Tag: draft

Versatile Parish thrives on physicality

WHEN asked of the key traits she wanted to present at the AFL Women’s Under 19 National Championships, the answer was pretty straightforward and ominous for Jamie Parish.

“Definitely my physicality,” Parish said. “I love bumping, hitting, shepherding.”

The versatile Woodville-West Torrens talent has enjoyed a swift journey into the South Australian talent pathway, crossing from other codes and being thrust into the SANFL Women’s system.

“I started off as a basketballer and a netballer,” she said. “I ended up having to fill in for a local club, I played one game and they were like ‘why don’t you give SANFL a try?’… so then I basically hopped straight into the SANFL, played a couple of years and ended up playing state.”

Parish described her 2021 state league form as “up and down”, but is enjoying the “learnings” of being tested in a variety of roles. Having cut her teeth as a key defender, the 171cm prospect was also thrust into the middle at the National Championships and can even swing forward or provide a handy ruck fold.

“(My coaches) are playing me in a lot of new positions and not just keeping me down back, so that’s been really good.” she said. “I am a key defender but I have been swapping through the midfield recently. “Hopefully I get a run in the midfield but it really just comes down to game day, because sometimes they’ll chuck me up forward as well, so who knows.”

While the 17-year-old was a mainstay throughout the Eagles’ SANFLW campaign, she was restricted to two of a possible three state representative games. Parish took on Western Australia in game one and was “pretty happy” with her performance, before returning for game three against the Allies down in Victoria, after being isolated due to COVID-19 precautions as her side battled Vic Country.

Parish looks up to the likes of Adelaide women’s captain Chelsea Randall and Western Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli, who she said are “hard at it and great players (she) always looks up to”. Boasting a similar competitive edge and the ability to play on multiple lines, Parish is also clean by hand in tough situations like her two idols. On the flip side, she says she is “motivated” to keep improving her fitness.

In true impartial fashion, the South Australian supports both Adelaide and Port Adelaide in the men’s AFL competition, while backing “all of them” in the women’s league. With expansion continuing at the top flight, there will be greater opportunities for developing prospects like Parish to crack the elite level and potentially run out alongside those she cheers on.

Outside of football, the current Year 12 student says she is one who “enjoys the sunshine”.

“Other than that, I’m just a casual sleep in until 12 o’clock and think about doing something sort,” she said.

Rookie Rundown: The picks you might have missed

THE 2020 AFL National and Rookie Drafts have been run and done, with plenty of fresh faces entering the elite system despite limited exposure, opportunities, and football this year. Often times, the best gems and values picks are found in the Rookie Draft and this year is no different, with a bunch of selections not read out during the official event seeing hot prospects get their chance. We take you through some of the names who have snuck onto lists via pre-listing or Category B eligibility, perhaps flying under the radar having been confirmed away from the glamour of draft night.

>> NATIONAL DRAFT: Club-by-club picks
>> ROOKIE DRAFT: Full order

Gold Coast is arguably the team with most relevance to this kind of category, with a total of five pre-listings made as part of the Suns’ draft concessions. Top 25 talents Alex Davies and Joel Jeffrey made their way onto the primary list, with the former an academy product and the latter aligned through Gold Coast’s access to the Darwin zone. Davies is a tall inside midfielder who thrives at the contest with great poise and clean extraction, while Jeffrey is an athletic swingman who stands out aerially and has great upside.

Rhys Nicholls and Aiden Fyfe are other academy graduates who were called out during the Rookie Draft, both promising to add some outside run and class to the Suns’ squad. Their listings were somewhat of a formality, but also show the growth of Gold Coast’s talent program. International scholarship holder Hewago Paul Oea earned a Category B slot after being overlooked last year, potentially bringing great speed and excitement to the forward half. ‘Ace’, as he is affectionately known, hails from Papua New Guinea and represented the Allies during last year’s Under 18 championships.

Another Queensland academy product in Carter Michael also earned rookie selection, pre-listed by Brisbane having been an integral part of the Lions’ pathway setup. The versatile midfielder’s selection slipped under the radar and was only announced after the fact, but he has long been linked with a spot on the Lions’ list. He is a Category A rookie, while Irish convert Deividas Uosis has been listed as a Category B prospect. The Lithuanian-born athlete was announced as a Lions coup early in 2020, but will only officially join their list come 2021.

Will Shaw was somewhat of a surprise get by GWS, with Marc Sheather Sydney’s only other academy selection after matching bids for Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden. Shaw is a former Giants Academy member who played for both Murray and Bendigo in the NAB League but was overlooked as a top-ager before getting his chance with the Giants, who value his outside run and class. He was eligible for selection as he falls in the Giants’ NSW zone. Sheather is a versatile option for the Swans who can play above his size up forward, down back, or even through midfield. He has athletic traits which appeal and a readymade kind of build. Both are said to have been put into Category B slots.

Adelaide wasted little time in announcing the Category B listings of Next Generation Academy (NGA) members James Borlase and Tariek Newchurch, who managed to slip through past the National Draft. Both are fast-developing talents, with Borlase a strongly-built defender who is the son of 246-game Port Adelaide champion Darryl, while Newchurch is a zippy small forward with x-factor and a wonderful eye for goal. They are far from the finished product, but could play a part in the Crows’ rebuild having capped off a massive overall draft haul.

Elsewhere, a couple of monster basketball converts also earned Category B selection, with Paul Tsapatolis landing at Geelong and Mate Colina snapped up by Richmond. Melbourne NGA prospect Deakyn Smith carries some interest after missing out on this intake, but will train with the club in hopes of nabbing a spot in future. Port Adelaide father-son Taj Schofield was one who did find a home in the Rookie Draft after the Power committed to him, adding great value at essentially no cost.

Featured Image: Gold Coast Category B rookie Hewago Paul Oea | Credit: SUNS Media

Overlooked – The prospects hoping for a Rookie Draft lifeline

AS was predicted come the end of the 2020 AFL Draft, there are plenty of hard luck stories to go with all the feel-good aspects of such an event. But plenty more opportunities lie ahead for overlooked prospects to scrape into the elite grade and make their dreams a reality. Fresh off a National Draft which lasted an eternity, we take a look at the top young talents who were stiff to miss out on finding a home last night, but will be hoping for a lifeline in today’s Rookie intake. Note: We have not included Next-Generation Academy or Northern Academy prospects who could be selected outside the traditional format.

Below are pocket profiles of 11 players who may remain in the mix, with full profiles available in our AFL Draft Guide.

Kaine Baldwin
Glenelg/South Australia | Key Forward
30/05/2002 | 193cm | 90kg

Baldwin was one of the more understandable sliders among this year’s pool given the fact that he has missed two full seasons of football with consecutive ACL tears. But the South Australian forward has previously shown signs of top 20 talent with dominant contested marking and great presence in the forward half. His capacity to get up the ground and impose himself on the contest is another key trait, which clubs looking for a developmental key forward may look fondly upon.

