Tag: Key Forward

Knights star Bannan leaves it all out on the field

BUDDING AFL Women’s draftee Alyssa Bannan came into her top-age year looking to “put everything out onto the field with every game.” Little did she, or any of her fellow NAB Leaguers know that their season would be cut short to just three games, but an increase in work-rate, work ethic, and intensity certainly payed off for the Northern Knights key forward.

“I was actually very proud of how I went,” Bannan said. “Knowing that this was my last year as a top-ager and it was my opportunity to get drafted, I went out thinking that I had to play my best game, every single game. “How I felt coming off the field definitely made me think that I did myself proud, did my family proud, and did my friends proud with how I played.”

Nine goals in three outings, including a bag of five in the season-opening Grand Final rematch goes a long way to instilling such pride. It even saw Bannan shift her original end goal of being drafted, to being selected within the first round. But more significantly than simply being a great player on-field, the 18-year-old is determined to prove her worth as a quality person, off it.

“It’s definitely not so much about being a good player on the field, but also being a good person off the field,” she said. “I’ve found that clubs have been very big on not only being a very skilful player, but being kind, being caring, being motivated, and that’s what has been the focus throughout the year.”

Alyssa Bannan gets a kick away during this year’s NAB League season

The break from football has somewhat proven a blessing in disguise. While Bannan admits the early unknown was “difficult”, she says the time off has allowed her to find a greater balance in life.

“At the start it was definitely very difficult not knowing if we were going to be able to finish off our season,” she said. “But I think having this break has allowed me to develop individually on aspects of my game that I wouldn’t normally focus on, such as my mental heath with wellness sessions and being able to (practice) mindfulness. “Although it has been disappointing not being able to finish, I’ve definitely been able to work on those different aspects of my life to balance it out.”

Having played a key part in Northern’s unbeaten NAB League premiership last year, Bannan has risen through the ranks alongside some of the greatest players the competition has seen. Namely, 2019 captain and current Western Bulldogs rising star Gabby Newton has had a major impact on the Knights’ no. 6, helping establish a healthy and competitive environment to improve in.

In line with the standard such players set, Bannan says she also sought to become a leading figure in her side’s setup.

“Having played alongside Gabby Newton and personally getting to know her, her qualities and attitudes as a player have definitely been something that I look up to,” she said. “Her teamwork, her (desire) to do really well and continue to improve are definitely qualities that really strike home to me as ones I want to present.”

“The new role as a top-ager really made me want to lead and present myself as someone who people can look up to and can think ‘She’s a really good player, I want to aspire to be like her.’ That’s been my overall goal throughout, especially this season.”

The Northern Knights celebrate their 2019 NAB League premiership

Bannan, a Carlton supporter also looks up to AFL Women’s trailblazer Tayla Harris. If a player comparison is what you are after, an easy link can be made between the two high-flying forwards.

“Tayla Harris is a big player who I wanted to model my game style on,” Bannan said. “Playing in similar positions, having a similar style of play, she’s definitely been a player that I really look up to and who I would like to emulate when I hopefully get to play AFLW.”

Football has also impacted the youngster in terms of her other potential career options, too. As she completes her Year 12 studies, Bannan has one eye on a vocation in the sporting realm, helping athletes get the best out of their game. It is a theme she says her football career has helped bring out.

“Sport is definitely on the list,” she said. “I’d love to do anything to do with strength and conditioning, high performance, even if it’s performance analysis. “Just improving players and their performance, because that’ll definitely help me see how to improve my performance as well. I think footy’s definitely brought that side out in me.”

With her first round draft dream in tow, Bannan is seeking to hit the ground running once her shot at the big-time is sealed, out to prove not only to herself and clubs, but to fans that she is “on the field for a reason.” The Northern Knights graduate also sought to thank the “long list of people” to have influenced her footballing journey; from her supportive family, to her coaches, teammates, staff, and everyone in between who helped her get to where she is.

Squad predictions: 2020 Western Australia 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 carnival likely to take place in October. In the meantime, Draft Central takes a look at how each regional squad may line up should the championships come around, but with a few stipulations in place. We began with our Vic Metro, Vic Country, and South Australian squad predictions, and today we take a look at Western Australia’s (WA) potential line-up.


