays and often relieve Geelong on the last line. He was sometimes beaten in the follow-up work after competing aerially, having initially done well to create spills by having body on his opponent or affecting a spoil.

GWV REBELS 5.7 (37) def. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 4.11 (35)

By: Michael Alvaro

GWV Rebels:

#2 Ben Hobbs

Having made a splash upon his return from injury over the last few weeks, Hobbs continued his strong ball winning form on Saturday. The hard-at-it midfielder started forward but soon found his way into the middle, bringing his usual grunt and hardness to the engine room. Hobbs often looked to bustle his way out of congestion and break tackles, which saw him caught on a couple of occasions, but set a positive tone for his side. He also worked hard around the ground to boost his disposal tally, as one of the leading possession-getters afield.

#3 Charlie Molan

The ever-reliable Molan was again integral to the Rebels’ cause, stationed in his newly-customary wing position. He got in all the right positions behind the ball to either intercept or contest and force turnovers, producing plenty of influential play. His radar was a touch off at times, particularly when opting to go long, but Molan sharpened up and knocked around some clever forward passes as the game wore on.

#6 Marcus Herbert

Such a stylish mover on the ball, Herbert came to prominence in the early stages with a terrific goal. The Rebels top-ager showed off his dancing feet and strong core, baulking past two opponents in quick succession before slamming home the six points. He looked strong over the ball at ground level and competed well in that aspect, while also looking far more polished with his disposal by foot. Herbert later missed another chance on goal from range, but hit a couple of nice targets going inside 50 in what was a really solid performance in midfield.

#14 Jamieson Ballantyne

Another who has found some promising form of late, Ballantyne continued that trend in Round 11. While he is known to provide a bit of dash on the outer, the wingman showed he is not afraid to contest the hard ball and get his hands dirty. There was less room than usual to operate in for Ballantyne, but he adjusted well to run through the loose balls and dispose cleanly even with contact imminent.

#15 Nick Hodgson

The Allies Under 19 hopeful returned to the Rebels’ line-up and has seen competition for midfield spots rise, but went about his usual business with some tough work on the inside. Hodgson thrives at the contest and that was hardly different on Saturday, as he dug in at ground level and made his mark with fierce tackles. He really started to warm to the contest in term two, finding a good amount of ball and getting others into the game.

Oakleigh Chargers:

#1 Youseph Dib

Operating through midfield as he has done in recent weeks, Dib leant on some of his strongest traits to have an impact. The Collingwood Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect proved evasive with his turn of speed, but was also strong at the contest where his mature build held up well. Dib also rotated forward, but missed a fourth quarter set shot via the post. He still produced a couple of big moments; running down Herbert as he broke from a centre bounce, and winning a crucial late clearance to help give Oakleigh once last chance on goal.

#12 Lochlan Jenkins

The top-ager produced work expected of him at this stage, getting busy though midfield with tough work in the clinches. He was particularly busy early on as he and his Chargers looked to set off on the right foot, competing well in-and-under the packs. Jenkins did well to consistently rip the ball free and pump his legs to get a bit of space before sending kicks forward. His tackling was also strong, making for a solid inside midfielder’s game.

#22 Lachlan Rankin

A player capable of being employed on each line, Rankin was mostly sighted in defence during his latest NAB League appearance. The Chargers trusted his skills as he took on kick-in duties, mixing up his outlets to search for both short and long targets. Rankin also opened up general play by foot, with one particularly daring defensive switch in the final term catching the eye. The utility would also sneak forward but could not quite make good on his shots on goal, including a 20m set shot in the last 90 second which may well have won Oakleigh the game.

#27 Karl Worner

Fresh off his impressive Vic Metro trial outing, Worner continued his usual stints out on the wing for Oakleigh and had a say moving forward. He found his fair share of ball but could not quite get the space he was after early on, before finding a few more blades to operate in and pumping his side into attack by foot.

#33 Patrick Voss

Voss brought all the physicality and intent he usually does to this contest, setting the tone early with a crushing holding the ball tackle. His strength was impressive throughout the contest, but sometimes resulted in free kicks against due to overzealous defensive acts. Voss also tended to bomb forward by foot and while he gained good meterage, would sometimes have been better off lowering his eyes. He got a run in midfield late on and proved a pest to opposition ball winners.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 11.5 (71) def. NORTHERN KNIGHTS 8.7 (55)

By: Michael Alvaro

Murray Bushrangers:

#2 Charlie Byrne

Pushed back out to the wing after a foray on the inside, Byrne went about his usual business by generating positive run on the outer. His skills looked sharp and Byrne was often the player Murray looked for at half-back to spark their transitional play. The top-ager would either use the ball soundly by foot, or move on quickly with a fend-off or burst of speed to kick-start the attack. He played an ideal outside role and would have gained plenty of metres throughout the day.

#4 Josh Rachele

It is fair to say that Rachele was well and truly back to his best on Saturday. The highly talented forward looked switched on from the outset, working over his first direct opponent and forcing a switch having repeatedly gotten loose up the field. He sunk two goals in the first term to get things rolling, before turning it on in the second with three typically genius conversions. Rachele showed his smarts with a nice tap over the back, before running onto the loose ball and snaring his third major, with his fourth a clever checkside out of the forward 50 stoppage. He sent through another on the half time siren and after getting few looks in term three, made it six with a wonderfully hit 50m bomb in the final quarter. Outstanding stuff from the Draft Central Player of the Week, who served a reminder of his top five potential.

#13 Tom Brown

In his first NAB League outing since Round 4, Brown took little time to get going. With a tricky match-up at half-back, the defender was constantly able to mop up at ground level and get a better read of the aerial ball to intercept Northern’s attacks. Brown also backed his pace on the rebound, setting off quickly before delivering neat passes at full tilt. While he was a touch less prominent after half time, this was a more than steady return for the 17-year-old.

#24 Cameron McLeod

McLeod popped up to snare goals in three of the four quarters against Northern, showcasing classy finishing skills on the move for a player of his size. The top-ager got on the board in term one with a nice bit of play on the forward break, and kicked another on the run in term four after working up the ground. McLeod became more prominent in that department as the game wore on, searching outside the attacking arc to help link Murray into attack.

Northern Knights:

#3 Josh Ward

It was another stellar display from Ward on Saturday, who has put himself firmly in the first round frame with a series of top performances. The Northern Knights standout was his side’s most permanent and prolific midfielder, getting stuck in at the coalface while also continuing to show good speed away from the contest. Ward’s ability to get productive and chain together one-two handball passages proved a positive way forward for the Knights, who sometimes needed that kind of spark on the uptake. He was also made to work into defence to find the ball and start such passages, leaning on a strong work ethic to do so. Ward appeared to clutch at a knee after being brought down in a fourth quarter tackle, but ultimately ran off the knock.

#23 Anthony Caminiti

Caminiti has proven to be one of the finds of the season for Northern, with such status only consolidated after just his second NAB League outing. The mobile tall forward was able to repeat his best skills, which were often marks taken on the lead at full stretch with plenty of separation to his direct opponent. Caminiti also showcased his mobility on the ball, proving confident enough to burn the trailing opponent and manufacture some space to dispose efficiently. He was also thrown into the ruck and while there was no reward in the form of goals, Caminiti certainly deserved at least one for his efforts.

#27 Jason McCormick

With a certain small forward exciting at the opposite end of the ground, McCormick proved his own worth with a well-crafted four-goal outing – his second for the season. The bottom-ager converted well from set shots and was clever in his reading of the play, nudging his opponent under the ball to then either mark or run onto it over the back. He also lurked at the back of packs and finished in quick time after sharking the spills, playing the small forward role perfectly in terms of his attacking 50 craft.

#28 Joel Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald racked up plenty of possessions on the rebound from defence, setting Northern on the front foot with his run and clean kicking game. He cushioned the ball well for leading targets and often looked to carry through the corridor, making for more direct avenues forward. Fitzgerald put together a pretty neat performance and was another to perform repeatable skills, with that short kicking game quite sound in transition.