What he offers: Contested marking
The knock: Durability and mobility after consecutive ACL tears

Jackson Callow
Tasmania Devils/Allies | Key Forward
11/06/2002 | 194cm | 101kg

The Tasmanian was linked with a few clubs in need of key position depth across the draft, but was ultimately passed on at each stage of a brutally shallow intake. He could provide massive value for one of those clubs in a rookie spot; with his senior experience, readymade body, aggression, and natural ability all appealing traits. Callow is another strong contested marker and while he is known as a goalkicker, was also swung down back at times this year to further test his versatility.

What he offers: Contested marking
The knock: Mobility

Oliver Davis
Tasmania Devils/Allies | Inside Midfielder
18/07/2002 | 182cm | 75kg

Another Tasmanian in the mix given no prospects were taken from the Apple Isle, you know exactly what to expect from Davis each week. He is a reliable inside midfielder who has no trouble finding the ball and thrives in contested situations. Having taken out this year’s TSL Rising Star award while turning out for Clarence, Davis has proven his credentials over the course of a full senior season and could be a solid choice for midfield depth.

What he offers: Consistency
The knock: Hurt factor

Zac Dumesny
South Adelaide/South Australia | Medium Utility
26/04/2002 | 187cm | 80kg

One of the most highly touted prospects on this list for some time, Dumesny was pegged as one of his state’s premier draft chances coming into the year. Injury interrupted what was a promising start to his campaign at SANFL League level, but the utility came back strongly towards the end of the Under 18s season. His clean skills, reading of the play aerially, and versatility all make for desirable attributes which he was able to showcase consistently across different levels.

What he offers: Versatility
The knock: Athleticism

Jack Ginnivan
Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
19/12/2002 | 183cm | 77kg

A real character out of the Bendigo Pioneers, Ginnivan is a talent rated highly by many. His chances in the National Draft were inevitably hampered by being robbed of a top-age season, though the hard-running midfielder/forward showed plenty of promise as a bottom-ager. He could still find a home with clubs always on the look out for smaller types who are creative and can use the ball effectively in the front half.

What he offers: Forward run
The knock: Midfield development

Max Heath
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Ruck/Key Forward
24/10/2002 | 203cm | 94kg

A ruckman who came from the clouds to land on the draft radar, but one which clubs were not brave enough to snap up within the National Draft. Heath was a massive improver during preseason, proving a force in trial games both in the ruck and up forward. He was pegged as the first choice Vic Metro ruck and even touted as a top 30 talent by some, so should be a great option for clubs after a developable tall.

What he offers: Competitiveness
The knock: Lack of exposure over a full season

Liam Kolar
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Tall Forward/Utility
23/04/2002 | 195cm | 82kg

Another bolter in the mix, Kolar’s raw athleticism and speed-endurance mix had him pegged for big things at this year’s draft. Adelaide was said to be the major club of interest, so he may be snapped up quickly among the rookie intake given the Crows boast pick one and are impartial to a Knights talent. He debuted late in last year’s NAB League season and showed off some nice versatility, but really shone during this preseason to put himself in contention.

What he offers: Athleticism
The knock: Rawness

Kalin Lane
Claremont/Western Australia | Ruck
5/12/2001 | 204cm | 96kg

Lane was a surprise inclusion in this year’s WA state academy after managing just one WAFL Colts outing as a top-ager in 2019, but fully repaid the faith with a terrific season for Claremont. He has filled out nicely and is perhaps a touch further along that others on this list given he is a 19-year-old, with his ruck craft and steep rate of improvement key to his overall chances. At 204cm, he has the potential to be an imposing ruck force with his coverage of the ground and follow-up efforts.

What he offers: Ruck craft, upside
The knock: Football development

Zavier Maher
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
5/05/2002 | 184cm | 83kg

One who was said to have attracted interest within the top 25, Maher slid all the way out of that range and now into rookie contention. He has some in-vogue traits as a midfielder, with his explosive turn of speed used to break quickly from congestion once he gains a clean handle on the ball. His athletic base is strong but disposal on the move is one of the areas he is working on.

What he offers: Explosiveness
The knock: Kicking at pace

Zane Trew
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
26/04/2002 | 185cm | 80kg

Trew was among our own top 30 ranks for much of the year, but copped a fair whack from WA state academy coach Peter Sumich in the lead up to the draft and has slid way past his value. He is a clean extractor and terrific exponent of the handball who finds plenty of it, but has had his troubles with injury and thus, consistency over a full season throughout his journey. Would be a bargain for his natural ability alone.

What he offers: Clean extraction
The knock: Durability

Henry Walsh
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Ruck
27/06/2002 | 203cm | 87kg

Often billed with the ‘brother of Sam‘ tag, Walsh is a much different prospect to his elder sibling. The raw 203cm ruck is competitive at ground level but is working on his running and sustained impact around the ground to better suit the modern game. He has good potential and obviously comes from handy pedigree, so may warrant a shot.

What he offers: Competitiveness
The knock: Mobility

Featured Image: Tasmanian Jackson Callow will be hoping for an AFL Draft lifeline | Credit: Solstice Digital

Get to Know: Nicholas Kraemer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

SOUTH ADELAIDE boasts a handful of Under 18 products within this year’s State Academy hub, and one of the deeper overall lists for its junior age bracket. Among the Panthers’ top-age stars gunning for AFL Draft contention in 2020 is Nicholas Kraemer, a big-bodied inside midfielder who has been a mainstay in the South Australian (SA) state system. The 185cm prospect was in line to make his senior footballing debut this year after running out for a Reserves trial match during preseason, but like all prospects around the nation, was forced to momentarily put his aspirations on hold.

But with SANFL football set to return on June 27, and an unconfirmed national carnival looming in October, Kraemer and his fellow South Australians will get to strut their stuff soon enough. Kraemer has done plenty of that throughout his journey already, playing in every game of South Adelaide’s run to the 2019 SANFL Under 18 Grand Final, while also taking part in SA’s championship-winning Under 16 campaign a year earlier. This season, he is hoping to play every game for the SA Under 18 side as a key figure.

While he is most comfortable through midfield, Kraemer is able to play up either end of the ground credit to his defensive prowess and physical presence, but is looking to improve his endurance and speed to better impact through the engine room. As one of the rare Under 18 hopefuls to have already completed his schooling, Kraemer has been able to channel his focus into football while juggling a job at his family business, and has plenty of people to lean on as he strives to prove any doubters wrong.

Draft Central’s Michael Alvaro chatted with the promising youngster during lockdown about his journey so far, the lockdown experience, goals for the future, and plenty more. Check out how the Reynella junior is tracking along in anticipation of his return to the footy field.

