Tag: henry walsh

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Geelong Cats

WITH the 2020 trade period done and dusted, it is now time for clubs and fans alike to turn their attention to the draft. Between now and draft day (December 9), clubs will have the opportunity to exchange picks until the final order is formed a couple of days out. While the chaos ensues, Draft Central takes a look at how each club may approach the upcoming intake opportunities with the hand they formed at the close of trade period. Obviously they are subject to heavy change, so perhaps we can predict some of that movement here.

Next under the microscope is Geelong, a team which has prioritised the recruitment of established talent during trade period as it looks to remain in the premiership window. While Gary Ablett Jnr and Harry Taylor have called time on their sparkling careers, the likes of Jeremy Cameron, Shaun Higgins, and Isaac Smith all come in to not only cover some losses, but arguably boost the side to new heights. With a bunch of ageing superstars hungry for premiership success, the time is now for Geelong. That means the Cats are left with a relatively lacklustre draft hand, but a decent 2021 pick haul could bring them into play. As it stands, Geelong has the second-lowest total draft points value ahead of its 2020 intake, but recruiting and list manager Stephen Wells is well renowned for unearthing draft gems.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 51, 96

2021 PICKS*: GEE Rd 1 | GEE Rd 2, ESS Rd 2, GWS Rd 2 | GEE Rd 3, MEL Rd 3

* – denotes as of November 25

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

ELIGIBLE ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Nil.

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

LIST NEEDS:

Long-term key position/ruck depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 51)

As it stands, the Cats will not enter this year’s fray until round three, boasting the pick 51 traded to them from Carlton as part of the Lachie Fogarty deal. It leaves them with relatively limited options, though Cats fans should have a good deal of faith in their recruiting staffs’ ability to extract extraordinary value at the draft table. Further to the optimism, if there is any year in which draft bargains will come aplenty, this is it.

Geelong is well known to favour its local talent and with no father-son or academy prospects to commit to, this could be the perfect year to take advantage of the regions’ rich talent stocks. Eight Geelong Falcons products were invited to test at this year’s draft combines, an equal-high haul among the talent programs nationwide. With that being the case, there could be some high-upside local talent to slide into the Cats’ third round range.

While more established rucks or key position players would prove ideal coups, the Cats have an opportunity to stock up on a couple of developable long-term prospects this year. The likes of Charlie Ham and Blake Reid are high-upside local options who may fit the bill, both as athletic smalls with plenty of promise. Henry Walsh, the 203cm brother of Sam could fill the Cats’ ruck depth in future and Cameron Fleeton would be a shrewd choice as key defensive cover. Though in this kind of range, it is ultimately a guessing game for phantom drafters. There should be a few rucks left on the board, but it seems that list need requires more pressing action than what long-term prospects could provide, so Geelong may look elsewhere. Expect the unexpected with this pick.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

Given the Cats currently hold the second-lowest draft points total, there is not much flex to be had with this year’s haul at the trade table. If Geelong is perhaps keen to pounce on a sliding talent, its 2021 picks may come into play to get into this year’s order before that pick 51. The Cats are said to be looking at bringing in two players with their 2020 intake, so adding to their current hand will obviously be necessary given they only hold pick 96 and a few triple-figure selections otherwise. With 50-60 picks expected to be taken overall, there may be some action required.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Will Geelong use its future picks to enter this year’s draft?

Will Geelong opt to go local?

Can Geelong uncover another draft gem?

Featured Image: Geelong Cats defender Jack Henry with his brother Oliver, an AFL Draft hopeful | Credit: Alan Barber/Geelong Advertiser

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Carlton Blues

WITH the 2020 trade period done and dusted, it is now time for clubs and fans alike to turn their attention to the draft. Between now and draft day (December 9), clubs will have the opportunity to exchange picks until the final order is formed a couple of days out. While the chaos ensues, Draft Central takes a look at how each club may approach the upcoming intake opportunities with the hand they formed at the close of trade period. Obviously they are subject to heavy change, so perhaps we can predict some of that movement here.

Next under the microscope is Carlton, a side on the up after finishing 11th in 2020 and bringing in some high-end talent during trade period. Having featured at the pointy end of many a draft over the last 20 years, the Blues are only set to enter this year’s event towards the end of round two. It is a signal of their finals intent after elongated rebuilds and a new lease on life under coach, David Teague. As has often been the case for Carlton, academy and father-son options are scarce, despite four prospects being eligible under the latter rule this year. With the Blues only set to use two or three picks, it is difficult to see them making much of an impression on this year’s proceedings, though some late gems may be in the offing with their current hand.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 38, 48, 78
* – denotes as of November 21

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

ELIGIBLE ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Charlie McKay, Mackenzie Hogg, Tom Silvagni, Tom Gleeson (all father-son)

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

LIST NEEDS:

Ruck depth
Midfield points of difference
Long-term key defensive depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 38)

There are a few areas Carlton could look to consolidate with this year’s intake having already covered the need for speed during trade period. The retirement of Matthew Kreuzer leaves the Blues with only two genuine ruck options, while recent delistings sees their long-term key defensive stocks looking quite thin. In the former category, ruckman Henry Walsh, the 203cm brother of Sam already has links to the club having also trained there during preseason, potentially making for a good story and easy transition. He’s a competitive tap ruckman who is working on his running capacity and impact around the ground. Other ruckmen likely to feature in that range include Shannon Neale, Kalin Lane, and Max Heath.

There is not too much in the way of key defenders who would be viable to Carlton in the second round, and perhaps the Blues could further relay their intentions by targeting a mature-age prospect. Tom Highmore fits the bill as a tall defender who seems ready to make the next step after an outstanding maiden SANFL campaign. The 22-year-old former GWS Academy member made the move to South Adelaide this year and was a rare mature-age invitee to the national draft combine. Along similar lines, 21-year-old Woodville-West Torrens goalsneak James Rowe is a name which has been hot on the lips of Carlton fans, who are yearning for a genuine small forward to take over from Eddie Betts in 2022.

If the Blues look towards midfield depth, Zavier Maher could be the explosive type they are after on the inside, and Sam Berry is a hard-working accumulator who remains active going both ways. Should they take the two birds, one stone approach, the likes of Corey Durdin and Charlie Lazzaro may slide far enough to be snapped up as zippy smalls who are likely to begin their careers up forward. However, Carlton has spent first round picks on Paddy Dow, Lochie O’Brien, Liam Stocker, Sam Philp, and Brodie Kemp in recent years, not to mention Sam Walsh and traded-in players like Matthew Kennedy and Will Setterfield, so should back their current stocks to develop over another preseason.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

With the third-lowest total draft points value of all clubs as it stands, the Blues may not have much leverage to work with in terms of live trade options. Should a player they are really keen on slide within the second round, they could package a couple of their picks to move up the order and come away with just two selections. Alternatively, their 2021 picks may be put on the table to extract maximum value out of a deal, though next year’s crop is said to be much stronger than this year’s.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Will Carlton take on any mature-age players?

Will Carlton work to move up the order?

Will Carlton back its current midfield crop, or look to add depth?

Will Carlton take a punt on their father-son choices?

Featured Image: Carlton Media

Draft Central Power Rankings: November 2020

THE PENULTIMATE edition of Draft Central’s 2020 Power Rankings is in, as AFL Draft combines, All-Star fixtures, and state league finals from around the country have all now been wrapped up. Victorian talents finally got to show their wares, albeit only for combine tests, but gave a glimpse into how they have grown and developed without any on-field action this year. It sees a bunch of shuffles made, with a couple of big movers and sliders among our top 30, while two key defenders make their push for the top 10.

There are no completely fresh faces from the list compiled in our October edition, as the top five shapes up quite consistently to see most of the movement made between ranks 10 and 20. Nearly a third of the 30 players featured in our analysis are already tied to AFL clubs, only further confirming the tag this year’s crop holds as the most compromised ever. All that, and more in Draft Central’s November Power Rankings update.

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

>> 2020 Draft Profiles

#1 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 195cm | 90kg

Western Bulldogs fans may not entirely enjoy seeing Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, Ugle-Hagan perched atop the tree given the hefty price that comes with it, but should be buoyed by their club having first dibs on such a remarkable talent. The 195cm key position forward has been compared to champion goalkicker Lance Franklin for his athleticism and left-foot kick, but he plays a little differently. Ugle-Hagan’s pace off the lead and sticky hands overhead set him apart, while elite scores in each of the combine testing events make him an irresistible prospect alone. He has long been the consensus number one choice, having delivered on the hype as he moved to the Oakleigh region via a scholarship with Scotch College.

October Ranking: #1

Last Month: Ugle-Hagan was able to showcase his athleticism at the Vic Metro Draft Combine, registering terrific results across the board. He again ran a sub-three-second 20-metre sprint and weighed in six kilos heavier than in preseason, hinting at his development in strength which will be important as he enters the AFL system as a tall forward. He remains the consensus number one, despite seeing no on-field action in 2020.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#2 Elijah Hollands
Murray Bushrangers/Vic County | Forward/Midfielder
25/04/2002 | 188cm | 80kg

Hollands’ placing in these rankings initially proved one of the hardest to call, especially given he sat out the entire 2020 season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). At this point though, he has done more than enough to warrant top five status at the least, and finds a place in second spot once again. While his knack for producing game-defining periods has most significantly been achieved forward of centre, Hollands has the size and skill to warrant his goal of earning more midfield minutes. With clean hands, athleticism, and a booming boot which often finds the goals, Hollands is all you could ever want from a high-ceiling prospect. Not playing shouldn’t hurt his value too much, especially given the fate of his fellow Victorians, but it would have been nice to see him get an uninterrupted crack at NAB League level having finished his schooling at Caulfield Grammar.