  • 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
  • The inclusion of bottom-agers (2003-born) in the hub, and top-agers outside it is limited to three spots in the starting 18
  • 19-year-old inclusions are also 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 players with known long-term injuries 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.

Players named as depth outside of the initial squad below are inevitably options who will rotate through the side, and it is impossible to fit all the options within a list of 22. But without further ado, let’s get stuck into the fourth squad prediction, with WA’s talent broken down line-by-line.

* – denotes bottom-aged
** – denotes 19-yo


FB – Blake Morris (Subiaco), Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts), Rhett Bazzo* (Swan Districts)
HB – Brandon Walker (East Fremantle), Heath Chapman (West Perth), Ty Sears (Swan Districts)

The West Australian spine is one of the few to boast genuine talls in most key position posts, starting with Denver Grainger-Barras and Heath Chapman in defence. Both are terrific in the air and provide good versatility as talls, able to shut down opponents, impact the play aerially, and use the ball soundly out of defensive 50.

Fremantle Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect Brandon Walker‘s name will quickly be placed on the team sheet, with Ty Sears an agile outside mover who takes up the opposite half-back flank in our side. Making it three Swan Districts products in the back six is Rhett Bazzo, joined by WA’s 2019 Under 16 MVP, Blake Morris on the last line.

Both are good competitors in the air; with Bazzo a potential key position prospect at 194cm as a bottom-ager, while Morris is a late bloomer who can intercept with his high marking and shrewd reading of the play. The defence has a bit of everything, and should compete well on all levels with Grainger-Barras the centrepiece and leading draft prospect.


C – Jack Carroll (East Fremantle), Zane Trew (Swan Districts), Judd McVee* (East Fremantle)
FOL – Kalin Lane** (Claremont), Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth), Finn Gorringe (East Fremantle)

A trio of tough, big-bodied ball winners look likely to attend the centre bounces for WA, with Nathan O’Driscoll (187cm), Zane Trew (186cm), and Finn Gorringe (183cm) all inside types who can crack in and win the hard ball. O’Driscoll is a thumping left-foot kick and capable marker who may also feature across half-back, while Trew is perhaps an even better disposer by foot who also earned Under 16 All Australian honours in 2018.

Palming down to them could well be a true bolter in Kalin Lane, who featured in the 2020 AFL Academy intake despite only playing one WAFL Colts game for Claremont. The 202cm big-man is also the sole 19-year-old to feature in the side, and should be aided well by a couple of other talls in terms of ruck duties.

On the outside, Jack Carroll adds to the high-level kicking abilities to make it three East Fremantle prospects among the midfield group. He displayed his class in last year’s Under 17 All Stars showcase, and is joined on the opposite wing by Judd McVee, a bottom-aged small who has that classic burst out of the stoppages and may feature on the inside.


HF – Joel Western (Claremont), Shannon Neale (South Fremantle), Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder)
FF – Owen Dann (East Fremantle), Logan McDonald (Perth), Ira Jetta (South Fremantle)

There is plenty of versatility among the proposed West Australian forward group, with two genuine talls again slotting into key position spots, while each of the smaller options can also rotate through different roles. Among them, Joel Western is an exciting prospect who is part of Fremantle’s NGA and can rotate through the midfield, credit to his freakish skills and evasiveness.

Ira Jetta is another small who can also double as a midfielder at the Under 18 level, but has terrific goal sense and fills a spot up forward here. Owen Dann takes up the other pocket but can be thrown into defence, while Peel Thunder’s Isiah Winder slots in at half-forward – a player who catches the eye, and yet another sub-180cm mover who can shuffle further afield.

Logan McDonald is one of the leading key position prospects in the national talent pool and is simply a lock at full forward, having already represented the Black Ducks at Under 18 level in 2019. His athleticism, clean hands, and contested marking will put WA in good stead and he has grown to true key position height at 195cm. Shannon Neale, another late bloomer will rotate between the ruck and forwardline, able to compete in the air while also possessing good athletic traits at 200cm.