THE JOURNEY TO THIS POINT

MA: Nick, where did your footy journey start?

NK: “Firstly, I played footy for my own local footy club. My cousin started playing there when he was young and I was probably about three years old. We didn’t know where to go so we just chose that footy club and I ended up playing there for three years.

“Then I started playing basketball as well, so I was heavily involved in basketball and one of my best mates there played for Reynella footy club so I went and played there. I played Under 13s, 14s, and 15s with South Adelaide and was still playing basketball at that time but it began to get too busy so I had to choose a sport.

“At about 15 I chose footy instead of basketball, played for South and luckily enough got asked to play for the State Under 16s, we were lucky enough to win that (championship) as well which was a good experience. Then I played 18s as a bottom-ager last year, made the grand final and now I’m playing 18s again.”

Having played every game in a side which made the SANFL Under 18 Grand Final, how did you rate your bottom-age year?

“I thought I played pretty well. I was a little bit slow at the start and then I found my mojo and stopped overthinking things. I started playing footy and not worrying so much, that’s when I started to find some form and the team started finding some form.

“We lost a fair few close games at the start and I think we went 8-0 to make the grand final. I felt like I had a bit of a slow start but pulled it in and finished off pretty strong I reckon.”


RISING THROUGH THE SA STATE ACADEMY

How has coming through the SA state system been for your development?

“I feel like it’s been really good. Playing 16s and being with the boys there, everyone’s familiar with each other at the minute and through the hub, everyone’s been so close and the standard have been so good so it makes you better.

“Everyone wants to get better but the standards are so high that you’re just pushing yourself so hard to match everyone. I feel like my development has gone a little bit further this year just being in that hub, and my fitness has grown heaps. It’s been really good this year and I’m enjoying it so far.”

You had a good group in that 2018 Under 16 squad who have come with you all the way to your Under 18 year, who are some of the boys you like to feed off and are familiar with?

“Probably Luke Edwards and Riley Thilthorpe. They’re very senior boys; Riley’s playing League at the moment and knows what he’s talking about, Luke plays a similar role to me – we play inside mid and can go down to half-back.

“I’m getting to learn off him and watch what he does as well, they’re probably the main two I try to watch, see what standards they bring and try to follow them in training.”


LIFE IN LOCKDOWN

Have you been able to keep in touch with the academy during lockdown?

“Yes. We’ve got a page where we can report what we do. With all this lockdown and footy being away we’ve had to post on there what we’ve been doing over the break; so what our gym workouts are, our conditioning workouts.

“(Under 18 Coach) Tony Bamford got us to cook dinner for the family and clean up, so everyone had to cook for their families and post it on there. We’ve got a group chat and we all stay pretty close with each other, and with the group chat it drives you to do your work instead of being left behind. It’s (helping to) keep in touch and get you motivated to keep doing your fitness and gym work so it’s been really good.”

What’d you cook for the family?

“I cooked burrito bowls.”

Nice, healthy?

“Yep.”

Some of the other states have been given tasks like picking out a player to base your game around, have you been given similar activities?

“We’ve done them. We’ve also had to (answer) ‘If we had to quarantine for two weeks, who would we quarantine with?’ – a coach and two players. We’ve had to base our game on AFL players and say why and all that sort of stuff.

“There’s always little activities that the coaches put in place so you’re not bored and you’re not forgetting about stuff so it’s good.”

How have you gone about keeping fit during lockdown, do you have a home gym?

“I’ve got a home gym in my lounge room. Funnily enough, my next door neighbour has a bench with a bench press, leg press and everything. We’ve borrowed it for the minute so he’s been really helpful with that.

“And just going for runs, I’m still keeping fit and keeping busy, if I’m bored I’ll just go into the gym and just do little things to keep my mind off other things.”


THE GAME OF NICK KRAEMER

Who have you chosen as the player you want to base your game on?

“I chose Josh Kennedy from Sydney. I feel like he’s a real inside mid which I play like at the minute. He’s a contested player, he gets his hands on the ball first and gives it out to the speedsters so I feel like that’s what I’m doing. I watch what he does, where he runs, and that sort of stuff.”

You’ve got the clearance game down pat, what are some of the things you see as your strengths at the moment?

“I’d probably say clean hands and I defend pretty well. I’m clean at ground level and I’m more of a defensive player than attacking. I feel like basketball has helped with that and defending people through basketball has got my one-on-one defence down pat and working really well. Those two are probably my biggest strengths.”

In terms of improvements, is getting generally fitter the main area?

“Yes, endurance and speed would be the two main weaknesses that I’ve been working on, growing up and getting feedback from coaches. I’ve got a sprint coach at the minute that I work with and I’m trying to work on that acceleration, the 0-5 metre sprint.

“Then endurance, as a midfielder you’ve got to be able to run so I’ll just keep developing my endurance so I can run and get to more contests.”


GOALS FOR 2020 AND BEYOND

Are you studying at all at the moment?

“No, I finished Year 12 last year. Mum and Dad have a gardening business so I work with them basically every day at the minute.

“I’d like to be a police officer if footy doesn’t pan out so this year was just to focus on footy and then next year if things don’t go well then I’ll apply for that and it’ll be my goal for next year as well as trying to make it in footy as well.”

Did you feel, coming into the year that being able to solely focus on footy would be an advantage for you?

“100 per cent. I reckon I had stuff to prove to everyone and that was probably my biggest motivation to show what I’ve been working on over the break. Coming into January over the Christmas break, I just wanted to show everyone what I’d been working on so now that it hasn’t panned out I’ve been able to develop my endurance a bit more so when footy does come back, I can just prove to the coaches what I’ve been doing.”

Do you have any idea of what level you’re going to be playing this year, firstly with South Adelaide and then with the state side?

“Hopefully (I’ll play for the SA Under 18s), that’s the goal. I did play one game of Reserves footy before all this happened. I played a trial match for the Reserves and had been training with the seniors before that.

“I got a Reserves gig and then the goal was to just make the state team and play every game. Hopefully that still goes ahead and I can play a couple of senior games too.”

In terms of your role, do you think you’ll still be working that inside midfield job, or will you be looking to move around the field?

“I feel like that’s my strongest area, inside mid. But I’m happy to go wherever, I can play a high half-forward which I played in the Reserves game and I liked.

“But then also playing that defensive role which is well-known to me, so inside mid and back are probably the likely two roles that I’ll play this year but we’ll see what happens with that forward role.”

Do you have any goals you’re looking to tick off, team-wise or individually?

“Team-wise is to hopefully go one better than we did last year and individually, probably just to make the state team. The overall goal is to get drafted but there’s little goals in front of that to make it come true. Just playing for the Under 18s first and if I get a gig in the Reserves or League, to play well there and crack into the state team, play well there have an impact in those games.”