October Ranking: #2

Last Month: Hollands earned an invite to the Draft Combine but while he is said to be recovering well from his ACL injury sustained during preseason, was not quite ready to participate. He should be ready to go early next year and holds his spot at number two, as he has done all year.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#3 Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 196cm | 86kg

A dominant key position forward with terrific endurance is McDonald, who adds to the strong tall and West Australian representation on this list. The high-marking spearhead ran out for his state thrice during last year’s Under 18 National Championships, averaging a goal per game and impressing with his ability to clunk marks leading up the ground. He has terrific hands on the lead and usually has no trouble finding the big sticks, while his high-level endurance confirms his status as a true, modern-day centre half-forward. Having grown and filled out to a more conventional key position size, McDonald has showcased his game-winning ability from forward of centre in 2020 – something which earned him All-Australian honours as an Under 16s player. He booted 21 goals in nine WAFL League games this year, an outstanding return.

October Ranking: #3

Last Month: After helping Perth to its first WAFL League finals series in over 20 years, McDonald also performed well at the Western Australia Draft Combine; registering a time of 3.029 seconds over 20 metres, and 6:33 over 2km to showcase his speed-endurance mix. He also booted multiple goals in the first WA Under 18 All-Stars game, but missed the second with calf soreness.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus | Player Focus

#4 Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
14/04/2002 | 194cm | 78kg

Another tall among the top five, and a versatile one at that. While Grainger-Barras is definitely most comfortable and renowned as a key position defender, the Swan Districts hopeful’s versatility lies in the varying roles he play inside defensive 50. Credit to his athleticism and slender frame, he is able to keep up with medium types at ground level, while also showing form as a lockdown type on the opposition’s best big forward, or as an intercept marking outlet. Grainger-Barras is a cool head in possession too, boasting a sound kick for his size and composure beyond his years. That same level-headedness and footballing IQ makes him a sound reader of the play from the back, and the leading option in his position.

October Ranking: #4

Last Month: Grainger-Barras was another to impress at the WA Draft Combine with terrific results in the vertical jumps, speed, and agility tests. He also performed on-field in both WA Under 18 All-Star showcases, assuming his usual key defensive post and intercepting well before being thrown forward to boot a couple of goals in game two. He remains quite lean, but is super athletic and a lock for top five status.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus | Player Focus

#5 Will Phillips
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
22/05/2002 | 180cm | 80kg

We all marvelled at how well Oakleigh graduates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson have adapted to life in the AFL, and Phillips could be the next Charger in line to do just that having leant on the pair during his bottom-aged campaign. Like Rowell, Phillips is a 180cm prospect who consistently finds plenty of the ball and possesses great leadership qualities. He is a well-balanced midfielder too, having plied his trade at times on the outside for Oakleigh en route to premiership glory. Phillips seems to thrive on the inside though, with his hardness and ability to weave through traffic making him an invaluable stoppage asset. The Caulfield Grammar student was set to juggle APS football and NAB League duties in 2020, while standing as a clear leadership candidate for Vic Metro come national carnival time – all before the pandemic hit.

October Ranking: #5

Last Month: Rounding out a rather settled top five, Phillips cut quite a powerful figure at the Vic Metro Draft Combine. He registered a 2.91-second 20-metre sprint time, while also faring well in the 2km time trial (6:38), which is shown in his toe away from congestion, and ability to run all day. Phillips firms as arguably the best pure midfielder in the draft.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#6 Riley Thilthorpe
West Adelaide/South Australia | Ruck/Key Position Forward
7/07/2002 | 201cm | 100kg

In a welcome change from last year’s crop, key position prospects will be in abundance at the top end. Thilthorpe is one of them, an athletic ruck/forward who possesses enormous running capacity and can dominate the airways. In his ruck duties, the 201cm West Adelaide product plays more like a fourth midfielder, able to follow up at ground level and cover the ground like a small. He has been utilised in a more forward-oriented role for the Bloods at SANFL League level though, with his goalkicking attributes and diverse skillset already making him a handful for senior players with more mature bodies. Ask any of the South Australian Under 18s who they were most looking forward to playing alongside in 2020, and Thilthorpe was almost always among them. Jot the name down, he should be among those you are most looking forward to watching, too.

October Ranking: #6

Last Month: The South Australian big man has not been able to finish off his year as he would have liked, sidelined since Round 9 of the 14-game SANFL season, while also deemed unable to participate in his state’s Draft Combine and Under 18 All-Stars clash. Groin niggles have been the cause of his injury concerns of late, with that durability factor looming as a potential dampener to his top five hopes. It hasn’t set him any further down our list though, as he is still one of the more versatile key position options.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus

#7 Tanner Bruhn
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
27/05/2002 | 183cm | 74kg

Class with a capital ‘C’ is what Bruhn has been described as, despite his limited on-field opportunities over the last two years. The Geelong Falcons midfielder burst onto the scene as Vic Country’s Under 16 MVP in 2018, but injuries have cruelled him since; having initially required knee surgery after a 2019 preseason incident, and undergone a follow-up procedure that would have had him in doubt to feature early this year. He still managed to add two NAB League outings to his resume towards the end of last season, showcasing his terrific stoppage craft with clean hands and wonderful movement around the ball. Should he eventually enjoy an extended run and put his best form on display at the next level, Bruhn could well prove to be the premier midfielder of this year’s bunch.

October Ranking: #8

Last Month: Bruhn seems to have achieved a clean run since his preseason setback, looking strong at the Vic Country Draft Combine with a solid 2km time of 6:40. He also fared well in the vertical jumps, which is not particularly a key feature of his game, but rather showcases the athleticism he is capable of producing with a full bill of health. He moves up a spot and can hopefully build some more consistency going forward.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#8 Braeden Campbell
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Balanced Midfielder/Forward
4/02/2002 | 181cm | 75kg

While he has again been squeezed out to number eight, Campbell is a player with the potential to end up a top five player out of this year’s crop. Uncertainty lingered over how much exposure NSW/ACT athletes would be able to gain in 2020 given the NEAFL and NAB League scrappings, but one must only watch last year’s Under 17 Futures All-Star showcase to be reminded of Campbell’s talent. He was best-afield in that game, with electrifying speed, hardness at the ball, and a booming left-foot kick catching the eye of all who bore witness. The Swans Academy product is also apt in the short range as well, and has the invaluable ability to impact games in multiple positions. Whether it be on the inside, outside, or forward of centre, Campbell is a match-winner and should cost the Swans a pretty penny in terms of draft points.

October Ranking: #7

Last Month: Campbell’s Pennant Hills Demons were knocked out in week one of the AFL Sydney Premier Division, with the Swans Academy youngster booting a goal in that particular game. He finished with nine from six games overall, while twice being named among the Demons’ best. At the NSW/ACT Draft Combine, Campbell again showcased his high-level speed and agility, but registered a 2km time of over seven minutes.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus

#9 Lachlan Jones
WWT Eagles/South Australia | General Defender
9/04/2002 | 186cm | 89kg

Yet another NGA prospect, Jones is tied to Port Adelaide and features quite highly on this list as he pushes for top 10 honours. His big frame has seen him adjust well to the rigours of SANFL League football, running out against mature bodies in all bar one of the Eagles’ fixtures this year. As a general defender, Jones possesses obvious hardness at the ball and can compete both aerially and at ground level, remaining relevant going both ways too. His skills are also a big asset, able to spear passes to high percentage options while also breaking games open with his long-range efforts. Jones may well be one to push further up the list as he progresses in 2020, with some solid traits which point to a quick transition into the next level.

October Ranking: #9

Last Month: Jones became a SANFL League premiership player in October, finding his groove come finals time to average 16.7 disposals and 4.3 marks in the postseason. He also capped off an outstanding 16-game season by winning mark of the year, but was managed as the SA Draft Combine and Under 18 All-Stars fixture came around. His on-field performances proved plenty though, showcasing his wares as a potential top 10 talent.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus Round 3 Round 8

#10 Zach Reid
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Key Position Defender/Utility
2/03/2002 | 202cm | 83kg

A versatile tall who could push for top 10 status come draft time, Reid returned a consistent output during his bottom-age season as a key member of Gippsland’s spine. He was tried up either end and through the ruck across 15 NAB League outings, but looked most comfortable down back and should find a home there at the next level. At 202cm, Reid is filling out nicely and can utilise that added strength to compete better one-on-one against big key forwards. He is a terrific judge of the ball in flight and positions intelligently, not just relying on his height to compete aerially. Reid is also both a sound handler and user of the ball for his size, providing a cool head in rebounding transitions. He managed to run out for Leongatha’s Under 18s in July before the season was called off, proving a rare appearance for a Victorian prospect.

