Tag: lachlan rankin

2021 AFL Draft Combine list released

THE list of 2021 AFL Draft Combine invitees was released on Monday, with 90 of the country’s brightest prospects selected to show their athletic wares next month. The list will be extended to 120, with 60 of that total allotment set to attend the National Combine on September 29-30 at Marvel Stadium. The remaining 60 invitees will participate in state-based testing days held around Australia.

>> Top 25: August Power Rankings update

Among the initial 90 invitees is an even spread of talent from each National Championships region. With Victoria supplying around half of the usual draft intake each year, 41 of the state’s best prospects (19 country, 22 metro) earned invites. 11 of the 13 included Allies squad members also turned out at NAB League level, giving the competition strong representation.

The West and South Australian crops look strong as ever, with both states producing 18 players to the initial intake. Among them is pick one candidate Jason Horne-Francis, who features alongside South Adelaide teammates and fellow first round fancies, Arlo Draper and Matthew Roberts. Subiaco pair Neil Erasmus and Matthew Johnson lead the WA contingent, along with a raft of key position options.

>> Indicative draft order: Who’s in the top 10 mix?

There aren’t too many surprises among the allotted crew, with only one player chosen outside of the Under 19 realm and 87 of the chosen 90 born in 2003. 20-year-old Central District key defender Leek Alleer is the lone ‘mature’ ager, while Eastern Ranges’ Corey Preston and Giants Academy member Harrison Grintell are the only 19th-year players in the mix.

For the most part, players have been selected directly from the representative squads put together ahead of this year’s National Championships, which continue to be postponed. Tasmanian Will Splann is one who came from outside the Allies squad, while Northern Knights pair Anthony Caminiti (tall forward) and Ned Long (midfielder) did not feature for Vic Metro after trials – though, the latter was injured.

Nick Daicos is a pick one contender

Nineteen players are club-tied, split between father-sons, Northern Academy products, and Next Generation Academy (NGA) hopefuls. Oakleigh Chargers teammates Nick Daicos (Collingwood) and Sam Darcy (Western Bulldogs) are father-son candidates who could yield bids within the top two picks, while Jase Burgoyne (Port Adelaide) will likely end up at Alberton outside of the first round.

Giants Academy standout Josh Fahey headlines the Northern Academy input, along with fellow AFL Academy member Austin Harris (Gold Coast). Top 10 candidate Mac Andrew looks set to be the sole NGA product taken before pick 20, but there is plenty of talent clubs will have exclusive access to.

Among them is rising St Kilda-tied pair Mitchito Owens and Marcus Windhager, who impressed enough to earn Vic Metro selection. Over in WA, ruck/forward Eric Benning (Fremantle) and athletic utility Ethan Regan (West Coast) have risen into contention, and the has been conjecture over Jesse Motlop, who also features as a Dockers NGA selection but will only land there past pick 40.

2021 AFL DRAFT COMBINE LIST

NSW-ACT:

Angus Anderson – Sydney Swans Academy
Ryan Eyers – Murray Bushrangers
Josh Fahey – GWS Academy
Harrison Grintell – GWS Academy
Patrick Voss – Oakleigh Chargers/GWS Academy

Northern Territory:

Andy Moniz-Wakefield – NT Thunder
Ned Stevens – NT Thunder/Gold Coast Academy

Queensland:

Will Bella – Gold Coast Academy
Austin Harris – Gold Coast Academy
Bodhi Uwland – Gold Coast Academy

South Australia:

Leek Alleer – Central District
Cooper Beecken – Glenelg
Isaac Birt – South Adelaide
Jase Burgoyne – Woodville-West Torrens
Lukas Cooke – Woodville-West Torrens
Arlo Draper – South Adelaide
Morgan Ferres – Sturt
Jason Horne-Francis – South Adelaide
Hugh Jackson – North Adelaide
Shay Linke – Central District
Cooper Murley – Norwood
Blayne O’Loughlin – North Adelaide
Lewis Rayson – Glenelg
Matthew Roberts – South Adelaide
Hugh Stagg – Glenelg
Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera – Glenelg
Luca Whitelum – Central District
James Willis – North Adelaide

Tasmania:

Sam Banks – Clarence
Baker Smith – Clarence
Will Splann – North Hobart

Vic Country:

Mac Andrew – Dandenong Stingrays
Jamieson Ballantyne – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Miller Bergman – Dandenong Stingrays
Tom Brown – Murray Bushrangers
Sam Butler – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Campbell Chesser – Sandringham Dragons
Judson Clarke – Dandenong Stingrays
Toby Conway – Geelong Falcons
Josh Gibcus – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Cooper Hamilton – Bendigo Pioneers
Ben Hobbs – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Mitch Knevitt – Geelong Falcons
Kai Lohmann – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Connor Macdonald – Dandenong Stingrays
Charlie Molan – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Josh Rachele – Murray Bushrangers
Josh Rentsch – Greater Western Victoria Rebels
Jai Serong – Gippsland Power
Hamish Sinnott – Greater Western Victoria Rebels