LIVING IN THE UNKNOWN

What was it like at the start of lockdown knowing you might not be able to get on the park at all, having that unknown?

“The first two weeks it was a bit disappointing in a way that you don’t know what’s going to happen, or how then future’s going to unfold. But then after you get over the wall of not knowing what’s going to happen, you just get on your bike and start doing what you’re being told to do. We’ve had a program we’ve had to follow so I’m just doing that and doing extra stuff to be able to come back better than I was before.

“So it was a bit disappointing but then again, it was a good way to work on the stuff you’ve not been able to do because of the workload beforehand.”

On the flipside, you must’ve been pretty pumped to see the news of SANFL competition returning, what was your reaction to it?

“It was just very exciting to know that it was going to be coming back and it came back sooner than what we thought. Just excitement overall to be able to come back and train, see the faces at South, see the boys that we haven’t seen in a couple of months… and now play games, improve and hopefully make that state team.”

How long have you been back at training?

“Three weeks. Two weeks of non-contact with 10 people. We’ve had two sessions, an early session and a late session, the oval has been split up into thirds.

“This week has been the first contact training where we’ve been able to actually start tackling so this week’s been a lot better than the last couple where we’ve actually played some sort of footy.”

Is being able to play senior football at this stage an advantage for you over the interstate prospects?

“I feel like it’s good. Giving that exposure to young kids coming through where they can prove that they can play against bigger bodies and if they’re good enough, hold their spot and play there.

“That’s a goal for everyone and guys like Corey (Durdin) and Riley (Thilthorpe) have gone really well up there so hopefully they can keep playing well.”


MENTORS AND ROLE MODELS

Are there any key mentors who you look up to at the moment, whether it be through the state system, at South Adelaide, or your family?

“My whole family. My sister is a police officer, she pushes me to be the best I can be. She’s basically like a second mum, being a cop. Then my brother, he used to play footy when he was younger and gave it up to work more but he’s been helping me a lot with going out and having someone to kick with. My dad has been helping me a lot with that as well, we’ll go out and have a kick. Mum’s just the emotional support, she’s always there for me.

“I don’t really have a role model at AFL level because I kind of just want to model my game on myself, if that makes sense. But watching the big players and how they play is very eye-opening. Mark Clayton as well from South Adelaide has helped me a lot through the three years I’ve been with him and Tony (Bamford) has helped me a lot too, but family is probably the biggest role model at the minute.”

Is there anyone you’d like to thank for contributing to your footballing journey?

“I’d just like to thank South Adelaide mainly, they’ve been a big impact on how I’ve grown. Reynella footy club, where I’ve come from have also helped me a lot. And my family, all the coaches I’ve had – everyone’s been influential. The AFL hub academy, all the boys there have helped me a lot with growing, being a better player and a better person as well.”

FLINDERS UNIVERSITY STUDY

You partook in a study with Flinders University, can you tell me a little about that?

“It was about goalkicking. Dr Sam Elliott did a study on how juniors and seniors think through their routine and how they overthink things. We went in there and he told us what to do, we had sunglasses with cameras on them and all sorts of things where he could record stuff to make his study more accurate. It was pretty good, pretty interesting stuff.”

Do you have any results, has your goalkicking improved or was it good to start with?

“I feel like the further you go out, 30 metres is probably where everyone is most comfortable, but the further you go you start to think about kicking the ball too hard. I think the study has helped me with going through my routine, not trying to hit the ball so hard and picking out a target behind the goals to aim for.”

>> MORE SA UNDER 18s CONTENT

Central District | Get to know
Glenelg | Get to know
North Adelaide | Get to know
Norwood | Get to know
South Adelaide | Get to know
Sturt | Get to know
West Adelaide | Get to know
WWT Eagles | Get to know

AFL Draft Watch:
Kaine Baldwin
Luke Edwards
Taj Schofield
Riley Thilthorpe

Marquee Matchups:
Kaine Baldwin vs. Denver Grainger-Barras
Corey Durdin vs. Braeden Campbell
Luke Edwards vs. Connor Downie

2020 SA Squad Prediction
2020 Positional Analysis: Key Forwards

Preseason Testing Results:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo test

Marquee Matchups: Alex Davies vs. Reef McInnes

DESPITE remaining in the unknown of football’s temporary absence, Draft Central is set to ramp up its draft analysis with another new prospect-focussed series, Marquee Matchups. We take a look at some of the high-end head-to-head battles which look likely to take place should the class of 2020 take the field, comparing pairs of draft hopefuls to help preview who may come out on top.

A couple of academy hopefuls make up our next pair under review, with Cairns native Alex Davies tied to the Gold Coast SUNS, while Reef McInnes is the latest Oakleigh Charger connected to Collingwood’s Next Generation Academy (NGA). The two are virtually identical in size and have already played in opposing sides thrice across three different competitions, providing a decent data sample to this point. Neither player was able to participate in preseason testing due to injury niggles, but are raring to go should they be called upon.

Davies has long been one of Queensland’s hottest draft prospects, and is certainly now the SUNS’ most prominent academy member. The 191cm inside midfielder provides a big body at the stoppages, dominating the clearance stakes with his clean hands, strength, and poise in congestion. He has often been Queensland’s best player during representative duties to date, earning All Australian honours at Under 16 level and impressing last year in the Under 17 competition. Experience in the NAB League also bodes well for Davies, as he helped the SUNS take out the Academy Series in 2019.

His adversary, McInnes has plenty of similar attributes as an inside midfielder, but was forced to play up forward for Oakleigh for much of 2019 given the Chargers’ phenomenal midfield crop. The 192cm mover managed to take full advantage of his limited time in the engine room though, showcasing his ability to find plenty of ball as he also does for Scotch College in school football. McInnes also possesses terrific athleticism for his size, allowing him to come away cleanly from stoppage situations and get his side moving forward. Having played in Oakleigh’s 2019 premiership side, he is also well versed in big games.

Without further ado, get up to speed with how the two match-up in terms of their form to date, strengths, improvements, and what has already been said about their performances in our scouting notes.