TASMANIA DEVILS 2.6 (18) def. by SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 6.20 (56)

By: Michael Alvaro

Tasmania Devils:

#1 Baynen Lowe

Lowe was his usually busy self throughout the day, but understandably found the going tough at times against some pretty stiff opposition. He often worked back to help out Tasmania’s besieged defence, accumulating across the back half and looking to pump his side forward under pressure. He also popped up at the other end after half time, hitting the post with a set shot and contributing the one-percenters – like a spoil at half-forward to help lock the ball in.

#6 Sam Banks

One of the many highly-touted prospects making their return this week, Banks’ first game back was a steady one in defence. He looked to generate some momentum out of the back half when kicking short, working hard to get the next possession and continue his foray up the field. Banks, who took on kick-in duties, also looked for distance in his use by foot, as Tasmania struggled to exit its own half at times. He seemed to be managed after half time but showed some positive signs early on.

#8 Zach Morris

Morris was solid as a rock in defence, with his strong intercept marking a real feature throughout the day. He often rose against an opponent and managed to pull the ball down, not afraid to do so from behind or with heat coming either way. He had a really tough gig in the backline but stood up well with plenty of work to be done.

#15 Lachlan Cowan

Cowan has shown some really promising signs this season as a bottom-ager, looking quite assured in defence. He was another who fared well aerially and had plenty on his plate, but took to the task with aplomb. Cowan pushed a high line early and intercepted in advanced areas, before being forced to drop much further back after half time and produce the same feats inside defensive 50. He proved a good judge of the ball in flight and often clunked the ball at full stretch, before calmly distributing.

#22 Baker Smith

The Allies Under 19 squad member is the fourth Tasmanian defender to feature here, and rightly so after standing up in a tough spot. He did much of his work under enormous pressure on the last line, but positioned well to prevent many Sandringham scores by intercepting on the goal line. Smith was another whose marking became prominent, but it was also his tackling and one-percent efforts which helped the Devils keep their opponents somewhat at bay.

Sandringham Dragons:

#4 Josh Sinn

After getting back into the swing of things off half-back last week, it did not take long for the Dragons to thrust Sinn back into midfield this time around. The Sandringham co-captain looked terrific in the early stages, sharking the ruck taps at speed and backing his pace to burn forward out of congestion. He trusted his foot skills too, taking on aggressive options going forward. Sinn registered a couple of behinds in the second term; one on the run as he just could not steady enough, and the other a 45m set shot after marking uncontested. He was not as prominent in the second half, perhaps a product of being managed.

#5 Lachlan Benton

After enjoying some added responsibility in different roles over the last couple of weeks, Benton rolled forward from the wing on Saturday. He proved strong in the air for a player of his size, rising with courage to take a couple of solid overhead marks in the first half. Benton dropped back well to find the ball and worked hard to chain his possessions in transition, even if he did not always get the ball back. Another example of his repeat running came in the third term, when Benton hit Blake Howes on the lead, then worked inside 50 to receive a short kick over the top. He missed the resultant set shot, but later got a run at the centre bounces and was a solid contributor overall.

#6 Blake Howes

There is plenty to like about Howes’ game and he once again impressed with not only his athletic traits, but footballing ability. The forward-turned-wingman remained prolific in the air and got to plenty of good spots forward of centre to get involved in scoring passages. He was incredibly unlucky not to hit the scoreboard himself, at least in a major way, registering four behinds with most of his efforts coming from range on the fly.

#7 Campbell Chesser

At risk of sounding like a broken record, Chesser was another player to return this week and took some time to get adjusted to the pace of the game. Usually a prolific carrier of the ball, he backed himself to do so but was afforded less time and space than he might have desired, which impacted his ball use. Still, Chesser found his groove and got in some great positions to receive on the outer – using his speed once released, rather than to manufacture than space himself. The midfielder had a nice patch in the third term with a couple of clearances, rounding out a solid game to build off.

#17 Finn Callaghan

Callaghan’s output of late has been simply exceptional, and he was again the best player afield on Saturday among a host of big names. He has truly found a home on the inside, where is poise and agility in traffic has only become more pronounced with each passing week. Callaghan hardly wasted a touch and was effective both by hand and foot, never looking rushed on the ball and proving a level above in terms of his overall polish. His first half was as good as it gets and he carried that on to finish with a game-high 28 disposals.

#45 Marcus Windhager

Fresh off a promising display in the Victorian Under 19 trials, Windhager popped up to produce some eye-catching plays once again. The St Kilda NGA prospect rotated through the midfield and forwardline, with his disposal while on-ball leading to plenty of chances on goal in the first half. He was consistently able to hit targets inside attacking 50, working up to half-forward and using the ball beautifully by foot heading back towards goal. While he did not find the goals himself, Windhager helped the Dragons do so with his sound decision making.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 7.8 (50) def. by EASTERN RANGES 7.10 (52)

By: Declan Reeve

Dandenong Stingrays:

#3 Miller Bergman 

Taking up a role on the wing for most of the game, Bergman was a big part of transitional play from the defensive half, working hard to push in the back 50 and provide an option for a switch kick or to apply pressure of his own, getting a free kick early on when he caught an opponent holding the ball. Was effective with his ball use throughout the game even if he had little time to balance himself when delivering a kick, hitting some pinpoint kicks from just a step. Used his agility to get around opponents quickly, selling candy at crucial moments to keep the ball moving quickly forward.

#6 Connor Macdonald

Continuing to impress as he did prior to the NAB League break, Macdonald was a major ball winner through the Dandenong midfield. Continually clean below his knees, Macdonald took some clean one-hand pick-ups whilst moving at top speed, or under pressure from opponents, bursting away to get a disposal away. Macdonald has become somewhat renowned for that burst, as well as his leap, able to impact plays he has no right to, at times leaping high to get a hand to an attempted handball and tapping to his own advantage, or taking marks over the top of opponents, getting above their reach. Whilst he didn’t have much luck getting goals himself, missing a few ones you’d expect him to nail, his footy IQ and decision making around the forward 50 helped set up a few in the second half, happy to pass the ball off to options behind or in more central spots to open up the inside 50, or handball and follow up with a shepherd to buy his teammates more time with the footy. Was strong around stoppages as well, winning hardballs at ground level at times to win clearances, with one in the third quarter resulting in a goal after one of his teammates ran onto it.

#7 Judson Clark

Coming into the game with the momentum of five goals from the previous weeks Victorian trial games, Clarke wasn’t quite given the time in the forwardline against Eastern, but still looked dangerous forward of centre with his lighting speed and agility catching a few eyes. One of the biggest strengths Clarke showed was his workrate around the ground, both offensively and defensively, working hard around the contests to apply pressure and assisting in the defensive 50 to work the ball out. Would follow up his handballs and kicks to get it back and dispose of it with momentum, with one of these moments in the final term seeing him run about 80 meters, starting on the wing, getting a handball to a teammate on the 50 meter mark, getting it back and snapping a goal to momentarily put Dandenong in front.

#43 Billy Taylor

The 2004-born ruck/forward had some impressive moments throughout the game, where his athleticism and skill at ground level suggested he was a smaller than his 195cm stature would suggest he could. Kicked the first two Dandenong goals in the second quarter, with the second one particularly impressive as he got an opponent for holding the ball inside the forward 50 when he looked like he was out of the contest. When he went through the ruck his leap allowed him to win most of the hitouts, with his follow up work around the ground also impressive, seemingly marking everything that came his way. 

#46 Justin Davies

Being switched between the forwardline and backline throughout the game, whilst Davies struggled to gain consistency in finding the ball, his aerial dominance was a constant, able to hold onto the ball even when copping heavy contact in the contest. His positioning when approaching aerial contests was impressive as well, putting himself in a spot where if he didn’t hold the mark, he’d be able to follow up strongly at ground level.

Eastern Ranges:

#5 Jake Soligo

After an impressive display in the recent Victorian trial matches, Solgio returned to the NAB League with another impressive outing through the Eastern midfield and forwardline. Continuing to impress with the things he does well, getting separation around the ground and looking strong overhead, winning contested ball and clearances well, working hard both ways and hitting his in tight handballs. What was different was the cleanliness of Soligo’s kicking, hitting a lot of targets by foot through the game, even when under pressure. Took a good mark inside 50 where he nudged his opponent under it to hold it out the back, and kicked it straight through.