The flexibility of the side as a whole is stamped with that of the forward six here, with each player both versatile in their respective positions while being able to double in separate roles. With a couple of solid talls to help the smalls crumb, this group could also produce a handy highlight reel.


INT – Luke Polson* (Peel Thunder), Kade Dittmar* (East Perth), Kellen Johnson (West Perth), Tyler Nesbitt (Peel Thunder)

A pair of bottom-agers head our interchange, which was a typically difficult one to whittle down. Luke Polson is a 195cm ruck/forward who can provide depth on either line, while Kade Dittmar is a hard-working and physical midfielder with a booming kick and the ability to play elsewhere if required. Polson’s Peel Thunder teammate Tyler Nesbitt rounds out the 22 alongside fellow top-age academy member Kellen Johnson, both medium-sized prospects who may feature at either end of the ground.


There is a good amount of bottom-age depth in the West Australian ranks, and some top-agers outside of the AFL Academy bubble who could push their case for selection. Jack Hindle is the only top-age academy member to miss out on our 22, but will likely rotate through the side. Chris Walker, the twin brother of Brandon is another who may be thereabouts, while Jamison Ugle is a speedy type who could garner attention along with Subiaco’s Tyler Brockman as forward options. Talented 199cm ruck/forward Michael Mallard had a decent Under 16 campaign for WA, and is already a known quantity if selectors are looking for even more key position depth.

In terms of those eligible for the 2021 draft who feature in the academy hub, Max Chipper is a classy midfielder from the stacked Swan Districts squad. Matthew Johnson is a tall but raw prospect who can also play forward, and Mitchell Brown is another midfield option who may put his hand up. Rounding out the crop is Claremont’s Jacob van Rooyen and Richard Bartlett, both of whom featured for the Black Ducks in last year’s Under 16 national carnival.

Picture: Michael Farnell – Sports Imagery Australia

>> READ UP ON THE 2020 WA U18s:
>> 2019 WAFL Colts Content

AFL Draft Watch:

Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll

Marquee Matchups:

Denver Grainger-Barras vs. Kaine Baldwin

Positional Analysis:

Key Forwards

2015 Draft Profile: Harry McKay


Harry McKay (Gippsland Power)
Height: 200 cm
Weight: 85 kg
Position: Key forward
Strengths: Speed, athleticism, defensive pressure, marking
Weaknesses: Kicking, consistency, impact
Player comparison: Drew Petrie
First year impact: Long term prospect

Kicking: Poor
Marking: Above average
Endurance: Above average
Speed: Above average

Harry McKay is an athletic key forward who shows plenty of glimpses as a raw talent.

McKay’s got more speed than most key forwards and he likes to get up the ground, showcasing his endurance desire to get involved in the play.

McKay is the type who can twist and turn through traffic like he’s a fleet-footed midfielder, but yet he also provides a strong market target around the ground and inside 50.

In terms of where he sits in this draft class in terms of marking, he’s probably in the top ten. He is excellent on the lead, but he also takes enough contested marks for a 200cm player. He took 20 contested marks over 13 games this season, with his best game coming against the smaller Northern Knights team, in which he took four contested grabs.

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of McKay’s game is his defensive pressure. He laid just six tackles across his first eight games, but he ramped up his intensity after that. In his final five games, he laid 14 tackles, with five of those coming against the North Ballarat Rebels.

Coinciding with that, McKay started playing more as a pinch-hitting ruckman to end the year. His around the ground work was promising, and he even started getting a bit more of the ball.

Certainly, at 17 years old and a lightly framed key forward, it’s clear that he’s only going to show glimpses for this part of his development. Yet still, he’s only kicked more than two goals in a game twice this year in the TAC Cup.

He kicked 19.13 over 13 games, which is not ideal for a talented key forward. His kicking efficiency as a whole is not great, which is a worry for someone who seems so skilful.

McKay has struggled to leave his mark on the game, week-in, week-out. He’s still probably two or three years off being the size he needs to be to exert his dominance on the contest. Yet with his physical traits, recruiters would have liked to have seen him show a bit of consistency, especially if they were keen to draft him inside the first 15 picks.