PLAYER PAGES

Alex Davies
Gold Coast/Allies
Gold Coast SUNS Academy

DOB: March 18, 2002

Height: 191.2cm
Weight: 84.6kg

Position: Inside midfielder

Reef McInnes
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro
Collingwood NGA

DOB: December 12, 2002

Height: 192.1cm
Weight: 83.8kg

Position: Inside midfielder/forward

ON-FIELD PROFILES

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATISTICS

Davies:

4 games
18 disposals (49.3% contested possessions)
2.8 marks
3.5 tackles
3.8 clearances
2.8 inside 50s
1.3 rebound 50s
0.3 goals (1)

McInnes:

12 games
14.7 disposals (36% contested possessions)
3.9 marks
3.1 tackles
1.6 clearances
1.6 inside 50s
1.6 rebound 50s
0.5 goals (6)

There is often only so much you can read into statistics, and this is somewhat the case with either player here. While Davies’ sample size in the NAB League is three-times smaller than McInnes’, his key stats arguably better reflect his overall game as an inside type. The Queenslander’s 49 per cent contested ball rate, 3.8 clearances, and 3.5 tackles are indicative of his stoppage dominance, while his average of 2.8 inside 50s come from long roosts out of congestion. Over half (9.8) of Davies’ disposals across the four games were handballs though, further reflecting his distributive role.

McInnes’ key stats over 12 games are products of his varying roles in the competition as a bottom-ager, having been pushed out to the flanks given Oakleigh’s stacked squad. Still, McInnes managed three games of over 23 disposals with a high of 29 when utilised through midfield, and made good of his chances in the side nonetheless. McInnes’ deceptive athleticism also comes through in his average 3.9 marks and low contested possession rate, as he showed he could gain separation from his direct opponent in the forward half, while also proving strong one-on-one inside 50. From midfield, McInnes’ accumulation on the spread has arguably proven superior.

BEST GAME

Davies:

NAB League Rd 4 vs. Oakleigh

16 disposals
5 marks
6 tackles
1 clearance
3 inside 50s
1 goal

McInnes:

NAB League Rd 13 vs. Geelong

29 disposals
5 marks
7 tackles
4 clearances
5 inside 50s
2 goals

Either players’ best games display similar upside in their efforts, with two-way work rate, the ability to find the ball, and scoreboard impact all evident across the two performances. Davies’ disposal count may be a touch low at 16, but his well-rounded outing against McInnes and Oakleigh in last year’s NAB League beat out his two 22-disposal efforts. He worked around the ground well to notch six marks, while using his physical presence to also have a say on the defensive side of the stoppages.

McInnes had a blinder against Geelong during the middle of the season, racking up big numbers throughout a rare midfield berth. A game-high 29 touches featured four clearances, five inside 50s, and two goals, with the Chargers’ defensive work also notable as he laid seven tackles. McInnes’ 28 disposals against Western in his next NAB League appearance was a close second, but his goals against Geelong showcase the versatility in his game. Again, the accumulation factor looks good for McInnes in these instances.

PREVIOUS MEETINGS

2019 NAB League Rd 4
Gold Coast 14.11 (95) def. Oakleigh 3.6 (24) @ Southport

Davies:

16 disposals
5 marks
6 tackles
3 inside 50s
1 goal

McInnes:

13 disposals
3 marks
1 clearance
3 rebound 50s

2019 Under 17 Futures
Vic Metro 10.11 (71) def. Queensland 6.7 (43) @ Ikon Park

Davies:

15 disposals
3 marks
2 tackles
5 clearances
1 inside 50

McInnes:

24 disposals
3 marks
9 tackles
6 clearances
4 inside 50s
2 rebound 50s

The ledger after these two meetings looks reasonably square, with Davies having a greater say in their NAB League clash, while McInnes managed to get one back in their representative hitout. It is also worth noting that the pair also faced off in the Under 17s All Star fixture, with both prospects returning terrific performances.

Arguably the best game to look at is the Under 17 carnival clash, where McInnes’ Metro side trumped Davies’ Queenslanders on home turf. Reason being, both players were utilised in their natural inside midfield positions on that day and were easily in their sides’ best handful of players. Though he had nine less disposals, Davies nearly matched McInnes for clearances, but the Victorian was on a tear early with his impact around the ground.

Ironically, the game also worked to somewhat highlight their respective improvements to be made, which will be touched on further down the line.

STRENGTHS

Davies:

Contested ball
Clean hands
Distribution
Poise

McInnes:

Contested ball
Versatility
Strength
Agility

Given their similar position and ilk, the strengths of either player match up well. Both are fantastic in the contested ball stakes, able to use their size at the stoppages to burrow in and gain first use. But where Davies is superior with his clean hands and quick distribution, McInnes thrives with his repeated digs and ability to break away from congestion with either strength or agility.

Davies can be that clearance-first, or distributing midfielder – balancing his disposal by food and hand – while McInnes’ balance comes through in the sense that he can provide more of an outside presence to go with that ball-winning dominance.

IMPROVEMENTS

Davies:

Impact outside of the contest

McInnes:

Four-quarter consistency

As two high-end prospects with ideal athletic profiles and talent to boot, improvements are sometimes difficult to nail down. But there are a couple of areas to sharpen for either player, aimed at making them more complete midfielders.

Davies has said himself that getting to repeated contests and being on the move is an area he is improving on, with that impact outside of the contested situations theoretically allowing him to find more of the ball. While Davies is usually assured in possession, he can also blaze away at stoppages under pressure when a handball option does not present.

McInnes’ improvement comes from a desire to impact for four quarters, with his best football not always consistent throughout each game. Even in one of his best showings – against Queensland last year – McInnes started like a house on fire but faded towards the latter stages. Three NAB League outings of under 10 disposals also pertain to this point, and building a better tank through midfield could be a solution.

KEY SCOUTING NOTES

Davies:

Under 17 Futures All Stars

By: Ed Pascoe

The Gold Coast academy prospect was one of Team Dal Santo’s better performers going through the midfield and winning plenty of the ball especially early.

He is a nice size as a modern day tall midfielder and he had no trouble winning first possession and dishing it out to his runners.

He kicked a lovely goal in the last quarter under pressure he was able to cleanly pickup and quickly kick a nice running goal.

McInnes:

2019 Under 17 All Stars

By: Michael Alvaro

Starting in midfield, McInnes proved he was more than an inside workhorse with his poise on the ball and sound decision making when hemmed in.

He has that surprising agility at times – much like GWS Academy product Tom Green and Carlton’s Patrick Cripps – which helps to get him out of trouble on top of his strength in the tackle.

The Collingwood NGA hopeful went on to become influential up forward, finding separation on the lead and almost pulling in some strong marks.

It proved a shrewd move, as McInnes booted two goals; the first coming from a 50m penalty, and the second shortly after with a classy snap from the tightest of angles.

ACCOLADES

Davies:

2018 Under 16 All Australian
2019 Queensland Under 17 representative
2019 Australian Under 17 representative
2019 Under 17 All Star

McInnes:

2018 Vic Metro Under 16 representative
2019 Vic Metro Under 17 representative
2019 NAB League premiership player
2019 Under 17 All Star

FINAL WORD

There is not much to separate these two, who present as some of the finest inside midfield candidates for the 2020 AFL Draft. Both should come at a decent cost to their respective aligned clubs, though that often also works to push them down the pecking order come draft night.