October Ranking: #14

Last Month: Reid strengthened his standing as a potential top 10’er at the Vic Country Draft Combine, faring typically well in the vertical jumps with feats of 82cm off either foot. He also registered a 2km time of 6:39, showcasing outstanding mobility and endurance for a player of his size.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#11 Heath Chapman
West Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
31/01/2002 | 192cm | 81kg

A player who has risen steeply into top 15 calculations, Chapman is a key position defender with many points of difference. Having cut his teeth in the role during his bottom-age year, the 192cm prospect has been able to roll off as a third tall down back for West Perth in 2020, utilising his shrewd reading of the play and athleticism to provide a dominant intercept marking prowess. His ability to open up the play in transition with long, rebounding kicks is Chapman’s other key strength, making him a versatile defensive outlet who finds plenty of the ball. Given his size and athletic attributes, that third tall prototype seems his most likely avenue to the elite level, though he is just as capable competing as a more traditional key position player.

October Ranking: #16

Last Month: Chapman put in a couple of solid showings in the Western Australia Under 18 All-Star matches, taking up his usual post at centre half-back. While he is an attacking threat from his own half, Chapman was also forced to show his defensive wares in game two as he matched up on Denver Grainger-Barras, who had swung forward. At the WA combine, Chapman achieved an outstanding 2km time of 6:20, which translates to his repeat running and chain possessions in rebounding forays. He makes another move up to #11.

>> Draft Watch

#12 Alex Davies
Gold Coast SUNS/Allies | Inside Midfielder
18/03/2002 | 192cm | 85kg

A second Northern Academy prospect and the first Queenslander on this list, Davies is one of the more highly touted big-bodied midfielders of his cohort. Standing at 192cm and filling out to 85kg, the SUNS Academy hopeful boasts the ideal size to not only dominate his junior competitors, but more importantly make an immediate impact at the next level. He has been his state’s prime ball winner for some time and thrives on racking up high contested numbers, but has also displayed terrific poise in traffic to add releasing handballs to his thumping kicks away from the stoppages. He ran out for four of Gold Coast’s NAB League outings as a bottom-ager, and looked set to prove a lynchpin among the Allies squad in 2020.

October Ranking: #12

Last Month: The SUNS Academy prospect has been out of action since injuring his elbow in early-August, seeing him miss the Academy Series, Broadbeach’s run to the Senior QAFL Grand Final, and also sit out the Queensland Draft Combine. It will not stop him from proving Queensland’s best talent this year, en route to being pre-listed by Gold Coast.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#13 Nikolas Cox
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Key Position Utility
15/01/2002 | 200cm | 87kg

A 200cm player who can run, kick on both sides, and play just about anywhere? It sounds too good to be true, but that is exactly what Cox brings to the table as his region’s most outstanding draft candidate. Cox cut his teeth as a tall wingman and key position swingman in 2019, juggling his time between school football, 10 NAB League outings, and a berth in the Under 18 Vic Metro squad as a bottom-ager. In 2020, the Northern Knights co-captain was set to develop as a centre-half back, with his athleticism and versatility in the role lending to the fact he has an enormous ceiling. He was also set to be a prime candidate to lead Vic Metro this year, lauded for his professionalism and the example he sets via training standards.

October Ranking: #11

Last Month: Cox remains a player with enormous upside despite not featuring on-field in 2020. He was a feature at the Vic Metro Draft Combine, notching a sub-three-second 20-metre sprint, while also completing the 2km time trial in 6:03. That rare athletic base for a player of his size sees him stick within our top 15, even as he shuffles down a couple of spots.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#14 Nathan O’Driscoll 
Perth/Western Australia | Balanced Midfielder
17/05/2002 | 187cm | 78kg

One of Western Australia’s leading prospects is O’Driscoll, a hard-at-it inside midfielder who can also double as a damaging half-back or wingman. The 187cm Perth Demons product was a standout at Colts level last year, while also breaking through for three outings in the Black Ducks’ Under 18 National Championships campaign as a bottom-ager. Having learnt off the likes of former Perth teammate and Brisbane draftee, Deven Robertson, O’Driscoll is primed to become a permanent midfield fixture having already proven his ball winning capabilities. His penetrating boot and speed-endurance mix make him a prospect with many desirable traits, not to mention his older sister, Emma is already plying her trade at AFLW level for Fremantle.

October Ranking: #10

Last Month: A shoulder injury kept O’Driscoll from running out in the WA Under 18 All-Star fixtures after previously managing a handful of senior games for Perth in the WAFL. In between, the 18-year-old midfielder returned some outstanding results across the board at the WA Draft Combine; namely a 6:23 2km time, and 2.931 seconds over 20 metres. He falls a touch as others rise, with his range still contentious among draft watchers.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus

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

The news of Baldwin’s second ACL tear in as many years – albeit partial this time – was shattering. It meant the promising 193cm forward missed out on yet another season of football after earning All Australian honours at Under 16s level in 2018, and a crack at the SANFL Reserves grade as a bottom-ager. In our eyes, he remains a first round prospect on talent alone, and looked poised to really crack on in 2020 after his initial recovery. He was a handy preseason testing performer, with good returns in the vertical jumps and yo-yo test conveying Baldwin’s ability to crash packs and clunk big contested marks, while also harnessing that aerial dominance in his work up the ground.

October Ranking: #15

Last Month: Baldwin has been inactive all year after partially tearing his ACL on the eve of the 2020 season, but was sighted helping out at the SA Draft Combine despite not participating. He keeps his spot at #15, though that will likely be far from indicative of his final draft range given the severe injury concerns.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#16 Oliver Henry
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Medium Utility
29/07/2002 | 188cm | 77kg

A brother-of who could eventually feature at the top end of this year’s rankings is Henry, the younger sibling of Geelong Cats defender, Jack. The Geelong Falcons product has top 10 potential, able to play up either end of the ground and pull down big marks. While he looks most comfortable up forward as a high-flying third tall type, Henry is just as capable down back where his aerial prowess translates to intercept value. At 188cm, he plays above his size through sheer athleticism and reading of the play, with the potential to also move up onto a wing. If Victorian prospects had been allowed back onto the park in 2020, Henry would likely have been one to rise quite steeply given his enormous upside and versatility.

October Ranking: #17

Last Month: Despite not being able to prove himself on-field, Henry is a player who is being talked up right among the top 10 conversation. Given these are Power Rankings, and not a Phantom Draft, he remains just outside that range for now on what he produced last season. He performed solidly across the board at the Vic Country Draft Combine, getting a nice tick for his already evident athleticism and upside.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#17 Archie Perkins
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
26/03/2002 | 188cm | 79kg

Perkins has all the makings of a special talent. Having caught the eye as a forward and outside midfielder in 2019, the Sandringham Dragons standout was poised to spend more time on the inside as a top-ager, with just the right size and some incredible athletic attributes to aid his transition. Perkins boasts a monster vertical leap, covers 20 metres in less than three seconds, and is brilliantly agile, making for an ideal athletic base. His finishing touch is an area he can refine, but the 188cm prospect is no stranger to finding the goals and can be a real game changer when required. Damage and impact are key traits which often prove hard to measure, but Perkins ranks highly in both departments.

October Ranking: #18

Last Month: Another being talked up near the top 10 range, a lack of football in 2020 has Perkins perched around the 15-mark in our estimation. He could really be anything at the next level though, so don’t be surprised to see him rise in stocks as draft time approaches. Another incredible athlete, Perkins registered ridiculous scores in the vertical leaps (over 90cm off both feet), 20-metre sprint (2.93 seconds), and 2km time trial (6:23) to only confirm his status as one of the most promising talents available in the first round.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#18 Reef McInnes
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
12/12/2002 | 193cm | 86kg

Sliding down the order due to others’ rises is another inside midfielder and a second NGA product from both the Scotch College and Oakleigh Chargers systems. Attached to Collingwood, McInnes is set to be yet another in the production line of academy and father-son prospects made available to the Magpies, and looms as a first round candidate. While he was pushed out to the forward line in Oakleigh’s stacked premiership side, McInnes is a bull on the inside who can dominate at stoppages. He is hardly the typical slow, strength-dependant type either, able to lean on his agility and awareness to effectively extract from midfield. The versatility he was made to learn as a bottom-ager adds another string to his bow, with goals a valuable part of his game in 2019.

October Ranking: #13

Last Month: Arguably a harsh slider on this list, McInnes still very much ranks highly in our eyes. He is a first prospect on pure talent, but will more likely attract a bid within the second round. He has done all he could to prove his worth this year despite not playing any football, showcasing his power at the Vic Metro Draft Combine with a 20m sprint time of 2.78 seconds. No, that is not a typo. He cut a pretty lean figure at said event too, and looks to have kept in good shape despite a 2km time trial result of 7:10.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#19 Caleb Poulter
WWT Eagles/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
12/10/2002 | 192cm | 79kg

One of this year’s brightest bolters, Poulter has rocketed up draft boards after an eye-catching start to his top-age season. The big-bodied midfielder brings a serious presence through midfield, able to win plenty of the ball himself while also hunting the opposition with tackling pressure. Add to his midfield craft the ability to take big marks overhead, hit the scoreboard with his penetrating left boot, and utilise his terrific athletic base, and you have a prospect who can wreak absolute havoc at his best. With some senior football also under his belt in 2020, Poulter has stood up and been noticed quickly. It has been a steep rise since his Under 16 carnival in South Australian colours last year.