#21 Corey Preston

Continued his transition into the defensive half as he lined up at half-back for a large majority of the game. Not overly flashy as he can be in the forward half, Preston did the fundamentals really well, positioning strongly behind the ball to intercept when it came in from his side of the ground, and pushing wide to be a switch kick option for his teammates. His follow up ball use was also impressive, with his kicking in particular getting penetration behind it going forward. In the dying stages of the game, as Eastern looked to hold onto their two-point lead, Preston was switched into the rover role, adding some composure on ball.

#35 Max Hall

Looking at his best around stoppages, Hall seemingly won every second clearance he could, able to burst away from opponents to collect it off the ground and bomb the ball forward. Was impressive with his hands in close, finding teammates out of congestion to release them going forward. Was really strong in holding his ground when copping contact, not being knocked off balance when opponents tried to bring him down.

GIPPSLAND POWER 9.3 (57) def. WESTERN JETS 7.9 (51)

By: Eli Duxson

Gippsland Power:

#4 Nathan Noblett

Not typically one to dominate the scoreboard with just two majors before this game, but he proved to be the difference bagging four goals straight to get the accurate Power over the line. It was a mixture of fortune and opportunistic positioning with two of his four goals coming from well timed runs out the back into open goals. His pressure up forward was strong in a day that was tough to exit defensive 50 with a holding the ball free kick for netting him a set shot chance which he drilled. Noblett found most of his 15 disposals in the forward half of the ground often presenting outside 50 and working back. When around the ball, he was able to get in and find it as well as receive on the outside, his second goal came from a kick out of a pack.

#11 Caleb Van Oostveen

The 17-year-old small enjoyed one of his better days out from his four games this season collecting 13 disposals to go with a goal, but more importantly laying a game-high 10 tackles. His goal came from a holding the ball free kick for of which he nailed the set shot for, a reward for effort. Van Oostveen averages eight tackles a game and played a pivotal role in making the already difficult rebound 50’s for the Jets even more so compensating for his 171cm frame with tenacious pressure.

#17 Luis D’Angelo

Another reliably productive game from D’Angelo in conditions made for contested football, and clearly made of him. Was one of Gippsland’s more prominent inside midfielders using his hip strength to keep his balance and offload from packs more efficiently. He had a perfect balance of inside and outside play and disposal type (11 handballs and kicks) due to his ability to spread from stoppages and get involved further down the chain. His vision was solid on multiple occasions with pulled kicks and on a better day weather wise, he would have looked a lot more polished. Despite his presence in the contest, he did not lay a tackle all game.

Western Jets:

#2 Harrison White

Was lively all game and kept the Jets in the contest for much of the day. He almost kicked three goals in a row for Western with his first coming after the quarter time siren to extend their lead, and his second coming early in the second term as he manufactured a snap out of nothing. It seemed he could not be stopped as he was almost everywhere at one point, his third shot at goal being deemed touched halted the Jets momentum. White spent more time in the forward line but pushed up the ground and found the ball 21 times with some midfield minutes, providing great run and contest all game.

#11 Harrison Schumann

Entrusted with the kick out duties on a day you would rather not but did a serviceable job for the few behinds the Power scored and was generally reliable with ball in hand coming out of defence. The 18-year-old recorded five rebound 50’s among his season-high 17 disposals (12 kicks, five handballs), but he also managed to push further afield and deliver inside 50 following his opponent on a day where balls were falling short and swirling. Defensively he was disciplined being strong in the contest aerially and on the deck, with his cleanliness below the knees a feature of his tidy abilities.

#14 Mace Cousins

Looked threatening and classy all in one selling candy and spinning out of trouble onto his often-trusty left boot. His cleanliness also suffered at times due to the blustery conditions but looked one to be dangerous entering forward 50 which he did on five occasions. Playing out of half forward he would not push up too far and chose to remain closer to goal. Like many of his teammates he was unable to hit the scoreboard and was often a little too kick-happy, but it was an almost game for Cousins who was not far off breaking the game open.

#20 Dylan Laurie

The small defender put together another solid game collecting 17 disposals and three rebound 50’s in a similar role to Schumann. Often got on the end of handballs to exit defence and was generally efficient considering the conditions which no one could master consistently. Laurie defended well and applied good pressure at ground level, despite being pushed up into space to meet the ball. Disciplined in position and disciplined with ball in hand.

#35 Liam Conway

A season-high in disposals in what has been an impressive season for the big-bodied midfielder as he made his way to 34 disposals along with five marks and a whopping 11 inside 50s. Around the contest he showed his strength and balance over the ball and ability to extract, while then also spreading and creating space for teammates with his disposal. He played a more defensive role setting up behind the ball well to intercept and drive the ball back in to the forward 50, while also sweeping at stoppages and using his strength and acceleration to find teammates or clear forward. The Jets best on the day as he continues to compile a strong case for a spot at the higher level.

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

2021 Draft Central NAB League Boys TOTW: Round 11

THE Draft Central NAB League Round 11 Team of the Week has dropped, with 24 of the weekend’s best performed-players featuring in a competitive lineup. Player of the Week nominees Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers) and Sam Paea (Calder Cannons) co-captain the side on the full forward line after snaring bags of six and five goals respectively.

After the Bushies’ impressive win over Northern Knights, the country region sees three representatives selected – so too the Knights after a competitive showing. Rachele is joined by teammates Cameron McLeod (centre half-forward) and Charlie Byrne, who keeps his spot on a wing for the second week running. First round prospect Josh Ward was the best of Northern’s bunch, having collected 35 disposals from midfield. He was still squeezed out of a ultra competitive midifeld.

Starting in the engine room are Finn Callaghan, Connor Macdonald, and Zac Taylor, all of whom racked up plenty of the ball and were arguably best afield in their respective digs. On the centreline, Callaghan is also accompanied by Sandringham Dragons teammate Blake Howes. Calder’s Josh Goater has proven a midfield mainstay to this point, but finds his spot at half-back this week after a phenomenal showing across there for the Cannons.

A pair of Tasmanian defenders – Zach Morris and Baker Smith – earned their spots on the full back line after holding up against a surging Sandringham unit, while the first of Gippsland’s two selected players also features down back. Tristen Waack is the man in question, while teammate Nathan Noblett sneaks in at the other end after a four-goal effort in the Power’s first win for 2021.

On the bench, Eastern midfielders Max Hall and Jake Soligo can count themselves unlucky not to be starting after their side’s heart-stopping win over Dandenong. The likes of Marcus Herbert, Liam Conway, and Mitch Knevitt also feature on the six-man interchange as their regions’ lone representative.

Check out the full team below:

Draft Central NAB League Team of the Week: Round 11

B: Zach Morris (TD), Baker Smith (TD), Joel Fitzgerald (NK)
HB: Tristen Waack (GP), Henry Berenger (DS), Josh Goater (CC)
C: Charlie Byrne (MB), Finn Callaghan (SD), Blake Howes (SD)
HF: Nathan Noblett (GP), Cameron McLeod (MB), Judson Clarke (DS)
F: Jason McCormick (NK), Sam Paea (CC, vc), Josh Rachele (MB, c)
FOL: Max Heath (SD), Connor Macdonald (DS), Zac Taylor (CC)

INT: Liam Conway (WJ), Max Hall (ER), Marcus Herbert (GWV), Mitch Knevitt (GF), Jake Soligo (ER), Josh Ward (NK)

EMG: Youseph Dib (OC), Ben Hobbs (GWV), Cooper Whyte (GF)

2021 NAB League Boys snapshot: Round 11

SQUADS were stacked in Round 11 of the NAB League as plenty of draft eligible stars returned to their regions after last week’s representative trial games. Cold conditions and blustery breezes ensured the class of those players was tested though, with four of the six fixtures decided by a goal or less. There was still a raft of big performances to be marvelled at, and we highlight them in our weekend snapshot. Stay tuned for Scouting Notes to follow tomorrow evening.

>> ICYMI | Top 25: Draft Central’s July Power Rankings

CALDER CANNONS 8.5 (53) def. GEELONG FALCONS 7.8 (50)

IN A SENTENCE:

Calder Cannons held off Geelong Falcons in a three-point thriller at Highgate Recreation Reserve, with 12 of the total 15 goals kicked at one end of the ground.