Vic Metro:

Finn Callaghan – Sandringham Dragons
Anthony Caminiti – Northern Knights
Paul Curtis – Western Jets
Nick Daicos – Oakleigh Chargers
Sam Darcy – Oakleigh Chargers
Youseph Dib – Oakleigh Chargers
Josh Goater – Calder Cannons
Blake Howes – Sandringham Dragons
Tyreece Leiu – Eastern Ranges
Ned Long – Northern Knights
Mitchito Owens – Sandringham Dragons
Corey Preston – Eastern Ranges
Lachlan Rankin – Oakleigh Chargers
Josh Sinn – Sandringham Dragons
Jake Soligo – Eastern Ranges
Tyler Sonsie – Eastern Ranges
Zac Taylor – Calder Cannons
Dante Visentini – Sandringham Dragons
Josh Ward – Northern Knights
Darcy Wilmot – Northern Knights
Marcus Windhager – Sandringham Dragons
Karl Worner – Oakleigh Chargers

Western Australia:

Jye Amiss – East Perth
Rhett Bazzo – Swan Districts
Eric Benning – Claremont
Josh Browne – East Fremantle
Kade Dittmar – East Perth
Neil Erasmus – Subiaco
Brady Hough – Peel Thunder
Matthew Johnson – Subiaco
Jesse Motlop – South Fremantle
Lochlan Paton – West Perth
Ethan Regan – East Perth
Angus Sheldrick – Claremont
Jahmal Stretch – Claremont
James Tunstill – East Perth
Jacob van Rooyen – Claremont
Corey Warner – East Fremantle
Bryce Watson – Swan Districts
Jack Williams – East Fremantle

“Competitive” Voss looks for consistency

WATCH Patrick Voss once, and you will know exactly what he is about. The hard-at-it Oakleigh Chargers utility brings a physical, no nonsense kind of style to the field, sighting “competitiveness” as one of his strengths. With powerful fend-offs, bruising tackles and strong overhead marking, the 18-year-old has certainly lived up to that call in 2021.

The Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants Academy member, who hails from Wagga Wagga, said during preseason that he was looking forward to getting a run in midfield this year. Having started up forward for Oakleigh before transitioning down back and enjoying spurts in the engine room, Voss has seen a bit of everything.

“I’ve improved on my fitness and that side of things,” Voss said. “I’m more a key forward but also through Giants and maybe Oakleigh I’m looking to play a bit in the midfield. I’ve been working on that side of the game so I’m looking forward to it.”

Along with the shift in roles, the versatile 192cm talent has been able to string together a good run of games at NAB League level despite the many disruptions. Voss turned out six times for the Chargers and once for the Giants Academy, linking with a few old mates in May. Some of the “consistency” he found lead to selection in the Under 19 Allies squad.

“A bit like the other boys, I want to play some consistent footy,” he said. “That’s with the Giants and I’m in Melbourne so hopefully I can play some consistent footy up there and get a few games with the Allies.

“I’m definitely looking forward to playing with Lachie Rankin, Alex Lukic, all the boys. Then with the Giants, probably my best mate Josh Fahey, I haven’t played with him for a while so it should be good.”

Patrick Voss representing the U16 NSW/ACT Rams in 2019

Developing a sense of consistency can be difficult at the best of times – especially in the current climate of uncertainty, or when you’re representing multiple teams. Voss has been tied to his local side, the Giants Academy, Oakleigh Chargers, Wesley College, and the NSW/ACT Rams and Allies at representative level over the years.

Still, he has managed to develop his game at the high level those sides compete at, with some more improvements to come.

“I’m pretty competitive and big-bodied so that works to my advantage a bit,” Voss said. “There’s lots of things I can improve on. Probably using both sides of my body and using clean hands, stuff like that.”