October Ranking: #19

Last Month: It was a tough call not to push Poulter even higher up the board after his outstanding display in the SA Under 18 All-Stars clash. Fresh off averaging 21 touches in the Eagles’ SANFL Under 18 finals series, the tall midfielder was so classy in midfield with wonderfully clean hands and disposal. Going back a bit further, he also performed well in each test at his state’s Draft Combine and is surely knocking on the door of first round status.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch

#20 Errol Gulden
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Small Forward/Midfielder
18/07/2002 | 175cm | 75kg

Seemingly joined at the hip with fellow Swans Academy gun Braeden Campbell throughout their journey to the big time, Gulden has long been a highly-touted prospect. The small utility broke through to claim the Division 2 MVP award at the 2018 Under 16 National Championships, racking up mountains of the ball and kicking bags of goals. Since, he has carried such form into his outings with the Swans Academy, while also playing senior footy in the AFL Sydney Premier Division, and representing the Allies Under 18s last year. The crafty mover is small, but holds his own and is as naturally talented a prospect as there is this year.

October Ranking: #29

Last Month: Gulden is clearly the biggest riser this month after making the most of his time on-field in Sydney’s Premier Division competition. The diminutive midfielder showcased all his craftiness to help UNSW Bulldogs into a Grand Final and was named among the best players in the decider. Having snared 16 goals in his eight senior games, Gulden also came runner-up in the league’s best and fairest count, proving he can match it with more mature bodies. He ticks a lot of boxes and was able to showcase his endurance with a 2km time of 6:32 at the NSW/ACT Draft Combine. Swans fans and recruiters will be sweating on where a bid for Gulden comes, as he continues to push towards top 20 status.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#21 Tom Powell
Sturt/South Australia | Midfielder
2/03/2002 | 183cm | 74kg

There are few more consistent ball winners than Powell, who has put an interrupted bottom-age season behind him to emerge as arguably Sturt’s most promising draft prospect. The Double Blues standout simply finds the ball at will, able to get his side going on the front foot from midfield with clever positioning, movement, and extraction. He may be a touch handball happy, but is an elite exponent of that tool and is beginning to mix in his kicking to have an even greater impact on games. At his best, Powell is nothing short of dominant, though goals and a greater run-and-carry game would make him a complete midfielder – akin to Lachie Neale‘s development.

October Ranking: #21

Last Month: While unable to help steer Sturt to premiership glory in the SANFL Under 18s, Powell still finished the season as the competition’s most prolific ball winner. He lead the disposal and clearance stakes, averaging over 34 and nine in the respective categories to stamp his claim as one of this year’s premier midfielders. He put in a solid shift for a well-beaten side in the SA Under 18 All-Stars game, but did not test at the Draft Combine as he navigated finals time.

>> Feature (April) (September)
>> Draft Watch

#22 Finlay Macrae
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
13/03/2002 | 186cm | 78kg

You may recognise the name and yes, Finlay is the half-brother of Western Bulldogs midfielder, Jack. They are quite clearly cut from the same cloth, with the younger Macrae possessing a similar ball winning appetite and class on the ball to his established older sibling. The 186cm Charger also boasts a terrific balance in his traits, able to impact the play moving forward with sound decision making and precise execution via foot, on top of his obvious exploits in extraction. While he is not overly quick, Macrae’s evasiveness comes through agility and awareness, which would have been on full show as he prepared to feature prominently for Oakleigh, Xavier College, and Vic Metro in 2020.

October Ranking: #22

Last Month: Macrae holds his spot and could well push even higher considering how close this kind of range is. While he is another Victorian who was robbed of a top-age season, the classy Oakleigh product has grown nicely to 186cm/78kg and put in an outstanding 2km time of 6:17 at the Vic Metro Draft Combine. That side of the game is what he does well as a consistent ball winner, compared to the ultra-explosive components.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#23 Jack Carroll
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder/Defender
20/12/2002 | 187cm | 76kg

One who has bolted into first round contention, Carroll has plenty of suitors in said range. Coming into his top-age season, the West Australian was pegged as a classy outside midfielder or half-back who moved well and used the ball efficiently by foot. But after nearly a full season of WAFL Colts football through midfield, the 187cm prospect has also shown his worth inside the engine room. Carroll measures up at a good height and while he may be a touch light, is not afraid to win his own ball before using his high-level agility and poise to weave through traffic and effectively dispose of the ball. A versatile talent with good upside, Carroll is destined to rise even further.

October Ranking: #23

Last Month: Carroll had his season cut short by a broken wrist in mid-September, meaning he missed out on the WA Under 18 All-Stars games and East Fremantle’s brief WAFL Colts finals stint. It did not stop him from testing at his state’s Draft Combine though, posting terrific results in each test but not completing the 2km time trial. It is enough to hold the #23 spot, though he is another with plenty of potential to rise.

>> Draft Watch

#24 Brayden Cook
South Adelaide/South Australia | Wing/Forward
18/07/2002 | 189cm | 82kg

Search for the 2020 AFL Draft bolter, and Cook’s name is likely the one you’ll find top of any list. The South Adelaide prospects has come from the clouds to not only put himself within draft contention, but right up into top 25 calculations. Plying his trade either up on a wing or inside forward 50, Cook is a game-winner who is capable of kicking bags of goals and taking eye-catching marks. His size allows him to not just rely on his vertical leap, but also out-work his opponents one-on-one, with his terrific goal sense often helping finish the job. Having put his name on the map, the wingman/forward can now look forward to featuring among his state’s All-Star showcase.

October Ranking: #24

Last Month: Cook did not quite finish the season as he would have liked, kept scoreless for the first time in 2020 as his side bowed out of the SANFL Under 18 finals. His previous body of work still stands up though, having led the league for goals and contested marks across a dozen outings. He could well be a top 20 talent given the profound impact he brings and the steep rise he has enjoyed this year. Cook performed solidly at the SA Draft Combine, but was managed and missed out on the Under 18 All-Stars match.

>> Draft Watch

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

Trew is one of many top-end prospects who had to battle injury throughout their bottom-age seasons, but proved primed to bounce back well in 2020. Hailing from the talent-stacked Swan Districts program, Trew is a classy inside midfielder who can rack up plenty of ball in style, backed by his 40-disposal effort in last year’s WAFL Colts competition. While he was limited to just three outings and missed Under 18 selection for WA, the 185cm prospect should not be forgotten in top 25 discussions. Trew is a handball-happy extractor, able to flick out releasing touches to his runners, but he is just as effective by foot with clean skills at short range and penetration when required. He was a lock for the WA engine room this season in representative games and returned a good output when fully fit.

October Ranking: #20

Last Month: Trew was frustrated once again this year by some injury niggles, the latest of which (soreness) kept him from running out for game two of the WA Under 18 All Stars fixtures. He had his moments through midfield in game one without dominating, perhaps the product of his side being soundly beaten. Trew did manage to showcase some of his power at the Draft Combine though, registering a sub-three-second 20-metre sprint and vertical leaps of over 80cm off either side.

>> Draft Watch
>> Draft Diary 1 | 2
>> Marquee Matchup

#26 Joel Jeffrey
NT Thunder/Gold Coast SUNS/Allies | Key Position Utility
12/03/2002 | 192cm | 80kg

The sole representative from the Northern Territory in our top 30, Jeffrey is arguably the region’s most promising draft prospect this year. Having grown to 192cm, Jeffrey is a true swingman who can dominate aerially up either end. His reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and his sticky hands do the rest of the work as he pulls down big marks. The son of NT legend Russell Jeffrey, Joel comes from good pedigree and is terrifically athletic for his size; boasting speed to burn, a sizeable leap, and clean hands at ground level. Having gained senior football experience with Wanderers in the NTFL, Jeffrey was set to move to Queensland this year given his ties to the Gold Coast SUNS via their access to the Darwin zone. The move was ultimately put on hold due to the current pandemic, but Jeffrey looks certain to end up in the Sunshine State come season’s end.

October Ranking: #25

Last Month: Jeffrey has not had much to do over the last month having already participated in Queensland’s Academy Series and Draft Combine. He showed glimpses of his athleticism during the fitness testing, running a 3.020-second 20-metre sprint but still requiring some work on his endurance base. He has great potential and versatility, with his ranking hardly relevant to the draft as Gold Coast will pre-list him without cost – a massive get for the SUNS.

>> Draft Watch

#27 Bailey Laurie
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
24/03/2002 | 179cm | 78kg

Another member of Oakleigh’s talent-rich 2019 premiership side, Laurie also features highly in our estimations. The small forward/midfielder is a livewire, and can take games away from the opposition quickly as a high-impact player. His forward running and wonderful agility make for some highlight-reel snippets, consisting of line-breaking bursts and baulks which make his opponents look silly. The Caulfield Grammar student is a great character and a teammate who others love to play alongside, adding a different element to his on-field prowess.