TEAM STATS:

  • Calder Cannons won the disposals (373-309), kicks (198-160), and marks (86-64)
  • Geelong Falcons won the inside 50s (44-41), tackles (69-54), and hit-outs (43-26)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Zac Taylor (Calder Cannons) 34 disposals, 7 marks, 9 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s, 1 goal
  • Josh Goater (Calder Cannons) 33 disposals, 7 marks, 1 inside 50, 5 rebound 50s
  • Sam Paea (Calder Cannons) 13 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 5 goals
  • Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons) 39 disposals, 7 marks, 5 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Mitch Knevitt (Geelong Falcons) 27 disposals, 6 marks, 11 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 1 goal
  • Tom Gillett (Geelong Falcons) 20 disposals, 7 marks, 1 tackle, 3 inside 50s, 3 goals, 3 behinds

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Sam Paea (Calder Cannons)
4 – Zac Taylor (Calder Cannons)
3 – Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons)
2 – Mitch Knevitt (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Flynn Lakey (Calder Cannons)

NEXT UP:

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons | Saturday July 10, 10:30am @ RAMS Arena
Geelong Falcons vs. Northern Knights | Saturday July 10, 1:00pm @ Preston City Oval

GWV REBELS 5.7 (37) def. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 4.11 (35)

IN A SENTENCE:

GWV Rebels took out a low-scoring slog by two points against the Oakleigh Chargers, who missed a late chance to snatch victory after managing just one goal to three quarter time.

TEAM STATS*:

  • GWV Rebels won the disposals (238-209) and handballs (112-87)
  • Oakleigh Chargers won the tackles (66-50) and scoring shots (15-12)

KEY PLAYERS*:

  • Ben Hobbs (GWV Rebels) 24 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s
  • Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels) 18 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Marcus Herbert (GWV Rebels) 17 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 1 goal
  • Youseph Dib (Oakleigh Chargers) 16 disposals, 1 mark, 7 tackles, 2 inside 50s
  • Sam Tucker (Oakleigh Chargers) 11 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 1 inside 50, 2 goals, 2 behinds
  • Patrick Voss (Oakleigh Chargers) 18 disposals, 3 marks, 3 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Ben Hobbs (GWV Rebels)
4 – Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels)
3 – Youseph Dib (Oakleigh Chargers)
2 – Sam Tucker (Oakleigh Chargers)
1 – Marcus Herbert (GWV Rebels)

NEXT UP:

GWV Rebels – Bye.
Oakleigh Chargers vs. Dandenong Stingrays | Sunday July 11, 2:15pm @ Shepley Oval

* – Note: Statistics only recorded to three quarter time.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 11.5 (71) def. NORTHERN KNIGHTS 8.7 (55)

IN A SENTENCE:

Murray Bushrangers stood firm in the face of Northern Knights’ third term challenge, kicking clear in the final quarter to win by 16 points on home turf.

TEAM STATS:

  • Murray Bushrangers won the kicks (212-168), marks (111-67), and rebound 50s (31-27)
  • Northern Knights won the handballs (133-120), inside 50s (40-38), and tackles (74-66)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers) 17 disposals, 8 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 6 goals
  • Jedd Longmire (Murray Bushrangers) 26 disposals, 3 marks, 11 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50
  • Charlie Byrne (Murray Bushrangers) 24 disposals, 9 marks, 1 tackle, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Josh Ward (Northern Knights) 35 disposals, 3 marks, 9 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s
  • Joel Fitzgerald (Northern Knights) 31 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 4 inside 50s, 7 rebound 50s
  • Jason McCormick (Northern Knights) 14 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 1 inside 50, 4 goals

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers)
4 – Josh Ward (Northern Knights)
3 – Charlie Byrne (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Tom Bracher (Murray Bushrangers)
1 – Jason McCormick (Northern Knights)

NEXT UP:

Murray Bushrangers vs. Tasmania Devils | Saturday July 10, 1:00pm @ RAMS Arena
Northern Knights vs. Geelong Falcons | Saturday July 10, 1:00pm @ Preston City Oval

TASMANIA DEVILS 2.6 (18) def. by SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 6.20 (56)

IN A SENTENCE:

Sandringham Dragons overwhelmed the Tasmania Devils forward of centre to register 26 scoring shots to eight en route to a 38-point victory, with their wealth of opportunities cancelling out their inaccuracy.

TEAM STATS:

  • Sandringham Dragons won the disposals (376-274), inside 50s (65-28), marks (116-78), and scoring shots (26-8)
  • Tasmania Devils won the tackles (65-48) and rebound 50s (56-26)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Tyler McGinnis (Tasmania Devils) 25 disposals, 10 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebound 50s
  • Baynen Lowe (Tasmania Devils) 19 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s
  • Baker Smith (Tasmania Devils) 18 disposals, 9 marks, 4 tackles, 3 rebound 50s
  • Finn Callaghan (Sandringham Dragons) 28 disposals, 7 marks, 4 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50
  • Luke Cleary (Sandringham Dragons) 25 disposals, 3 marks, 1 inside 50, 1 rebound 50
  • Blake Howes (Sandringham Dragons) 24 disposals, 9 marks, 1 tackle, 5 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 4 behinds

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Finn Callaghan (Sandringham Dragons)
4 – Blake Howes (Sandringham Dragons)
3 – Luke Cleary (Sandringham Dragons)
2 – Tyler McGinnis (Tasmania Devils)
1 – Lachlan Benton (Sandringham Dragons)

NEXT UP:

Tasmania Devils vs. Murray Bushrangers | Saturday July 10, 1:00pm @ RAMS Arena
Sandringham Dragons vs. Calder Cannons | Saturday July 10, 10:30am @ RAMS Arena

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 7.8 (50) def. by EASTERN RANGES 7.10 (52)

IN A SENTENCE:

Eastern Ranges snuck back ahead with five minutes on the clock after relinquishing their three quarter time lead, coming away two-point victors over Dandenong Stingrays under Saturday night lights.

TEAM STATS:

  • Dandenong Stingrays won the handballs (112-110) and rebound 50s (35-29)
  • Eastern Ranges won the kicks (186-163), inside 50s (43-36), and marks (78-59)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays) 37 disposals, 7 marks, 1 tackle, 10 inside 50s, 6 rebound 50s, 2 behinds
  • Judson Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays) 27 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 goal
  • Justin Davies (Dandenong Stingrays) 11 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 4 rebound 50s
  • Max Hall (Eastern Ranges) 33 disposals, 6 marks, 3 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 1 goal
  • Jake Soligo (Eastern Ranges) 28 disposals, 9 marks, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 1 goal
  • Corey Preston (Eastern Ranges) 20 disposals, 9 marks, 1 tackle, 3 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays)
4 – Judson Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
3 – Max Hall (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Jake Soligo (Eastern Ranges)
1 – Henry Berenger (Dandenong Stingrays)

NEXT UP:

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Oakleigh Chargers | Sunday July 11, 2:15pm @ Shepley Oval
Eastern Ranges vs. Gippsland Power | Sunday July 11, 1:00pm @ Morwell Recreation Reserve

GIPPSLAND POWER 9.3 (57) def. WESTERN JETS 7.9 (51)

IN A SENTENCE:

Gippsland Power were made to earn their first win of the season, pushed all the way by the Western Jets but finishing six points to the good on home turf.

TEAM STATS:

  • Gippsland Power won the disposals (302-287), handballs (141-121), and rebound 50s (43-25)
  • Western Jets won the kicks (166-161), inside 50s (51-34), and tackles (62-54)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Luis D’Angelo (Gippsland Power) 22 disposals, 1 mark, 1 inside 50, 2 rebound 50s
  • Tristen Waack (Gippsland Power) 21 disposals, 4 marks, 2 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 9 rebound 50s
  • Nathan Noblett (Gippsland Power) 15 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 4 goals
  • Liam Conway (Western Jets) 34 disposals, 5 marks, 2 tackles, 11 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50
  • Harrison White (Western Jets) 21 disposals, 3 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 2 goals
  • Billy Cootee (Western Jets) 21 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Liam Conway (Western Jets)
4 – Luis D’Angelo (Gippsland Power)
3 – Harrison White (Western Jets)
2 – Nathan Noblett (Gippsland Power)
1 – Caleb Van Oostveen (Gippsland Power)

NEXT UP:

Gippsland Power vs. Eastern Ranges | Sunday June 11, 1:00pm @ Morwell Recreation Reserve
Western Jets vs. Bendigo Pioneers | Sunday July 11, 11:00am @ Downer Oval

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

Draft Central Power Rankings: July 2021

THE Draft Central July Power Rankings have been locked in after an interrupted, but nonetheless productive month of football around the nation. Two fresh faces feature among the top five as a new number one contender arises, while another two previously unranked players have thrust their way into the overall list of 25 on the back of undeniable form. We profile the full array of prospects in our latest edition, taking you through each players’ last month and the factors behind their moves. Also highlighted are some other names potentially around the mark.