McInnes’ work somewhat out of position to this point has been a blessing in disguise, adding versatility and a greater ability to impact around the ground to his well-rounded midfield game.

Davies is one of this year’s best contested ball winners though, and is rarely beaten in those stakes. While he can always work on adding strings to his bow, specialists are often hard to come by and many have been impressed by his kicking on the outer nonetheless.

We can only hope these two are able to get on the park this year to battle it out once again, potentially as direct opponents during either the NAB League or National Championships.

Gold Coast and Collingwood fans, rejoice.

Features:

For more on these two draft prospects, follow the links below.

Get to know Alex Davies
Reef McInnes Q&A

 

Marquee Matchups:

For more Marquee Matchups, follow the links below.

Sam Berry vs. Zavier Maher
Jackson Callow vs. Cameron Fleeton
Nikolas Cox vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

AFL Draft Diary: Zane Trew

ZANE Trew is one of most exciting talents in this years draft crop for Western Australia. The extremely talented Swan Districts midfielder has had his share of obstacles to overcome in the past 12 months and the current COVID-19 health crisis sweeping the globe is just another thing to deal with. With the WAFL season currently postponed, Zane talks us through his journey to this point and plans for the next few months.

It’s been an up and down last two years for myself. Early last season after playing only a handful of games I hurt my shoulder in an exhibition game in Melbourne. I was given the option to either keep playing with the injury and probably not be able to play to the best of my ability, or have an operation.

After a lot of discussion with the biggest influencers in my football environment and immediate family, I was certain that going through with the op was the best possible decision for the long term goal of my football career.

I did miss a lot of footy (including the National championships and Colts final series) and a lot of opportunities I believe I could have taken and made an impact in. But that’s irrelevant now and I see this as a learning curve in my journey and something that’ll only make me better in the future. I know now If something like that happens again I know exactly what to expect and how to handle myself as professionally as possible. It was a solid rehab period and it took me into the start of my first senior preseason feeling fresh, extremely pumped and itching to play footy again.

The pre-season was solid and its a credit to the club for running such an elite program down at Swans and getting us boys in such good shape for the 2020 season ahead I think it’ll put us in a great spot. It was also really great to learn off some top-notch players that I have looked up to for so long at the club which have helped with my development dramatically. With the pre-season nearing its end, I was really feeling confident and so pumped to kick things off again, but along comes another curve ball.Obviously the situation with COVID-19 has left myself along with everyone else without doing what we all love, which is playing footy.

Personally I was really flat knowing that footy wouldn’t be starting right away, but I guess you have to put things into perspective. I see this as an opportunity to get in a bit more gym and running and mentally to physically freshen up after such a big preseason which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was playing. For me its all about getting that balance right and just sticking to what I know and not taking this time just to completely switch off from footy.

It is a very big year for me and I’m going to make sure when that first game comes, I’m more than ready to go.

Young stars Rising up to AFL challenge

EVERY club is excited with the young talent in their team and with round one approaching we have taken a look at which players could step up and progress from the under 18s – or their first season in the AFL – and be the standout young talent at the elite level. From an already premiership player to a few top five five draft picks, there is no shortage of contenders for the 2018 AFL Rising Star Award and here are a few to look out for this year.

Jack Graham

The Richmond young gun was picked at number 53 in the 2016 AFL National Draft and has already had one year of experience in the AFL, remarkably winning a premiership with the Tigers which will help him to thrive and play to his absolute best in the Richmond midfield. He was a standout in the Grand Final, kicking three goals, while keeping Adelaide star Rory Sloane quiet. Graham is one of the favourites to take out the 2018 AFL Rising Star award, and it would be surprising not to see him at least poll some votes from the judges at the end of the season.

Paddy Dow

Carlton’s prized number three draft pick in last years draft, Paddy Dow from the Bendigo Pioneers is another one of the favourites tipped to win the 2018 AFL Rising Star Award. The young blue has the full package in he is a powerful, classy midfielder who can impact the scoreboard. He is a huge accumulator of the ball and knows how perform on the big stage. He showcased some of what he has to offer during both AFLX and the JLT Community Series. Dow’s long repertoire of skills will be on display, and is primed to play and be a young leader in a young up-and-coming side.

Jaidyn Stephenson

Collingwood have found themselves a player that has some X-factor with pick six in last year’s draft. The former Eastern Ranges enigma is a great runner who is both quick and has the tank to run out four quarters of footy . He was a playmaker during the TAC Cup in 2017, averaging 5.2 inside 50s and 3.9 clearances, and was a danger every time he went up forward, something Collingwood is hoping he can do in 2018. His X-factor trait is the explosiveness in Stephenson game style, which will likely see him up in the top 10 of the AFL Rising Star Award.

Oliver Florent

Oliver Florent was picked by Sydney Swans in the 2016 AFL National Draft with pick 11. After only playing a handful of games in 2017, Florent is still eligible to win the Rising Star in 2018. The former Dragon is a lively half-forward who can make something out of nothing. At the 2016 AFL Draft Combine he recorded the equal highest beep test (15.1)  Florent will fit in nicely to a regenerating Swans side, and add another dimension to an already star forward line with Buddy Franklin and Isaac Heeney. 

Luke Davies-Uniacke

North Melbourne’s Luke Davies-Uniacke from the Dandenong Stingrays, was picked with the fourth pick in the 2017 AFL National Draft. He is a classy player with all the characteristics of an contested ball winning and game breaking midfielder. Davies-Uniacke wins the ball similar to Sydney’s Josh Kennedy and models his marking on Luke Parker. North Melbourne’s Recruiting Officer Ben Birthisel, said Davies-Uniacke is “really good at accumulating the footy around the ground and his ability to consistently stand-up in big games has really made him stand-out amongst this year’s group. His elimination final against Eastern Ranges was super, and he’s another who’s gone forward and hit the scoreboard and is strong overhead.”  Look to see him in the top three in the Rising Star award.

Cam Rayner

Brisbane’s prized number one draft pick, Cam Rayner from the Western Jets, is another who will see plenty of game time in the 2017. His game style is compared to Richmond star Dustin Martin. Andrew Hamilton from the Courier Mail compares Rayner to ‘Dusty’ “because of his explosiveness and brutal fend-off.”  Rayner had the nickname “Hollywood” at his Junior football club, Hillside, because of his “goalkicking flair”.  So with his ability to impress, expect him at seasons end to be in the top three vote-getters of the AFL Rising Star Award.