October Ranking: #27

Last Month: Laurie holds his spot at #27 and is a player who could well have lit up the field in 2020. Ultimately, we were unable to see what he could do after a promising 2019 NAB League finals series, but the Victorian showed his wares at the Vic Metro Draft Combine with improved results in the 20-metre sprint (3.06 seconds) and 2km time trial (6:24).

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#28 Brandon Walker
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Half-Back
17/10/2002 | 183cm | 75kg

Introducing one of the smoothest movers of the potential 2020 AFL draft cohort, who is tied to Fremantle’s NGA. Dockers fans will be desperate to downplay Walker’s potential, with elite speed, agility, and vertical leaps combined with clean skills to make up the East Fremantle prospect’s game. He looks a damaging outlet off half-back with his line-breaking ability and precision via foot, while also providing solid defensive cover credit to eye-catching aerial feats and reading of the play. Walker can also move through midfield, adding another string to his bow as he develops. His twin brother, Chris joins him at East Fremantle and in the Dockers Academy.

October Ranking: #26

Last Month: Walker was unable to build on his fantastic WAFL Colts season after sustaining a fractured foot in late-September. It meant he did not test at the WA Draft Combine, nor compete in the Under 18 All-Stars showcases, perhaps allowing Dockers fans to breathe a sigh of relief as the talents of their NGA product have been kept a touch under wraps.

>> Draft Watch

#29 Eddie Ford
Western Jets/Vic Metro | Medium Forward/Midfielder
21/06/2002 | 189cm | 83kg

If you’re after one of the best Under 18s highlight packages among this year’s crop, then look no further than Western’s Ford. The Jets’ leading prospect is capable of taking high marks, booting long goals, and bursting forward to break the lines with his explosive athleticism and speed. Having cut his teeth as a medium forward, the 189cm Victorian has recently requested tape of Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe as he looks to sharpen his midfield craft. He certainly has the size and athletic profile to make the transition, and would have done so with some time on the park as a top-ager. You may remember his Under 17 Futures All-Stars performance from last year, which is what he can produce at his best. Consistency will be key.

October Ranking: #28

Last Month: Ford has grown a few centimetres since preseason and seems to be filling out nicely, coming in at 189cm and 83kg at the Vic Metro Draft Combine. The leading Western Jets product also showed off his athleticism at the event, notching a 94cm running vertical jump and 20-metre time of 2.95 seconds. We know how that translates to his form up forward, but it remains to be seen whether he can consistently provide the same excitement through midfield.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#30 Joel Western
Claremont/Western Australia | Small Midfielder/Forward
12/10/2002 | 172cm | 68kg

Fremantle’s NGA talent program has proven one of the more successful producers of AFL-level players since its inception, and Western is one of a few highly touted prospects set to take the next step in 2020. The Claremont captain took his side to a second consecutive WAFL Colts Grand Final after last year’s premiership triumph, overcoming some early injury concerns to run out an outstanding season. The small midfielder is all-class through the engine room, able to zip out of traffic and deliver the ball forward with freakish skill. As will be expected at the elite level, Western is also capable of playing up forward and even across half-back, making him a player with plenty of upside for Dockers fans to look forward to.

October Ranking: #30

Last Month: Western was best afield in game one of the WA Under 18 All-Stars, before dislocating his finger in game two and thus bringing an end to his year. The crafty small was also managed as his peers performed at the Draft Combine on account of having to lead Claremont to a second-straight WAFL Colts Grand Final appearance. He has done all he could on-field, and awaits a matched bid from Fremantle to stay at home base come draft time.

>> Draft Watch

IN THE MIX:

The recent All-Star fixtures and combines served as a nice refresher as to some of the names who may have flown under the radar this year. Despite not testing, Hawthorn NGA product and Eastern Ranges captain Connor Downie is a player close to the top 30 mark, as is diminutive midfielder Jake Bowey. Fellow Victorians Sam Berry and Conor Stone may also be considered in the second or third rounds, along with underrated midfielder Zavier Maher.

There are a few rucks who may also push their case, with Kalin Lane a late bloomer coming off an outstanding WAFL Colts campaign, while fellow West Australian Shannon Neale is a terrific athlete who also doubles as a key forward. Victorians Henry Walsh (the brother of Sam) and Max Heath are also worth mentions as they continue to develop, though do not have the same recent form to show having not been able to play in 2020.

South Australians who remain close include the likes of Zac Dumesny, Corey Durdin, and Luke Edwards, all of whom have long been highly-touted prospects. Adelaide NGA product Tariek Newchruch is coming off a promising All-Stars showing, as is NT native Brodie Lake, who holds ties to Gold Coast as part of its Darwin zone. Blake Coleman is another aligned to a club, arguably Brisbane’s best academy graduate this year.

2020 AFL Draft Positional Analysis: Rucks

DOMINANT rucks often find themselves sliding come draft time, or bolting right to the top should there be a lack of them in the relevant crop. While the key position stocks in this year’s cohort look promising, the search for a pure ruck who can develop quickly at the elite level is often a careful process.

In ramping up our 2020 AFL Draft analysis, Draft Central continues its line-by-line positional breakdowns, moving on to the best ruck prospects. The following list features pocket profiles of top-age (2002-born) prospects who are part of their respective AFL Academy hubs, while also touching on some names who missed out last year, have improved greatly, or may feature on another list.

Not all of them currently have the opportunity to show their worth on the field, but exposed form and long preseasons for most allow for a window into how the current stocks stack up. There are plenty of steep improvers, so without further ado, get to know some of the premier ruckmen eligible to be drafted in 2020.

Note: The list is ordered alphabetically, not by any form of ranking.

Felix Flockart
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro
5/11/2001 | 200cm | 79kg

One of the many types on this list to fall under the late bloomer category, Flockart was all set for a berth in the Sandringham Dragons program in 2020. The over-age prospect was also aligned to the Sandringham VFL squad, having been granted the opportunity on the back of some promising form with Brighton Grammar last year. He may prove a slow burner, but is quite athletic and obviously raw with such a lean frame. He is a talented sportsman overall who boasts strong hands on the footy field, and can adapt to a variety of key position roles if required.

Max Heath
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro
24/10/2002 | 202cm | 89kg

Another big improver out of the Sandringham Dragons region, Heath proved during a couple of big preseason digs that his is primed to take over as a primary ruck in each side he represents. His APS and NAB League duties may have been put on hold for now, but Heath has impressed enough to suggest he may well be the premier pure ruck option heading into the 2020 draft. He can also move forward and take strong grabs when not muscling through his ruck duties. Don’t let his current record of one NAB League appearance in 2019 put you off, Heath is the real deal.

Kalin Lane
Claremont/Western Australia
5/12/2001 | 202cm | 89kg

While others on this list are bolters in their own right, Lane is the utter definition of it having been selected in the 2020 AFL Academy after just one WAFL Colts outing last year. The 202cm bigman has already achieved double that tally in this year’s competition, benefitting greatly from simply being able to show his worth on the field. As an over-ager, he already boasts a solid frame but is far from the lumbering type, able to impact at the drop of the ball and follow up his ruckwork. With 16 disposals and 29 hitouts in his most recent appearance, Lane seems to be gaining confidence and should push strongly for draft contention.

Shannon Neale
South Fremantle/Western Australia
25/07/2002 | 201cm | 86kg

Neale has come on strongly over the past year or so; impressing as an over-ager among Western Australia’s Under 16 squad, before running out on the MCG in last year’s Under 17 Futures All Star showcase. He’s an athletic type, able to use his leap in the ruck while also taking high marks when stationed up forward. Neale’s ability to interchange between either position is a not towards his versatility, with his kicking another bonus which has contributed to a steep rate of development. He has made a steady start to this year’s WAFL Colts season, particularly with 15 disposals, seven marks, 15 hitouts, and a goal in Round 1.

Zac Phillips
WWT Eagles/South Australia
15/08/2002 | 200cm | 80kg

A leader for Woodville-West Torrens in the SANFL Under 18s, Phillips is another who is set to benefit from simply being afforded some exposure in 2020. As a primary ruck option, the tall and lean Eagle has averaged 25.5 hitouts across his four games this season, while also contributing around the ground with a tick over 11 disposals per outing. When stationed up forward, Phillips is able to meet the ball at its highest point on the lead and contribute goals to his side’s effort. He looks to be working on his hits to advantage and bodywork at stoppages, which will make him a more well-rounded ruck prospect. Some more polished decision making and disposal will also aid that factor.

Henry Walsh
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country
27/06/2002 | 202cm | 86kg

The brother of 2019 AFL Rising Star, Sam is a much different prospect, but is coming along nicely as he continues to work on his game. While is already quite adept in terms of ruck craft, the Geelong Falcons prospect is improving his running and ability to impact around the ground. Walsh looks to have benefitted from being afforded an extended run in the NAB League last year, with 13 games already under his belt, as well as an Under 18 National Championships appearance for Vic Country. He is currently plying his trade for Cobden in the Hampden League, and has experienced a taste of AFL standards having trained with Carlton during the off-season.