Note, the list is ordered purely on our opinion and each players’ current ability and potential, not taking into account any AFL clubs’ lists or needs.

#1 Jason Horne
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder
21/06/2003 | 184cm | 78kg

June Ranking: #1

Snapshot: A midfielder with next to no weaknesses, whose power bodes well for tough ball winning and impressive aerial marking, as well as consistent scoreboard impact.

Heralded as the clear number one choice coming into 2021, Horne retains his crown in our second rankings edition for the year. The South Adelaide talent impressed in his debut SANFL League outings as a bottom-ager, and has since transitioned into a more prominent midfield role with guidance from former Carlton and Adelaide champion, Bryce Gibbs. He has long been a standout among the South Australian crop, participating in back-to-back Under 16 carnivals and being crowned his state’s MVP in 2019 as captain. Only recently 18, Horne boasts a well-balanced game with plenty of damaging strengths and very few weaknesses, with his exposure at senior level another factor which sees him awarded with number one status in our eyes.

Last month:

Horne has continued on his merry way at SANFL League level, with his consistent output displayed across the last month of action. Despite three of his four outings in that time being losses, Horne played above his season averages to produce numbers of 16 disposals, 4.3 marks, 4.5 tackles, 2.3 clearances, and 0.5 goals per game. Given he is so entrenched in the top three spots, it is easy to look past his development and sustained success, but the pick one contender is in as good a form as ever currently.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

#2 Nick Daicos (COL F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 183cm | 72kg

June Ranking: #2

Snapshot: Daicos has an unrivalled understanding of the game; able to bring his teammates into it and anticipate where his next possession will come from, leading to utter domination.

The Collingwood father-son prospect (son of Peter) has more than justified all the hype leading into 2021, solidifying his status as a bonafide number one contender. Daicos made his long-awaited NAB League debut in Round 1 and has gone on to dominate the competition, putting up ridiculous numbers through the engine room as the skipper of a deeply talented Oakleigh Chargers group. Much like his brother, Josh, Daicos was only due to enter the Chargers’ program last year but was made to wait for his unveiling in Oakleigh colours. It was well worth it, though keen watchers already knew of his supreme ability having seen him hold his own in a Carey Grammar side featuring Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson. Daicos is banging down Horne’s door and may well break through as he continues to put runs on the board, in dominant fashion.

Last month:

Daicos only played one game throughout June, but it was a ripper. The Oakleigh Chargers captain got some decent attention in his side’s loss to the Northern Knights, but still managed to rack up 37 disposals and kick a goal. He was perhaps not as damaging as he could have been with his disposal, but most qualms on his season thus far are essentially nit-picks, and exemplary of the quality he is judged at. His average of 35.8 disposals remains a league high, but he did not have the chance to add to it last week after again being managed. He also missed out on Vic Metro trial duties.

>> Q&A
>> Head-to-Head: Daicos vs. Sonsie
>> NAB League POTW: Round 3
>> The race to be number one – what separates Daicos and Horne?

#3 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Utility/Ruck
19/08/2003 | 204cm | 75kg

June Ranking: #15

Snapshot: Darcy is a fast-developing tall talent who can play in each key position post, is athletic, and marks the ball cleanly.

They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top five pick on potential and the clear best tall in the draft, with his versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy has impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck in the NAB League, but has also consolidated his eye-catching forward forays at school football level. Bulldogs fans, you have another on the radar.

Last month:

Darcy shot into top three calculations with a brilliant few games in June, most significantly his six-goal during the Victorian Under 19 trials. The Bulldogs father-son prospect was swung forward as he has done during the school football season and was near-impossible to stop. He had a 10cm height advantage on most opponents but took full toll to dominate aerially, while also showing great athleticism and football smarts across the attacking arc. During his one outing for Oakleigh, Darcy started in defence and was similarly assured with his clean intercept marking, before rolling through the ruck and eventually finding the goals up forward. He has solidified his status as the best tall available, and may challenge the previously untouchable top two.

#4 Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

June Ranking: #11

Snapshot: Callaghan is a classy mover with great agility for his size, and has shown a high level of development to prove his balance of outside and inside traits.

One who seems destined to crack the top five picks come year’s end, Callaghan has enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back has recently transitioned to an inside role, but continues to prove difficult to stop at full flight with his blend of straight-line power and swift agility. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his long boot, and seems to manufacture time on the ball in the clinches.

Last month:

The top five trigger has been pulled on Callaghan after even more undeniable performances, who was arguably best afield during his two NAB League appearances in June and impressive when suiting up for Vic Metro. He continued his transition to the inside with Sandringham, producing 31 and 28 disposals in his most recent outings and looking ominous in the process. Callaghan was shifted back out to the wing in between those games for the Victorian Under 19 trials, warming to the contest and showing some of his best traits, despite not racking up the usual numbers.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

#5 Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Midfielder
27/01/2003 | 181cm | 76kg

June Ranking: #3

Snapshot: A smooth-moving midfielder with terrific poise and class, Sonsie opens up the play with his clean disposal and ability to kick goals.

One of the most highly-touted Victorian prospects before a ball had been bounced in 2021, Sonsie’s absolute best is exceptionally good. The Eastern Ranges prospect was Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP in 2019 and is one of the few 2003-born NAB Leaguers to have already experienced the Under 19 competition. He was part of his region’s 2019 minor premiership-winning side, rolling forward off a wing. Now a draft eligible talent, Sonsie has moved more permanently into midfield and while he is developing his defensive running, has plenty of attacking traits to offer. His ability to exit stoppages with poise and make good decisions with ball in hand is top notch, with that exceptional skill level also translating to dual-sided finishing in front of goal.

Last month:

Another to have only played once during June, Sonsie is currently on the road to recovery after suffering bone bruising in his last appearance for Eastern. The injury was sustained during the final quarter against Sandringham and Sonsie was quiet to that point by his lofty standards, managing 15 disposals and three inside 50s. Luckily the knock wasn’t any worse, though Sonsie also missed out on the Vic Metro trial games and is facing a few more weeks on the sidelines.

>> VFL Player Focus
>> Head-to-Head: Sonsie vs. Daicos
>> NAB League POTW: Round 1

#6 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Half-Back/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

June Ranking: #5

Snapshot: A line-breaking half-back who has shown promising development in midfield, Sinn’s greatest strengths are his speed and kick penetration.

Another established leader among the Victorian crop as one of Sandringham’s co-captains, Sinn’s best is as damaging as anyone in the overall draft pool. He is regarded as the best technical kick in the Dragons’ program and is given the license to look for options others simply wouldn’t. His penetrative boot and line-breaking speed make him a meters gained machine, observed most significantly with his well-timed runs off half-back or on the wing. Sinn has also moved onto the inside of late to good effect, showing a handy balance of traits and utilising the size he added during last year’s lost season. His campaign has been interrupted by injury, but he looks poised to return soon and play out a full season in the NAB League.

Last month:

Sinn was eased back from a hamstring strain in June, turning out twice for the Sandringham Dragons and proving steady in his output. The Dragons co-captain started at half-back in his first outing, finishing on 13 touches in a big win against Oakleigh, before raising that slightly in 15 and five inside 50s against Tasmania last week. He spent more time in the midfield during that game and advanced the ball well, in a promising sign for his run towards the National Championships.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

#7 Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 81kg

June Ranking: #4

Snapshot: Roberts is a hard-working and consistent midfielder with senior experience who racks up plenty of the ball, but can also rotate forward.