Alex Witherden

Lions young gun Alex Witherden was selected by Brisbane with pick number 23 in the 2016 AFL National Draft. Witherden played nine of the final ten games for the season, only missing Round 21 because of injury. He was a standout in his first season in defence at the Lions, and especially in his debut match against the GWS Giants in Round 14 “where he collected 20 disposals, 12 kicks and seven marks.” In his impressive debut season, Witherden “averaged 23.6 disposals, 15.9 kicks and 5.3 marks” and therefore he was 17th “on the 2017 Rising Star Nomination tally.”  In 2018, he is tipped to finish in the top two of the AFL Rising Star award. If Witherden plays the whole season and continues with his great form in defence from 2017, he will take out the AFL Rising Star Award or at least in the top five because he will be playing against other very young talented superstars.

Andrew Brayshaw

Sandringham Dragons’ Andrew Brayshaw was taken by Fremantle with pick two in last year’s National Draft. Brayshaw’s is renowned for being “a hard worker, neat user of the ball and a superb decision maker.” His kicking is top notch and in the TAC Cup he averaged nearly seven tackles a game. Brayshaw is a versatile player who can have a significant impact whichever position he plays in, as he can not only play in the midfield, but can play as a half-back flanker and move forward when required. He had a great AFL National Draft Combine, where he showcased a rare mix of speed and elite endurance capping off an outstanding 2017 season. Look to see Brayshaw in the top five of the AFL Rising Star award, due to his versatility as a player and his incredible footy IQ .

The year that was 2015

VIC Country might have won the battle, but Vic Metro teams won the war.

In a year where the top four teams comprised of those from regional Victoria, the penultimate match would still be decided between two metropolitan teams.

The Oakleigh Chargers emerged victorious over the Eastern Ranges by 12 points in an entertaining contest.

It was their third flag in four years, with the Ranges taking the other one.

Kade Answerth was judged best on ground in the win, but unfortunately the overager missed out on landing at an AFL club again.

Despite finishing top two, the North Ballarat Rebels and Dandenong Stingrays fell at the final hurdle and suffered the same fate as their country allies Geelong Falcons and Murray Bushrangers the week before.

Gippsland Power and Calder Cannons rounded out the top eight in 2015, but the dominance of the top six teams last year showed in the first round of the finals with victories to the Chargers and Ranges.

As for the remaining four teams, Sandringham Dragons escaped dropping below the NSW/ACT Rams, by finishing ninth, however the Northern Knights were not as fortunate, winning one less game than the Rams despite playing 10 more matches.

The Western Jets and Bendigo Pioneers had years to forget, both falling below the aforementioned teams as well as Tasmania and Queensland despite the division two sides playing four and five games respectively.

The Jets and Pioneers did however finish above Northern Territory, but the Thunder only played two matches for one win.

As for the national draft, four of the top five draft picks hailed from Vic Country, capping off a fantastic year.

Murray Bushrangers produced two top five picks with key forward Josh Schache heading north to the Lions, while draft bolter Clayton Oliver went from an omission in the Vic Country side to a potential round one starter for Melbourne.

Dandenong’s Jacob Weitering headed to Carlton as the number one pick in the draft, while Geelong’s Darcy Parish donned the red and black.

NSW-ACT’s Callum Mills found his way to the Swans after Sydney matched the highest bid on record for a player.

Across the borders, South Australia did not live up to its pre-championships hype, finishing equal with Vic Metro and Western Australia, winning two matches (one against each).

Western Australia and Vic Metro recorded their two wins with one against each other and one each against South Australia.

Vic Country had no problems whatsoever, winning all six matches, with a few close ones.

Despite the amount of talk over a number of Giants and Swans academy members, NSW-ACT Rams managed just one win at the Under 18s Championships due to injuries, defeating the winless Northern Territory.

Overall, Queensland took out the honours with three wins from its three matches, while Tasmania finished a respectable second with two wins and one loss.

South Australia had just one player drafted in the top 10 (Aaron Francis), while Jacob Hopper joined Mills as two draftees from NSW/ACT Rams.

Callum Ah Chee was the only West Australian to find a home in the first 10 picks of the national draft, while Eastern’s Sam Weideman and Gippsland’s Harry McKay rounded out the top 10.

Rippon for the picking

It is 6:30 am.

It is cold.

The city of Ballarat is quiet in preparation of the day ahead, while the clouds above have promised to hold off a little longer before their ritual interruption begins.

Athletes are not supposed to be up at this time. For them, this is a time of rest from the exhaustive, excruciating and lonely hours of physical repetition they put themselves through to hone their skills.

And if they are up at this time, it is to do that very thing – train.

But 21-year-old Nick Rippon is no ordinary athlete. He does not have that luxury.

A second year apprentice plumber and a prominent VFL footballer with the North Ballarat Roosters, Rippon is required to fulfil a similar number of hours training and in recovery as many of the AFL players he competes against, yet with the added task of squeezing them in during a 45-hour work week.

‘It was a bit different my first year. Full-time working and playing football was a bit draining at times, but I think you sort of get used to it after a while,’ Rippon said.

His apprenticeship has been “a bit of a learning curve” but is enjoying it.

“It keeps me out of trouble,” he said with a laugh.

Standing at 176 centimetres tall, Rippon has nonetheless been able to become one of the VFL’s leading midfielders, through his ability to extract the ball and give to teammates from the inside of contests, and his capacity to use the ball equally well while in space. In 2014, Rippon had a breakout season, finishing third in the Roosters’ best and fairest, and being named in the VFL team of the year.

This year he improved again, adding the Liston Trophy for the VFL’s best and fairest to his list of achievements.

Yet he continues to be ignored.

Rippon first caught the attention of North Ballarat Rebels senior coach David Loader and talent manager Phil Partington while playing local junior football as a 15 year-old.

Once offered a chance to be part of the Rebels TAC Cup squad, Rippon was quick to take it with both hands.

“I reckon people misjudged Nick a little bit early on, that he wasn’t going to be tall enough, he wasn’t going to be able to do this and that, but his ability to play was just so real,” Loader said.

Rippon featured in 13 Rebels games as an underage player in his first season. Playing as a small defender, locking down opponents and providing run from his team’s back 50, he was named among the best players a total of eight times.

Not one to grow complacent, Rippon soon backed up his strong first year at the Rebels with an even more impressive draft year as a midfielder.

Partington believes Rippon’s core strength and ability over his head for his size, allowed him to become a prominent inside midfielder who thrived at the contest.

“That year he was probably one of the premier onballers of the TAC Cup,” Partington says.

Loader remembers him similarly.

“He was so competitive,” he said. “He had genuine speed, he had a great vertical leap, he had real strength and power and he was an elite kick of the ball. Even though he wasn’t a tall guy he was an extremely good player.’

One game in particularly remains etched in Loader’s mind that symbolises Nick’s ability as a footballer.

The Rebels played an away game against the Calder Cannons. With that year’s eventual number two draft pick Jonathon O’Rourke, the Cannons were supposed to prove too strong, too fast and too talented for the Rebels.

Rippon was given the task of going head to head with O’Rourke.