>> Q&A

OTHERS TO CONSIDER

There are a few prospects who you may have been expecting to see on this list, but have already found a home on others. Among them, Riley Thilthorpe has been put under the key position forward category, while Zach Reid is a key position defender. South Australian Henry Smith is another tall forward who can pinch-hit in the ruck, while the unknown quantity of fellow Croweater Ned Carey can play up either end of the ground, but has suffered extended injury setbacks.

Of the others to have missed out despite being inside the AFL Academy bubble, Jack Diedrich is a raw type from the Eastern Ranges program, while Jack Driscoll is a versatile prospect out of the GWS GIANTS Academy who can also play as a key position defender.

Positional Analysis: UtilitiesInside Midfielders | Outside Midfielders | Key Position Defenders | Key Position Forwards

July 2020 Power Rankings

>> CATCH UP ON OUR OTHER SERIES

Squad Predictions:
Allies
South Australia
Vic Country
Vic Metro
Western Australia

Features
AFL Draft Watch

Preseason Testing Analysis:
Jumps
Speed
Agility
Endurance

Q&A: Henry Walsh (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Geelong Falcons’ Henry Walsh at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The brother of Carlton midfielder and 2018 number one draft pick, Sam, cuts a much different figure to his elder sibling as a loping 202cm ruckman, and remains quite raw in terms of his development. While he thrives in his ruck craft having averaged 27.3 hitouts across 13 NAB League games as a bottom-ager, Walsh is constantly working on his impact around the ground as he expands his endurance base. The St Joseph’s junior represented Vic Country at Under 16 level and already cracked the Under 18 side in 2019, capping off his year with an appearance in the Under 17 All Star clash on AFL Grand Final day.

He is quite the unique character and is seldom shy to have a crack. Read up on what Walsh had to say during preseason about his development, opportunities afforded to him through the AFL Academy, and the year ahead with the Falcons.

>> CATCH UP ON OUR FEATURES

Q&A:


MA: Henry, how has the day been for you?

HW: “Today’s been pretty good.”

 

Which of the tests are you looking to excel in or improve on at the moment?

“The vertical jump for sure, love that.”

 

Pretty important in the ruck?

“Yeah.”

 

How has the preseason been so far?

“It’s been real good, thank you.”

 

On-field, how do you think your game’s coming along?

“It’s developing each game which is real good.”

 

Obviously he plays a much different role, but has your brother (Sam) helped that at all over the past few years?

“Yeah, especially through my running and positioning around the ground. It’s been real good.”

 

I’m sure you tapped a few down to him at preseason training with Carlton as well, it must’ve been good to get down there?

“It was. It was real good, a great experience.”

 

How has being part of the Vic Country hub been for you?

“It’s been real good, seeing how all the other boys from different areas for Vic Country have been.”

 

You’re part of a talented group at the Falcons too, you’ve played a lot together already. Are you looking to bounce back after a bit of a down year?

“Oh yeah bloody oath. Hopefully (we) get a few more wins.”

Squad predictions: 2020 Vic Country Under 18s

THE annual Under 18 National Championships may be the only chance we get to catch a glimpse of the class of 2020 before draft day, with a decision on the recommencement of competition pushed back to at least September. In the meantime, Draft Central takes a look at how each regional squad may line up should the carnival come around, but with a few stipulations in place. Last week we began with our Vic Metro squad predictions and today we take a look at Vic Country’s potential line-up.

GUIDELINES:

  • Top-agers (2002-born) have been prioritised due to the limited season and exposure
  • Of those, AFL Academy Hub members also gain priority for the starting squad
  • Bottom-agers (2003-born) in the hub, and top-agers outside it are named for depth
  • 19-year-old inclusions are limited, having already staked their claims in previous years

A lot may change between now and when the squad will be announced, and it should be noted that injured players will not be picked here. Of course, the sides may vary greatly as players look to shift and develop in different positions, but each member has been selected based on the roles they have previously played. Given only previous form, preseason testing and scratch matches are what we have to go off, bolters are also difficult to gauge at this point.

But without further ado, let’s get stuck into the second squad prediction, with Vic Country’s talent broken down line-by-line. An alternate squad with no limitations will also be provided below.

DEFENCE

FB – Clayton Gay (Dandenong), Zach Reid (Gippsland), Cam Fleeton (Geelong)
HB – Nick Stevens (GWV), Ethan Baxter (Murray), Isaac Wareham (GWV)

There is a good mix of styles and talent among this back six, with some height, power, dash, and clean ball use all to come from these potential representatives. Versatile 202cm tall Zach Reid seems a lock for full back, able to also double as ruck aid.

Leadership candidate Cam Fleeton and Dandenong standout Clayton Gay provide sound reading of the play and aerial presence on the last line, while Greater Western Victoria (GWV) pair Nick Stevens and Isaac Wareham are solid options off half-back. 19-year-old Wareham has already donned the Big V at under 18 level, but may earn another chance given injury curtailed his top-age season.

Ethan Baxter is the final member of the defence, a solidly-built Richmond Next Generation Academy (NGA) product who is a touch undersized (192cm) to play as a pure key defender, but makes up for it with strength. He could be utilised elsewhere, but we see him fulfilling a role down back.

MIDFIELD

C – Ryan Angwin (Gippsland), Tanner Bruhn (Geelong), Jack Ginnivan (Bendigo)
FOL – Henry Walsh (Geelong), Sam Berry (Gippsland), Zavier Maher (Murray)

Zavier Maher may be the tallest of the Vic Country mids here at 184cm, but by no means will the chosen crop lack power or ball winning ability. Maher, Sam Berry, and Tanner Bruhn are all terrific at the centre bounces, with Maher and Berry the powerful types, while Bruhn is all class in congestion.

Berry can run all day, too, much like Bendigo’s Jack Ginnivan on the outside. Ginnivan could also find a spot up forward like fellow wingman, Ryan Angwin, but the pair have really come on of late and should have no trouble in making an impact further afield.

Of course, Henry Walsh will likely be the one to provide first use to his midfield fleet as the primary ruck. The brother of Carlton Rising Star, Sam is quite apt at the centre bounces with his 201cm frame and is constantly working on his ground level work.

FORWARD

HF – Noah Gadsby (Geelong), Oliver Henry (Geelong), Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo)
FF – Dominic Bedendo (Murray), Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh), Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong)

This is hardly a forward six blessed with height or overwhelming strength, but that is not to say that it lacks marking power. Much like Baxter in defence, the high-flying Oliver Henry could play above his size as a focal point, though may be better suited to a third tall role. Highly touted Bulldogs NGA prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is unbeatable off the lead at full forward, so is a lock for that spot.

Alongside him may be Dominic Bedendo, a fantastic athletic talent who can compete both in the air and at ground level, while Charlie Lazzaro occupies the other pocket. He is arguably predominantly more a midfielder, but has been adding strings to his bow as a small forward.

On the flanks, his Geelong teammate Noah Gadsby also slots in as a newcomer to the forward line, while raw Bendigo product Seamus Mitchell assumes a role familiar to him on the same line. The largely small make-up of this six is somewhat a product of the guidelines we put in place, as there are a few key position products across each age bracket who could easily add some height and strength to the structure.

INTERCHANGE

INT – Sam Conforti (Bendigo), Will Bravo (Dandenong), Bayleigh Welsh (Dandenong), Blake Kuipers (Dandenong)

Filling out the side are some versatile options, with most of these prospects able to be utilised in many roles. Sam Conforti skippered the Under 16 Country side, and could well slot in as a small forward or wingman in this lineup. Dandenong’s Will Bravo is an exciting player who should also get a run up forward, providing a touch of speed and evasion while also being able to contribute in midfield.

Two more Stingrays cap off the side, with Bayleigh Welsh a midfielder the Dandenong program is high on, while athletic over-age swingman Blake Kuipers could be one to again sneak into the team as key position or ruck depth.

TOP-AGE DEPTH

Given this may be the only chance for draft-eligible top-agers to shine in front of recruiters in 2020, there will be plenty who come onto the radar of AFL clubs. Elijah Hollands and Noah Gribble are two who would have featured in the team, but unfortunately miss out due to long-term knee injuries.

Academy prospect Josh Treacy is a key forward who could well fit into the squad having gained experience for Country at Under 17 level, with fellow tall options Mason Hawkins and Keith Robinson of Gippsland others who can fill that forward/ruck role.

In terms of smalls, classy Geelong co-captain Gennaro Bove may be in the mix, while nippy GWV forward Harry Sharp has also caught the eye alongside another Falcon, Blake Reid. Other options from the Geelong region include Charlie Brauer – another outstanding athlete – and Kyle Skene.

Speaking of athletes, Bendigo is high on elite runner Jack Hickman and could also see the likes of ex-Rebel Jack Tillig or Finn Ellis-Castle push into contention. Dandenong has a couple of products around the mark too, with Deakyn Smith and Jai Neal both likely to be considered.

THE BOTTOM-AGERS

Last year’s Under 16 side may not have produced pure results-based success, but there are a few fantastic prospects who should push into contention. Leading the pack is last year’s carnival MVP Josh Rachele, a damaging midfielder/forward who is incredibly skilled.

Ben Hobbs was his partner-in-crime through midfield and should also get a crack as one of many high-end GWV up-and-comers. Those include Charlie Molan, Josh Rentsch, and Josh Gibcus, with the former two already boasting NAB League experience.