A second South Adelaide midfielder within the top 10 of our count, Roberts’ form has seen him prove difficult to deny of such honours. Like Horne, he represented South Australia at back-to-back Under 16 carnivals, playing a key role as he split his time between midfield and the forwardline. The 17-year-old broke through for his League debut in 2021, skipping the Reserves grade after a scintillating start in the Under 18s competition. As one of the hardest and smartest runners in the draft crop, Roberts is also a sound user of the ball and looks towards fellow left-footer Marcus Bontempelli as a model for his own game. His ability to hit the scoreboard matches said archetype, though Roberts also has a hard edge and competitiveness which sets him apart.

Last month:

Roberts is currently sidelined with a syndesmosis injury, set for another couple of months out of action due to the injury sustained during a school football hitout. He had played two League games for South Adelaide to that point, but will have to wait to further prove his credentials.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus

#8 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Balanced Midfielder
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

June Ranking: #6

Snapshot: A speedy and productive mover on the outside, Chesser breaks the lines from half-back or the wing but has also shown a good balance in his ball winning.

A third Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 10, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser has only just cracked Sandringham’s stacked midfield in a bid to showcase his balance, having recently returned from injury.

Last month:

Chesser is another who only recently made his return from injury, coming back from work on his meniscus. The dashing midfielder was thrust into a formidable Sandringham Dragons midfield mix having played his earlier games on a wing, finishing with 19 disposals and five inside 50s as his side defeated Tasmania.

#9 Josh Gibcus
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Tall Defender 
4/04/2003 | 195cm | 84kg

June Ranking: #10

Snapshot: An intercept marking defender who reads the play well and has a sizeable leap, Gibcus’ eye-catching form has propelled him into top 10 calculations.

For the second month running, Gibcus is the second tall prospect on our list and has earned his spot with superb form this year. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) defender is an intercept type who uses his strengths to advantage; reading the play beautifully and timing his movements to float onto the scene, before rising with his springy vertical leap to take series of marks and force turnovers. While he is working on his ground level game, Gibcus is so clean in the air and usually a sound distributor across the last line, showing great composure on the ball. He was one of the many AFL Academy call-ups and truly held his own in that fixture, as he continues to improve at a great rate.

Last month:

The high-marking defender has had a stead sort of month, playing at both ends of the ground and even through the ruck. When stationed down back, Gibcus performed his usual feats in the air, and is slowly getting back to his best in terms of his distribution by foot. GWV threw him in the ruck against Geelong Falcons to help boost his output, and he has since had a few stints up forward both in the NAB League and Under 19 trials.

#10 Ben Hobbs
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
16/09/2003 | 183cm | 80kg

June Ranking: #17

Snapshot: Hobbs is a hard-nosed, hard-working inside midfielder who loves to compete both defensively and in a ball-winning sense.

The GWV Rebels ball winner has not been able to fully show his wares in 2021 due to injury, but is proving he can break back into top 10 contention with a clean run at it. He featured at NAB League level as a 16-year-old in 2019 after earning All Australian honours for Vic Country, slowly getting accustomed to the rigours of midfield work in the elite talent pathway. His best traits are shown at the contest, with a hard edge and competitive streak seeing him win plenty of the ball on the inside. The nuggety 17-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and has taken full toll upon his return to action.

Last month:

After enduring an injury-interrupted start to the season, Hobbs returned with a bang to thrust himself back into top 10 contention. The bull-like midfielder helped himself to 34 touches and two goals in his first NAB League outing since Round 3, before starring for Vic Country in the Under 19 trials. His willingness to hunt the ball, tackle, and then move forward to kick goals means he impacts consistently, and hopefully he can do so with an extended run.

>> NAB League POTW: Round 9

#11 Matthew Johnson
Subiaco/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
16/03/2003 | 193cm | 80kg

June Ranking: #7

Snapshot: With smooth agility and clean hands at the contest, Johnson is one of the premier tall midfielders in this year’s draft crop and has plenty of upside.

Hailed as the best tall midfielder in this year’s crop coming into the season, Johnson is one with a point of difference and a good amount of development left. The 193cm Subiaco prospect continues to put on size and can win the ball at the coalface, but stands out most with his smooth movement in traffic and clean hands around the ground. He suits an in-vogue modern day prototype and will inevitably yield comparisons to some of the currently dominant midfielders over 190cm. Johnson is already well versed in terms of representative duties and was part of Subiaco’s WAFL Colts premiership side in 2020. He also earned a senior debut this year and would have done so earlier if not for injury on the eve of season proper.

Last month:

After a three-game stint at League level, Johnson has dropped back down to the Colts competition and as expected, found much more of the ball. He notched 30 disposals and six tackles in his second game back, before a 16-touch effort in his latest outing. With good skills on the inside and a growing frame, Johnson should be dominant against his peers.

#12 Neil Erasmus
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder/Forward
2/12/2003 | 188cm | 80kg

June Ranking: #14

Snapshot: An exciting forward who has transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching athletic traits both aerially and at ground level.

Another prospect out of Subiaco who played in last year’s WAFL Colts premiership, Erasmus has built on his potential this year having come in as a potential first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 Grand Final, showcasing great speed and clean hands up forward after putting in a terrific PSA Football campaign. While he was played off half-forward and the wing as an AFL Academy call-up, Erasmus has proven himself to be quite the consistent ball winner through midfield this year, bringing some spark to the engine room. He has a great vertical leap and can impact both aerially and at ground level, with scoreboard impact remaining in his back pocket.

Last month:

Erasmus hasn’t returned to the WAFL grades since his Round 7 outing, which consolidated the exciting midfielder’s consistent start to the year. He has been going along strong in the PSA as skipper at Hale though, making him difficult to look past among the top 15 as he continues to sharpen his disposal.

#13 Josh Rachele
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
11/04/2003 | 180cm | 78kg

June Ranking: #8

Snapshot: A mercurial forward who has drawn comparisons to GWS star Toby Greene, Rachele has unbelievable smarts, skills, and a keen eye for goal.

Rachele is rightly a standout among his draft class, having taken out the Under 16 Division 1 MVP award for Vic Country in 2019. He quickly went on to represent the Murray Bushrangers, averaging a tick under 18 disposals and two goals in four games as a 16-year-old. The exciting forward hails from an elite soccer background and has quick feet to show for it, as well as the smiling celebrations you’d expect on the end of well-finished goals. Rachele is lauded for his skills and smarts in the forward half, but has shown an aptitude for midfield work with his turn of speed and ability to find the ball at ground level. He’s capable of highlight-reel moments.

Last month:

While Rachele is certainly mercurial at his best, we haven’t always seen that level of form in 2021. He has essentially remained a permanent forward while turning out for the Murray Bushrangers and played the same role in his Vic Country trial outing. Rachele is finding the goals though, with a round-high six majors in his latest NAB League appearance an indicator that his best is worthy of top 10 status – if he can find it.

#14 Arlo Draper
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
20/01/2003 | 185cm | 71kg

June Ranking: #20

Snapshot: Draper is a classy midfielder-forward who utilises his agility in the engine room, and brilliant marking ability to impact when stationed inside attacking 50.

One of the more intriguing and versatile prospects in the draft pool, Draper has garnered attention with his promising bottom-age form and continued success in the SANFL Under 18s this year. The smooth-moving midfielder has had no trouble getting his hands on the ball with more consistent time in midfield, before impacting in his resting stints up forward. He is yet another South Adelaide prospect in the mix, with his stylish form and clean hands making him easy on the eye to keen draft watchers. He is one who may feature highly on many draft boards despite being snubbed by the AFL Academy, and has great upside in his current role.

Last month:

Draper is said to be sparking a bidding war between the two Adelaide clubs, which could push his value into the top 10. He started June off in the SANFL Reserves, breaking through for two games after scintillating Under 18s form. He averaged 16.5 disposals in those outings, before making a splash on his junior return with 31 touches, seven inside 50s and a goal in South’s win against Sturt. He is set for an extended stint on the sidelines having suffered a syndesmosis injury.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus

#15 Mac Andrew (MEL NGA)
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Ruck/Tall Utility
12/04/2003 | 200cm | 70kg

June Ranking: #21

Snapshot: A raw tall prospect who has proven his worth in each post, Andrew’s vertical leap and fast-developing craft really catch the eye.