Rippon won the ball regularly, kicked two goals, finished second best on ground and managed to keep O’Rourke quiet. The Rebels won comfortably.

‘It was just a real testament to how good Nick actually was,’ Loader said.

It is difficult to neglect Rippon’s draft year achievements, as he finished the season as the Rebels’ best and fairest, was awarded a spot in the TAC Cup team of the year, and achieved second place in the Morrish medal for the league’s best-and-fairest, narrowly missing out on top spot by one vote to now Carlton player Nick Graham.

Despite his prolific year, Rippon was nonetheless overlooked at the 2012 national and rookie drafts.

AFL Victoria’s VFL academy coach, Darren Flanigan, who had watched Rippon from afar during 2012, said Rippon was a victim of circumstance.

“It’s a needs basis with AFL clubs. If they want some midfielders who can play as a small defender they would look at him but if they’ve already got those players on their list, then they won’t look at him,” Flanigan said.

As the league is seeing the benefits of bigger-bodied, taller midfielders with the success of Essendon’s Jobe Watson and Fremantle’s Nathan Fyfe, Flanigan believes it is becoming important for midfielders 185 centimetres or below to possess a standout trait to get drafted.

TAC Cup and AFL.com.au draft reporter Callum Twomey remembered Rippon as in many ways being unfortunate not to get drafted.

“It was a tough year for him to probably get drafted because it was a pretty good draft that year and every year there’s a few unlucky types,” Twomey said.

But Twomey does not believe that Rippon’s height was what necessarily held him back.

“I think speaking to AFL recruiters – not specifically about Nick but just overall – they always look for guys with a trick, maybe an AFL quality that sort of separates them from the pack,” he said.

“But that’s not to say you cannot develop that.”

The day after the draft, Rippon found himself in a difficult situation. For most graduating year 12 students, their Valedictory dinner is an exciting prospect. It represents a chance to be seen – hopefully for the first time – as a peer by one’s teachers. A chance, depending on the school they are from, for a student to maybe even have a beer with a teacher they got along with. In more extreme cases, it may even be an opportunity for a student to finally tell that teacher of theirs where to go.

But for Rippon, valedictory dinner was something very different.

Graduating from St Patrick’s College, a notoriously strong football school, meant that as Rippon was meeting a sizeable roadblock in his path toward his dream.

Fellow students Martin Gleeson, Jake Neade, Dom Barry, Michael Close and Tanner Smith were being directed through to theirs, having been drafted the day before.

‘It was a good occasion to finish your Year 12 year off, but it was pretty hard on me, everyone was congratulating those guys and commiserating with myself, and it was pretty hard to deal with at the time,’ Rippon said.

True to his personality though, he credits the experience as being pivotal to helping him become the person he is now.

“That was probably a point when I become a bit of a stronger sort of person and player in that sense as well,” Rippon said.

It showed.

Rather than wallow in self-pity, Rippon signed with North Ballarat’s VFL side in 2013, managing to fight his way through to the senior team and finish the year as a strong contributor for the Roosters. Having been one of the TAC Cup’s standout players, Rippon was also invited to join AFL Victoria’s 18-man VFL academy, an initiative started in 2012 to help improve the draft chances of a select group of VFL prospects.

Roosters midfield coach Paul Jennings says Rippon’s willingness to learn has helped him continually improve.

“Nick’s a really driven person, he definitely likes to get the best out of himself,” Jennings said.

Flanigan agrees, and believes Rippon will only continue to develop.

‘He’s definitely developed as a player across his whole career,’ Flanigan said.

“He’s gone from a back flank to a midfield [spot] at the TAC Cup level, he’s gone from a small defender outside to an inside mid at VFL level, and just continued to progress exponentially every year.”

Flanigan says there are plenty of examples of players initially ignored who went on to have successful careers, such as Sam Mitchell, who was overlooked for the 2000 draft, before going on to become a premiership captain at Hawthorn.

He believes Rippon could become yet another example.

“It’s just a matter of someone falling in love with him and giving him a go and I think he’ll be okay,” Flanigan said.

With the coming national and rookie drafts this week, Rippon may just finally get a chance to prove Flanigan right.

But until then, Rippon will continue to get up at 6:30 am, an AFL-ready footballer, in a VFL footballer’s world.

Who will the Roos draft?

Ben Crocker kicks the ball around the body. Photo: Supplied
Ben Crocker kicks the ball around the body. Photo: Supplied

The Kangaroos took a punt on Jed Anderson, but through some shrewd deals, they’ve ended up with three picks in the late first-early second round range. Last year, they took three players who all look comfortable as defenders, but whether they plan to use Ed Vickers-Willis and Sam Durdin in other roles is yet to be determined.

Pick 21 (originally 17)

The big fish: Jade Gresham

North Melbourne don’t have too many list deficiencies, so they should be looking at best available at most of their selections. Gresham can find plenty of the football as a midfielder, but he can also be used as a smart small forward or an accountable defender.

Plan B: Mitch Hibberd

The Roos could do with a versatile defender who can provide some rebound and play some time in the middle too. Hibberd is great overhead and he’s got a strong endurance base. He could make an impact right away, which is important for an aging side.

Pick 31 (originally 26)

The big fish: David Cuningham

Cuningham is a quick midfielder who has shown glimpses of brilliance for Oakleigh. He’s got explosive acceleration around stoppages, and he’s elusive in traffic. Cuningham can also head forward and hit the scoreboard.

Plan B: Aidyn Johnson

Johnson is a very quick and agile small forward who can hit the scoreboard in bunches. He applies defensive pressure and he can play in a variety of roles. Due to his injury struggles, we haven’t seen a lot of what he can do, but his speed could bridge the gap for when Brent Harvey eventually retires.

Pick 33 (originally 28)

The big fish: Ben Crocker

Crocker is a medium forward who marks really well over his head. He can finish nicely around the body at ground level, and he continually presents as a lead up forward. At his best, Crocker can use the ball with class and even provide some midfield relief.

Plan B: Mason Redman

Redman is a lead up medium forward who takes the ball at full stretch. He’s a nice user of the football and he’s got great size for a half forward. Redman is very quick off the mark, which makes him a very difficult player to match up against.

Pick 43 (originally 47)

The big fish: Mitch Brown

The Roos are looking at Nielson as the eventual key defender replacement for the likes of Michael Firrito and Scott Thompson, but he’s got a way to go before he develops. North Melbourne could look towards Brown as a stop-gap who can come in, take overhead marks and be used as a swingman option alongside Jarryd Waite to give them some versatility.

Plan B: Michael Hartley

Hartley could also be used to bridge that age gap in defence. As a pure key defender, Hartley reads the play well and he’s physical enough to play on the gorilla forwards, which would be crucial if they played Sydney or Geelong in the finals.