Fleet-footed Sandringham prospect Campbell Chesser was another to impress enough to break into the NAB League, while fellow Under 16 All Australians Toby Conway and Cooper Hamilton are also within the Academy bubble.

Given the focus will even more strictly be placed on draft eligible players, the likes of Ben Green, Connor Macdonald, Tom Brown, Justin Davies and so on will likely have to wait until next year to break into the Under-18 representative side.

There are a number of others outside of the current representative and academy bubbles who could also break through in their own top-age seasons, but it simply remains to be seen.

19-YEAR-OLDS

Possibly the most unlucky over-ager to miss out on our squads is Geelong’s Darcy Chirgwin, who was set to return to his original region after representing Sandringham in his draft year. After injury heavily interrupted his 2019 campaign, he should come into consideration once again.

Geelong teammate Jay Dahlhaus also suffered a long-term injury last year but should be back for more, while Murray prospect Sam Durham has shown a good rate of improvement as a latecomer to the code. Jai Newcombe is somewhat of a bolter having only now made the final cut at Gippsland, and could provide that inside presence with Chirgwin given he is yet to capture centre stage.

The two 19-year-olds we chose for both squads, Kuipers and Wareham, come into the category of players with great upside. Kuipers’ height and athleticism make him a handy option to fill gaps up either end or in the ruck, and his phenomenal testing performance puts him in good stead. Wareham is a solid athlete who will more so be looking for consistency after his top-age campaign last year.

With these additional top, bottom, and over-age prospects in mind, below is our potential best Vic Country squad without any provisions.

FB – Clayton Gay, Zach Reid, Cameron Fleeton
HB – Nick Stevens, Blake Kuipers, Ethan Baxter
C – Ryan Angwin, Tanner Bruhn, Jack Ginnivan
HF – Noah Gadsby, Oliver Henry, Seamus Mitchell
FF – Charlie Lazzaro, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Josh Rachele
FOL – Henry Walsh, Sam Berry, Zavier Maher
INT
– Will Bravo, Dominic Bedendo, Ben Hobbs, Isaac Wareham

Q&A: Tanner Bruhn (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season a month earlier where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Geelong Falcons’ Tanner Bruhn at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The classy midfielder has long been touted as one to watch come his draft year, earning the MVP award in Vic Country’s 2018 Under 16 side, and becoming a Geelong Grammar First XVIII best and fairest winner in the same year. His father, Matt was also an inaugural Geelong Falcons member, and somewhat of a local legend having won the 1996 Mathieson Medal during his time at Grovedale.

Bruhn managed four games for the Falcons as a 16-year-old, but that total was halved in 2019 as the youngster suffered an injury setback that had him sent in for knee surgery. His two outings at the back-end of last season and an appearance in the Under 17 Futures All Stars showcase game only highlighted Bruhn’s talent, with his stoppage craft and poise on the ball helping him shine.

Another knee setback saw Bruhn sit out the pre-season testing and was set to see him miss the first few rounds of the season, but the unforeseen break in action could come as somewhat of a blessing in disguise for the Newtown & Chilwell product, who can now build towards full fitness and be raring to go once – and if – called upon.

Q&A:

MA: How’s the day treated you so far?

TB: “Not too bad. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to participate with the rest of the group just due to an ongoing injury at the moment, but I think the boys have done pretty well so far and we’ve tested well which is good.”

You obviously had a long-term injury last year as well, how have you found the recovery time?

“Last year was pretty tough obviously missing the majority of the season and not being able to be out there with the boys. “But there was still plenty for me to do in terms of my rehab and then also helping the coaches and the staff on the sidelines. “I think I handled it pretty well and just can’t wait for this season.”

When you have been on the field, how’ve you rated your experience so far?

“Yeah not too bad. “I guess it’s a tough one really, I haven’t played much footy in the last 12 months so looking back; Under 16s, I really enjoyed my time there, then obviously getting the opportunity to play with the Falcons as an under-ager was awesome. “So yeah, just really keen for this year and hopefully I can just put my best foot forward.”

Are there any goals you’re looking to tick off along the way?

“Hopefully just to start the NAB League season off well and then obviously transition into school (football) and hopefully play some consistent footy throughout the year. But just overall to have a healthy season and try to get the best out of myself as possible.”

The Falcons seem to have a lot of talls in the team, are you looking to be that leader in the midfield?

“Yeah I’d say so. Like you said, we’ve got a lot of talls this year and hopefully a pretty strong side so that’s a big part of my game that I try and develop and improve – that leadership side. “So hopefully, we’ll see how we go but yeah, I’ll definitely take it into account for sure.”

You’d be juggling a few commitments with school footy, Falcons, and Vic Country – who are some of the boys you’re looking forward to playing alongside?

“Definitely. I think with Falcons especially the likes of Ollie Henry and Henry Walsh. “Obviously being able to play with those boys for the last few years has been pretty special so to run out there this year with those boys – I really can’t wait. And then Nick Stevens as well from the Rebels, he’s out at school with me so yeah, there’s a few boys in the numerous teams that I’m in but I just can’t wait really to get out there.”

And being around the Vic Country Hub, how has that aided your development?

“Immensely. “Obviously being in it last year as a bottom-ager, I’ve just grown so much as a player and as a person. “The experiences last year in the hub, there’s just great people there who’ve helped me with my injury and I’ve learned so much and developed heaps. “I really enjoyed the camps as well that we had through December and January and I’m just raring for the season ahead.”

Q&A: Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season a month earlier where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Geelong Falcons’ Charlie Lazzaro at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

Lazzaro enters his top-age year on the back of an impressive under-age resume, having represented Vic Country at the Under 16 national carnival in 2018 and notched eight NAB League appearances in 2019. In those eight outings, the 178cm prospect showed his wares as a rugged inside midfielder, averaging 20 disposals, 4.1 tackles, and 4.1 clearances at either end of his school football campaign with Geelong College.

An impressive athlete to boot, Lazzaro lit up the pre-season testing day with a 3.10-second time in the 20m sprint, 7.79 in the agility, and a 21.5 score in the yo-yo test. The St Mary’s product is also looking to expand his game in a more forward-oriented role this year, all while maintaining his effort to be “a well-rounded person” with his studies and passion for psychology in tow. Hear more from the man himself in our Q&A special.

MA: How’s the day been for you?

CL: “It’s been really exciting, Mike. I definitely came here with a mindset to try and get some PBs (personal bests). Obviously it’s a big trip up the highway for all of us (Falcons) to come here this morning, but definitely with the intentions to get some PBs and help support my teammates along the way.”

How do you think you went?

“I ended up getting three PBs today so was really stoked with the outcome of how it all went.. “I’m glad that so far I’ve been able to do that.”

How’s the testing here and getting those PBs going to translate to your game heading into the season?

“Obviously I really pride my game on contested work. “Being only 180cm I think if I can burrow in on the inside and also use my pace and endurance on the outside to generate some ball along the way I think that really compliments the way I play.”

“Hopefully we can string a few more wins together this year, unlike last year unfortunately. “But I think it’ll hold my game in good stead for the future.”

The experience last year for your top-age group now would have been invaluable, do you agree?

“Yeah, definitely as a bottom-ager I think in the final game against Sandringham we ended up having 20 bottom-agers play. “So it really just goes to show that towards the back-end of the year how good some of the bottom-agers were putting games together, and I think if we come together collectively this year we’ll be a very strong side within the NAB League competition.”

You might have a bit on your plate with school footy, Geelong, and Vic Country – how do you balance that and what position do you see yourself playing?

“So I think at the Falcons last year I played a lot as an inside mid with Cooper Stephens going down, however I did spend a bit of time as a small forward and speaking to Leigh Brown and Daff (Luke Daffy) and my school coach, Luke Primus, I think it’d be a strong idea for me to add another string to my bow and play as a small forward.

“Also to give myself a bit more exposure in not exactly one position, but to have two as well. “I think going forward, definitely just developing forward craft, just doing the basics really well – I think all good footballers know how to do the basics really well and I’m just going to try and build my game around that.”

You’re going to be playing alongside a heap of talent in those teams, who are some of the guys you’re looking forward to playing alongside?

“I think definitely someone who has shot onto the equation recently would be Cam Fleeton. “I’m really excited to play with him, he’s been given the captain’s nod this year with Gennaro Bove as well to lead the Falcons and I’m really excited to play a bit of footy with Cam.

“Someone as well like Ollie Henry, Henry Walsh, Tanner Bruhn – all really good bottom-agers that have really showcased a lot of footy through the last couple of years. I’m really excited for the possible prospect of us all coming together and playing some really good footy.”

Are there any goals personally that you’re looking to tick off this year?

“I think just on top of footy I really do want to do well at school. I pride myself on being a well-rounded person, so a goal of mine this year would definitely be to get a decent ATAR, get through the school year, get through healthy – you can only play footy when you’re healthy. “So if I can stay healthy for as long as possible, hopefully that’ll hold me in good stead for the rest of the year.”

I know footy’s the ultimate goal, but what are you looking to do with your studies?