Another key position type who rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew will have Melbourne recruiters a little nervous with his performances to date. He now sits inside our current top 20, boasting raw athleticism and bucketloads of upside given his ever-improving ability to be utilised at either end of the ground, or in the ruck. While he has proven his versatility, the Demons Next Generation Academy (NGA) talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap and clean follow-up work stands out.

Last month:

Andrew was set to add to his exciting opening rounds with a return to NAB League action, but unfortunately fell to injury early in his outing against Bendigo. Having gone down in a heavy contest, Andrew hasn’t been sighted on-field since and also missed the Under 19 trials.

>> ‘Rays on the rise

#16 Josh Fahey
GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Medium Defender
11/11/2003 | 186cm | 76kg

June Ranking: #12

Snapshot: A run-and-gun rebounding defender who gives his all and boasts a raking left-foot kick, Fahey is arguably this year’s leading Northern Academy talent.

Our top-ranked Northern Academy prospect in 2021, Fahey is clearly the best prospect out of the Allies crop and a real first round contender. He returned to the GWS GIANTS Academy program this year to confirm his eligibility as an academy product, having previously shifted to Queensland and joined forces with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy. The Queanbeyan native has impressed onlookers across both states with his dash out of defence and penetrative kicking, both damaging weapons for a player of his position. He has earned a VFL berth with the GIANTS and was named best afield in April’s AFL Academy showcase.

Last month:

Another who has had some time away, Fahey did not take part in the Giants Academy’s NAB League stint, but made his third appearance for the Giants’ VFL last week. He was understandably quiet with seven disposals in his first outing at the level since Round 5 (May).

#17 Josh Goater
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
2/06/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

June Ranking: #19

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with explosive athletic traits and clean hands on the inside, Goater is a prospect with great potential.

Goater lays claim to one of the more impressive athletic profiles in the draft pool, particularly in a power sense. His explosive turn of speed and impressive vertical leap are traits which catch the eye at testing events and are transferred on-field, with the Calder Cannons product able to produce exciting passages of play. He has proven his worth in midfield with good ball winning strength and clean hands on the inside, but can also roll out to a wing or pinch-hit up forward. He is another who stakes his claim on high upside.

Last month:

Goater remains in the mix after some really consistent form for the Calder Cannons, as well as a strong showing in the Vic Metro trial game. As a permanent fixture in midfield, the big-bodied prospect showcased his strong ball winning ability and clean hands, playing the role of extractor and distributor perfectly. He ticked over 30 touches in his latest appearance for Calder and uses the ball efficiently, suiting his side’s kick-mark style.

#18 Jack Williams
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Ruck
1/12/2003 | 195cm | 91kg

June Ranking: #9

Snapshot: Williams is a versatile tall prospect who thrives aerially and consistently kicks goals up forward, while also rotating through the ruck or even to defence.

One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams has been in sensational form at WAFL Colts level. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 23 goals in eight WAFL Colts games to this point and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung forward this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

Williams’ goalkicking record at Colts level speaks for itself, and the East Fremantle tall continues to find the big sticks consistently. He booted two majors in each of his last two outings, but was really impressive in his latest dig with 22 disposals, eight marks and 21 hitouts to continue his aerial dominance. With such a strong group of key forwards at Western Australia’s disposal, Williams’ form will have to be constant if he is to retain focal point status at representative level. He does have the added string to his bow of versatility, with a ruck chop-out proving useful at various times this season.

#19 Josh Ward
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Midfielder
15/08/2003 | 181cm | 79kg

June Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A classy midfielder who is capable of winning mountains of possessions, Ward proves a centre bounce mainstay with his clean skills and work rate.

Having started the year on the precipice, Ward has broken into and consolidated his spot among the 2021 crop’s top 25 places. The Northern Knights midfielder is one who works hard both ways and gets stuck in at the contest, able to win his own ball and distribute with clean skills to the outer. He is also beginning to showcase his own traits on the outside and can impact while resting forward, but holds clear value as a reliable ball winner at the stoppages. A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Ward is destined for the same honours as a rising draft eligible Under 19 talent this year.

Last month:

Ward has been one of the form players of the draft pool since our last edition, seeing him soar into the top 20 and look quite comfortable there. It all started with an outstanding 34-disposal effort in Northern’s win over Oakleigh, where he matched Daicos around the contest and was super productive with his ball use. Ward carried that form into the Vic Metro trial game as captain, showcasing more of his outside ability with transitional run and time in the forward half. He capped off a brilliant month of football by racking up another 35 touches and laying nine tackles as the Knights went down to Murray last week.

#20 Jacob Van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg

June Ranking: #13

Snapshot: Van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands overhead and a booming kick, but has also shown potential to move further afield.

Pegged as Western Australia’s best draft prospect and potentially the leading tall coming into the year, Van Rooyen continues to impress in 2021. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games. He donned the Black Ducks jersey in 2020’s West Australian All Stars fixtures and was a lock for the AFL Academy intake in 2021. A glandular fever diagnosis has halted his progress a touch, but Van Rooyen started out the season at League level and was difficult to deny for a return after showing great form in the WAFL Colts.

Last month:

Having been managed back into some form and full-time minutes via the Colts, Van Rooyen returned to the senior WAFL grade last week. He managed a combined 10 goals in his three Colts outings beforehand, but only snared one from six touches and four marks upon cracking into the League set-up for his fourth cap. With an uninterrupted run up forward and potentially some better midfield form, Van Rooyen could once again climb the order.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

#21 Cooper Murley
Norwood/South Australia | Midfielder
20/06/2003 | 178cm | 70kg

June Ranking: #18

Snapshot: A stylish forward runner, Murley holds his own on both sides of the contest and loves to break into attack with speed and slick ball use on the fly.

Murley is an exciting player in full flight, able to break forward quickly with gut running and terrific speed from midfield. He dominated the SANFL Under 18s competition last year and was part of Norwood’s premiership-winning team, showcasing his undeniable talent and upside. In 2021, his progress has been halted by injury, though the 18-year-old has already earned a Reserves berth and remains one of South Australia’s brightest prospects. Having returned from injury last month, he could well be one to rise up the board with a consistent run of form and even more senior exposure.

Last month:

Murley is another who has battled injury in 2021, but is now finding his feet having gotten back on the park. He returned via the Reserves grade but has since found form back in the Under 18s, notching two games of over 30 disposals and two goals in the last three weeks. As was the case at times last season, Murley seems a class above his peers but the true test will be how he can adapt should he be thrust back into the senior grades. If he keeps his form up, a promotion seems inevitable.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus: Cooper Murley

#22 Rhett Bazzo
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Tall Defender/Forward
17/10/2003 | 195cm | 81kg

June Ranking: #16

Snapshot: A key defender who has adjusted to a forward role in 2021, Bazzo is fantastic in his aerial judgement and clean with ball in hand.

Another of Western Australia’s many promising key position prospects, Bazzo made his name as a defender but has since shifted forward. As he did in the AFL Academy showcase, the Swan Districts product may well revert back to that defence post during state representative duties, but looks just as suited to playing an attacking role with his sound marking and use of the ball. He is another who claimed Under 16 All Australian honours in 2019, making him a well known quantity and one with plenty of class. Bazzo has shown just that in four WAFL Colts games to this point, while also turning out for Guildford Grammar in the PSA Football competition.

Last month:

Mixing his time between PSA football and the WAFL Colts, Bazzo continues to be utilised at either end of the ground. He didn’t have much to do in his lone Colts outing for the month, managing 10 disposals, two marks and eight tackles in Swan Districts’ 80-point Round 12 win over Subiaco. It was his fourth Colts appearance for 2021 and it is becoming evident that Bazzo looks most suited to his intercept marking role down back, where he is likely to be stationed for Western Australia at the Under 19 National Championships.

#23 Joshua Browne
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 185cm | 77kg

June Ranking: #23

Snapshot: An ultra-consistent midfielder who runs hard and finds plenty of the ball, Browne is one of the most in-form midfielders nationwide.

Browne is a player whose form has made him hard to deny for a spot in the top 25, with his ability to win big numbers at a remarkable rate making him one of the most consistent performers in the draft pool at present. He has built on a promising bottom-age campaign with East Fremantle to hit new heights in the WAFL Colts competition, competing with grunt at the contest and running hard to accumulate around the ground in relentless fashion. He is also quite solid defensively on the inside and is the type of player you want on your side, especially among the centre bounce mix.