McKay’s got plenty of upside, but at the moment, his lack of consistency and poor kicking prove to be serious risks.

Best case scenario, McKay could play in a similar role to Drew Petrie. He takes the ball at the highest point, he can get around the ground and he can pinch hit in the ruck.

Worst case scenario, McKay could be a Tyrone Vickery second forward. In either case, McKay looks more likely to be a complimentary forward rather than a 50-60 goal a year threat at his peak.

2015 Draft Profile: Sam Weideman


Sam Weideman
Eastern Ranges
Height: 196 cm
Weight: 91 kg
Position: Key forward
Strengths: Overhead marking, one on one contests, high ceiling, strength
Weaknesses: High risk, struggles to make a consistent impact, poor set shot kick, average athlete
Player comparison: Joe Daniher
First year projection: Long-term prospect

Kicking: Average
Marking: Elite
Endurance: Below average
Speed: Average

Sam Weideman was rated as a top 10 prospect before going down with an injury earlier this year, which was based on his performances in his bottom-age year. While Weideman’s a raw prospect, he has the body, clean hands and potential to be a very good prospect.

Weideman is a really big unit already. He looks taller than 196 centimetres and his 91 kilogram frame allows him to out-body just about any player. He put that to the test against the Northern Blues earlier in the year. His first quarter yielded five marks (several of those were contested) and two goals against Carlton listed fullback Matthew Watson.

Many fans were salivating over that performance, as he rag-dolled Watson. However, after quarter-time he struggled to make an impact. That has been Weideman’s biggest issue – consistency.

He does not have the tank to run up to the wing and provide a link up target when he’s not finding the ball deep in the forward line. He occasionally chops out in the ruck, but he doesn’t have the motor to be a mobile around the ground threat.

Weideman has an outstanding marking ability, which gives him the chance to mark absolutely anything. His leap is fairly good for a big man and his wingspan is very long, so anything in the air is either getting marked by him, or coming down front and centre for the crumbers.

Statistically Weideman is one of the best contested marks in the draft. Last year he averaged 1.3 contested marks per game in the TAC Cup. That might not seem like much, but it actually accounted for close to 40 per cent of his marks. And remember, he was just 17 then and skinnier.

Despite not being a good runner per say, Weideman has got a little bit of speed over 20 metres, and he communicates well with his other forwards to get blocks so he can lead out into space. On the lead, he is an excellent mark and will always go for the overhead instead of opting for a chest mark.

Weideman may be able to mark the footy well but one of his weaknesses is his set shot goal kicking. In the TAC Cup in 2014, he kicked 19 goals and 15 behinds. Disappointingly, he also had six games where he failed to kick a goal and four games with just one goal. This year in round seven of the TAC Cup, Weideman played his best game kicking five goals and taking four contested marks against Dandenong. However crucially as Weideman was looking to put some good form on the board before the under 18 championships he re-aggravated an ankle stress fracture ruling him out for most of the season.

Key forwards of Weideman’s type have often struggled coming into the AFL. Joe Daniher was an excellent mark and dominated small opponents at TAC Cup level however his set shot goal kicking has been found out at AFL level. Whilst it is an issue, ultimately it is a work in progress and something Weideman will continue to work on when he reaches an AFL club at the end of the year.

Despite these issues, it’s the manner in which Weideman plays and the enormous upside he has that will intrigue recruiters. In spurts, he looks like a star. A great development team will help Weideman immensely, but it is absolutely pivotal to his growth he heads to the right club. He will have plenty of the spotlight on him due to his famous name and obvious talent, but he’s going to be a guy that won’t impact immediately and will take plenty of time to come on.

With a plethora of talented key position players in first round contention this year with Josh Schache, Jacob Weitering, Kieran Collins, Harry McKay and Ryan Burton it will likely take the pressure off Weideman allowing him to develop freely over time.

No doubt Weideman has the potential at best to be a top 10 key forward in the league. However his injury and lack of consistency may result in clubs overlooking him as an early first round pick, there is no doubt he is good enough to get drafted, it is just dependent on each individual clubs’ views on his potential as to where he will finish up at on draft night.