“I’m actually really passionate about psychology. “Going forward, if I do end up making a career out of footy that’d be great, however I do think I’d like to pursue studies in psychology. “That’s just a real passion of mine and I think it’s something I can take going forward and really look to impact other peoples’ lives and help shed a positive light around mental health and some of the other stigmas around those topics.”

As part of the Falcons’ culture, do they encourage you to have that life outside of football?

“Definitely. Mick’s (Mick Turner) been really big on that, and same as Daff throughout even last year, just saying that obviously at the end of the day if you do have a bad game or you are having a bad couple of weeks, or even if you are having a purple patch, it’s just a game of footy at the end of the day.

“We just really need to look at taking it day-by-day, week-by-week, trusting our process at the Falcons, trusting each-other and I think that’s really just the message that they’ve instilled in us over the last couple of years.”

Gadsby eyes off role change in 2020

EXCITED about what 2020 held in store for his team the Geelong Falcons, Noah Gadsby was ready for a big season a few weeks ago. Fast forward and the COVID-19 pandemic might have put a massive dent in the hopes of every AFL Draft hopeful – and the season itself – but rest assured that many of them would be doing everything in their power to improve their game during the break. Gadsby, one of a eight Falcons players selected in the AFL Academy Vic Country hub, said he was looking forward to playing a new role this season.

I’m playing a bit of a different role this year,” Gadsby said. “I’m playing up forward and I’ve never really played there much. “Pretty excited to see what I can do.”

While Gadsby admitted he had some areas of improvement to come with the role change, the 185cm prospect who played through the midfield last season in five games, was excited to give it a go. He did not kick a goal in his bottom-age year, and that is something he hoped to change in 2020.

“(I’m) just trying to do my goalkicking, just get that right because I’ve never really played forward,” Gadsby said. “Just working on my finishing game.”

Last year Gadsby was a member of the Falcons side that finished bottom of the ladder and had just the one player – Cooper Stephens – drafted. Despite the on-field and off-field results, Gadsby said 2020 would be a very different looking Falcons outfit, considering a lot of the players who gained vital time last year would be a season better for it.

Yeah it was a tough year, but I think this year we’re going to bounce back and I think we’ve got a lot of talent this year so I’m pretty excited to see what the boys can do,” he said. “Tanner Bruhn‘s not back yet, but I’m looking forward to playing with him. “Gennaro Bove our captain and Cam Fleeton, I love the way they go about it, and a couple of the other Country boys like Charlie Lazzaro and Henry Walsh. “Can’t wait to see what they do this year.”

Speaking at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day in March hosted by Rookie Me, Gadsby said he had enjoyed the day, saying it was “always a bit of fun”. Rookie Me tests the Falcons multiple times over the off-season which the talented top-ager said was a bonus when the team attended the league-wide testing day.

Yeah (it’s) about the third time this preseason (Rookie Me has tested us), good (that it’s) last time for the year,” Gadsby said, before he added “maybe at the combine, see how the year goes.”

Gadsby said he hoped to continue to improve his agility throughout the season as that was one athletic test he was “not too good at”, but his preferred tests were the yo-yo and 20m sprint. He also added being a member of the Vic Country hub helped him develop further and was keen to build on the strengths in his game.

I like to run with the ball, so the 20 helps translate, so that’s probably my favourite test,” Gadsby said. “It’s been really good (Country hub). “Last year was a really, really good year to learn. “Can’t wait to attack it this year, had a really good summer with Country so I’m excited.”

While the season start might be a while off with much uncertainty around it, Gadsby has been lucky enough to already be identified as one to watch having played in the Under-17 Trial game last year for Vic Country before being included in the hub. Whatever the future holds, expect his name to be one of many who will be doing all they can to impress AFL club recruiters throughout the postponement of the season.

2020 NAB League Boys team preview: Geelong Falcons

SILVER linings often prove golden for talent managers among the nation’s elite talent pathways, but Geelong’s Mick Turner has seldom had to search for them across over 25 years in the job. That somewhat changed in 2019 as the Falcons endured a lacklustre season on-field and produced their lowest draft haul since the proud program’s inception (one), with co-captain Cooper Stephens picked up in the first round by the region’s AFL club.

Aside from boasting yet another first round pick in Stephens, the silver lining in the Falcons’ “out of the blue” year was being able to accelerate the development of a number of bottom-age prospects who will now lead the club in their 18th year. On the back of a solid pre-season, Turner is optimistic his squad will be able to make marked improvements on last year’s output.

“It’s been a pretty good preseason for us, this is the culmination for it with the Rookie Me testing for the AFL,” Turner told Draft Central at the Rookie Me pre-season testing day. “We believe we have a very good squad this year in terms of team and individuals for the draft and hopefully the boys test well.”

“Over the years we’ve been probably the most successful club in Australia at getting players drafted and players on AFL lists – I think last year we had 45 players on AFL and I checked most weeks we’ve got 30 to 35 playing AFL seniors so, we’re pretty happy about that. “Last year was a bit one out of the blue, we had a very frustrating year. “Cooper Stephens got injured, he broke his leg early in the season, Jay Dahlhaus who is really important for us got injured and Tanner Bruhn had a knee operation. “We won three games and then we had a draw, a point loss, a two-point loss, a four-point loss, a seven-point loss – if one of those players played we could have won seven or eight more games.”

“We made a concerted effort at the end of the year to play (16 and 17-year-olds) and I think in the last game against Sandy in the Wildcard Round they beat us by 15 goals but when we looked at it, we had 20 players that would be here in 2020 and I think Sandringham had two. “So you can only play who you can play but we’ve put a lot of work into this group and we think potentially they are a very good group. “Five games in the end in NAB League is probably worth 50 to an AFL player so hopefully that gives us some benefit going into the season and we think that experience has been good for the players.”

Of the 30 players selected in this year’s Vic Country Hub, eight hail from the Falcons’ program. But akin to the cases of Metro powerhouses Oakleigh and Sandringham, Geelong will have to maintain a busy schedule for many of its top-end prospects who will juggle commitments between school, NAB League, and representative football programs. Buoyed by the extended talent of the squad past those selected in the Country hub, Turner highlighted the beginning and end of the NAB League season as key periods for draft hopefuls.

“When the hub’s done they can only pick 30 to start and we’ve got eight in which is a lot… I would have thought 15 to 16 that would get in, there’s boys outside the hub that are as good as a lot of the players inside the hub for us,” Turner said. “We’ve got a list of 60 because we have a lot of player movement within the NAB League, a lot of our boys go to Geelong Grammar and Geelong College, and we’ve got other boys at Christian College and St Joey’s which are our big feeder schools that have ACC commitments with football.

“What’s important at our level is in terms of the draft, when NAB clubs are at their full strength at the start of the year, that’s when boys have really got to put their hand up and play well. “It gets diluted a bit during the year, but if you’re picked for the national championships you’ve got to do well and then at the end of the year when the private school football finishes, that’s when you’ve got to be really putting your stamp on it again to give yourself a chance to reach your dream to be drafted or rookied to an AFL club.”

Player movement and continuity have long been priorities in terms of maintenance for talent managers with their top-aged players, and a bunch of 19-year-olds should be able to provide aid advice-wise to those coming into their draft year. In particular, former Sandringham representative Darcy Chirgwin will be at the top of the list having juggled commitments between the Dragons and a Melbourne Grammar scholarship last year, while also recovering from a spate of injuries.

“Darcy was with us as a 16-year-old and got a scholarship to Melbourne Grammar which was good for him school-wise and academically,” Turner said. “I rate Darcy, he’s a really great player. “When he first came to us this year his conditioning and strength were down a bit compared to our other players but our high performance staff have put a lot of work into him. “He’s with Geelong (VFL) so when he’s picked in the VFL, he will play for Geelong and when he’s not picked for VFL he will come back and play for us. “Hopefully we can get that balance right.”

Chirgwin adds to a talented engine room already boasting the likes of Bruhn and Charlie Lazzaro, but it is an unusually tall squad which is set to take the field for Geelong this season. Henry Walsh, Oliver Henry, and Cameron Fleeton, are all key position types who have already impressed, but Turner is still bullish on his midfielders, too.

“(It’s) probably the tallest team we’ve ever had,” Turner said. “I think we’re pretty balanced right across the board, we’ve got some really good players down back and we’ve got a really good midfield. “Charlie Lazzaro and players like that are in the hub, Darcy Parish‘s brother Indy who is only 17, and we’ve got some really quality forwards if we can get them all on the field.”

“When the team’s at full strength, we’ll play them in the their best positions. “Indy Parish for example won’t play midfield in our first round, but he’ll hopefully be in the side and maybe play forward. “When those older players, Lazzaro and (Gennaro) Bove move out of the midfield, he’ll come in and have his midfield role and get that experience. That goes across the board to all of our players.”

Given the wealth of talent available, Turner believes this will be one of the Falcons’ more fruitful years come draft time. But with a long way to go until then, he hopes they can just get a decent run at it.

“We’re just looking forward to the year, we hope we have a bit of luck with injury… so the players can show what they do but we’re pretty excited about the group. “Potentially we think it’s one of the better groups we’ve had, but the word is potentially – it’s still got to happen, they’ve still got to perform.”