Last month:

Browne’s sensational WAFL Colts form continued into June, as the reliable midfielder found plenty of the ball and even hit the scoreboard in some big efforts. Two of his last three outings for East Fremantle yielded 38 disposals, with his latest appearance also seeing Browne end up with three goals to his name against Perth. His output is undeniable and more dominant performances like that of Round 11 will only put his stocks in good stead around this even range.

#24 Darcy Wilmot
Northern Knights | Defender
31/12/2003 | 182cm/70kg

June Ranking: #25

Snapshot: Wilmot is a tenacious and brave half-back whose most flashy weapons show on the attack, as he breaks the lines with great speed and ball use.

Wilmot has thrust his name into contention with increasingly impressive performances for the Northern Knights in 2021, as well as an impressive senior debut at local football level. The small-medium defender has all the typical class and running prowess you would expect on the rebound, but is also willing to compete above his size in aerial contests. The 17-year-old still has plenty of development left as a December 31 birth, meaning he only just makes the cut to be eligible for this year’s draft. His run-and-gun style is sure to catch many more eyes as the season continues, with Wilmot a prospect truly on the rise.

Last month:

Wilmot continued his exciting form with a strong start to his month, turning out for Northern and notching 22 touches in his usual defensive post, as the Knights toppled Oakleigh. He was able to utilise his running power, speed, and sharp ball use in the trial games too, lining up across half-back and even rolling up to a wing for Vic Metro. He continues to showcase handy points of difference for a player of his size and position, essentially holding his place in our count.

#25 Blake Howes
Sandringham Dragons | Forward/Wing
7/04/2003 | 190cm/79kg

June Ranking: NR

Snapshot: One of the best athletes available in this year’s draft, Howes boasts a terrific aerial game but also competes well at ground level and shows promising versatility.

Rounding out the top 25 is another new name in the mix, but one who should be well known to keen draft watchers. Howes was an All Australian at Under 16 level, plying his trade as a high-marking forward with wonderful athleticism and clean hands. While he started the year off in that usual forward post, Howes has since shown his versatility with a shift to the wing and is a classic high-ceiling type of prospect. He was included in this year’s initial AFL Academy intake and continues to back up that selection with form fitting of his potential as a mainstay in the Sandringham Dragons’ side.

Last month:

A name which has hovered around the mark, Howes makes his Power Rankings debut on the back of some really promising displays over the last month. Since moving up to a wing for Sandringham Dragons, Howes has played the position well by getting his hands on the ball more while still showcasing his marking prowess. In finding more possessions, Howes has also proven his ground level prowess. He very nearly had a blinder on the weekend, managing 24 disposals and nine marks against Tasmania, but just falling short on the end product with four behinds. At 190cm, his athleticism and versatility will excite many watchers.

IN THE MIX:

The two to fall out of the rankings since last month’s edition are Glenelg midfielder-defender Lewis Rayson and tall Northern Knights midfielder Ned Long. Rayson continues to tick along with more midfield minutes in the SANFL Under 18s, while Long has not been sighted at NAB League level in the last month and did not feature in the Victorian trials.

West Australian goalkicking ace Jye Amiss is becoming increasingly hard to deny. The East Perth spearhead is the leading WAFL Colts goalkicking charts with 37 in nine games, proving a dead-eye with his set shot conversions and difficult to stop when stationed one-on-one inside 50. His latest outing yielded a bag of seven majors, and he doesn’t need too many opportunities to make an impact.

After snaring five goals for Vic Country during last month’s trials, Dandenong midfielder-forward Judson Clarke is climbing draft boards. His mix of pace and skill catches the eye, with his current form pointing towards top 25 potential. Sam Butler, the brother of St Kilda’s Dan is another in that boat, but was recently injured having made a successful transition into midfield. GWV teammate Sam Breuer has also done so, only from defence, showing good speed and intent around the ball.

The likes of Zac Taylor and Lachlan Rankin are clever footballers who also enjoyed solid trial games to go with their NAB League form, so too Connor Macdonald. Back over in South Australia, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera could be another to watch after breaking through for his League debut, having strung together some form at the Reserves level.

PREVIEW | NAB League guns return to stacked squads after representative action

AFTER fulfilling their representative obligations last week, a bunch of draft eligible guns are set to return to the NAB League in Round 11. Five of the weekend’s six fixtures are set to be played on Saturday, starting with a trio of intriguing matchups which bounce down at 1:00pm across the state.

Headlining the inclusions in those games is Western Bulldogs father-son prospect Sam Darcy, fresh off his six-goal haul in last week’s trials. Having previously started down back for Oakleigh, he has unsurprisingly been named at centre half-forward for the Chargers’ clash with Greater Western Victoria (GWV).

While Darcy is a massive in, the Chargers look like they will be without skipper Nick Daicos, who continues to be managed. Nonetheless, they should be buoyed by Lachlan Rankin‘s return among a raft of other Vic Metro Under 19 squad members. Tasmanian Sam Collins also gets an extended run in midfield after impressing there last time out.

GWV also has plenty of its own representative talent returning to the fold, led by first round prospect Ben Hobbs. The combative midfielder has played just three games this season amid injury troubles, but has served a reminded of his high-end talent over the last fortnight.

With Marcus Herbert, Sam Breuer, and returning Allies hopeful Nick Hodgson part of the primary centre bounce mix, Hobbs has been named to start at half-forward. The Rebels have quite the spine too, bookended by Josh Gibcus and powerhouse skipper Josh Rentsch.

A solid midfield battle is brewing between the Calder Cannons and Geelong Falcons, who meet at Highgate Recreation Reserve. Mitch Knevitt, Noah Gribble, and Cooper Whyte slot straight into the Falcons’ engine room, while Zac Taylor and Josh Goater join the in-form Flynn Lakey in Calder’s midfield mix. The potential matchup of Calder forward Sam Paea and Geelong defender Oscar Morrison could also make for an exciting watch.

In the day’s other 1:00 start, Murray Bushrangers host Northern Knights in Wangaratta, with plenty of players to watch on each line. After lining up on Daicos a couple of weeks ago, Josh Ward‘s next assignment may come against Bushies top-ager Zavier Maher. The latter’s inclusion has squeezed Charlie Byrne to the wing, while Josh Rachele will start forward and Tom Brown returns in defence. Twin Northern talls Sam Grant and Anthony Caminiti also come in for their second games in the navy, black and white.

Sandringham has named a bumper midfield trio for its trip down to Tasmania on Saturday, with Josh Sinn, Campbell Chesser, and Finn Callaghan to attend the opening centre bounce. Chesser makes his long-awaited return from a knee injury, while Sinn did so last week in the NAB League, and Callaghan has been in red-hot form on both sides of midfield.

The competition for spots sees Charlie McKay shifted to half-back and Lachlan Benton starting on the bench, while debutant Lachlan Brooks may ply his trade as a small defender. St Kilda Next Generation Academy members Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens are also among the Dragons to watch. For the Devils, Sam Banks is a massive inclusion after missing a chunk of football through injury, as is Darcy Gardner who will look to crack a rather settled midfield once again.

After an impressive five-goal haul in Vic Country colours, Dandenong Stingrays midfielder-forward Judson Clarke would have been one of the first on Nick Cox‘s team sheet for his side’s clash with Eastern Ranges. The showcase Saturday night game also sees Will Bravo and Connor Macdonald return to the hosts’ midfield.

Jake Soligo will be the go-to ball winner for Eastern as Tyler Sonsie recovers from bone bruising, with a tough test ahead. Corey Preston has been named at half-back after impressing there with his ball use during last week’s trials, but intercept marking machine Tyreece Leiu remains absent as he nurses a corkie.

In Sunday’s standalone fixture, the Western Jets travel to take on Gippsland Power in Morwell. The hosts should get plenty of drive from their starting centeline of Max Walton, Will Papley, and Cooper Alger, while Jai Serong in a welcome inclusion up forward. Western welcomes back match-winning small forward Paul Curtis, with the likes of Liam Conway and Harrison White also handy additions to a midfield which will operate under Geelong-listed ruck Paul Tsapatolis.