The season is quickly wrapping up and while hope of completing an improvised NAB League finals series or National Championships remains in the balance, Voss impressed enough to earn a National Combine invite. He is one of five talents out of the NSW/ACT pool to receive such honours, along with 85 other players around the nation.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

Ones to Watch: The draft prospect bottleneck brimming with talent

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

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

VICTORIA

Potential Riser: 

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

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

Ones to Watch:

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

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

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

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

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

Dandenong Stingrays midfielder Connor Macdonald

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Potential Riser:

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

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

Ones to Watch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Potential Riser:

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

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

Ones to Watch:

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

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

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

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

ALLIES

Potential Riser:

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

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

Ones to Watch:

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

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

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

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

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League Boys – Round 11

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

>> RESULTS | NAB League Round 11 snapshot

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

By: Michael Alvaro

Calder Cannons:

#5 Zac Taylor

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

#6 Flynn Lakey

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

#25 Josh Goater

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

#30 Sam Paea

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

Geelong Falcons:

#11 Cooper Whyte

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

#12 Noah Gribble

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

#28 Mitch Knevitt

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

#56 Oscar Morrison

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

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

By: Michael Alvaro

GWV Rebels:

#2 Ben Hobbs

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

#3 Charlie Molan

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

#6 Marcus Herbert

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

#14 Jamieson Ballantyne

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

#15 Nick Hodgson

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

Oakleigh Chargers:

#1 Youseph Dib

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

#12 Lochlan Jenkins

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

#22 Lachlan Rankin

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

#27 Karl Worner

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

#33 Patrick Voss

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

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

By: Michael Alvaro

Murray Bushrangers:

#2 Charlie Byrne

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

#4 Josh Rachele

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

#13 Tom Brown

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

#24 Cameron McLeod

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

Northern Knights:

#3 Josh Ward

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

#23 Anthony Caminiti

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

#27 Jason McCormick

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

#28 Joel Fitzgerald

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

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

By: Michael Alvaro

Tasmania Devils:

#1 Baynen Lowe

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

#6 Sam Banks

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

#8 Zach Morris

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

#15 Lachlan Cowan

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

#22 Baker Smith

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

Sandringham Dragons:

#4 Josh Sinn

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

#5 Lachlan Benton

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

#6 Blake Howes

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

#7 Campbell Chesser

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

#17 Finn Callaghan

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

#45 Marcus Windhager

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

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

By: Declan Reeve

Dandenong Stingrays:

#3 Miller Bergman 

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

#6 Connor Macdonald

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

#7 Judson Clark

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

#43 Billy Taylor

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

#46 Justin Davies

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

Eastern Ranges:

#5 Jake Soligo

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

#21 Corey Preston

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

#35 Max Hall

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

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

By: Eli Duxson

Gippsland Power:

#4 Nathan Noblett

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

#11 Caleb Van Oostveen

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

#17 Luis D’Angelo

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

Western Jets:

#2 Harrison White

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

#11 Harrison Schumann

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

#14 Mace Cousins

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

#20 Dylan Laurie

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

#35 Liam Conway

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

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

Draft Central Power Rankings: July 2021

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

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

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

June Ranking: #1

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

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

Last month:

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

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

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

June Ranking: #2

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

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

Last month:

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

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

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

June Ranking: #15

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: #11

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

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

Last month:

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

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

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

June Ranking: #3

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

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

Last month:

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

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

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

June Ranking: #5

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

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

Last month:

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

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

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

June Ranking: #4

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

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

Last month:

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

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus

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

June Ranking: #6

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: #10

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: #17

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

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

Last month:

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

>> NAB League POTW: Round 9

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

June Ranking: #7

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: #14

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: #8

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: #20

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

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

Last month:

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

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus

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

June Ranking: #21

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

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

Last month:

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

>> ‘Rays on the rise

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

June Ranking: #12

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: #19

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: #9

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: NR

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: #13

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

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

Last month:

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

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

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

June Ranking: #18

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

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

Last month:

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

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus: Cooper Murley

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

June Ranking: #16

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: #23

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: #25

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

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

Last month:

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

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

June Ranking: NR

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

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

Last month:

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

IN THE MIX:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scouting Notes | 2021 Victorian Under 19 trials

IT was Vic Country’s day on Sunday, taking out both Under 19 trial games against their Metro counterparts at Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee. But the results mattered little, with fans, recruiters and pundits alike keen to see which players would put their hands up for further representative honours at the upcoming Under 19 National Championships. We outline some of the best performers from all four squads, with each set of Scouting Notes the opinion of the individual author.

GAME ONE | VIC COUNTRY 10.11 (71) def. VIC METRO 8.11 (59)

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Michael Alvaro

#1 Sam Conforti (Bendigo Pioneers)
173cm/74kg | 15/03/2002 | Midfielder/Small Forward

The Bendigo Pioneers top-ager did his usual job rotating between the midfield and forwardline, finding a decent amount of ball and looking to be creative with his run and foot skills. Conforti started in attack and booted the game’s first goal from a 45m set shot, but was far busier after half time with his move to midfield. He used his run positively to help Country stream forward, like in one instance during the fourth term where he took on the man on the mark, backing his pace and delivering inside 50 through the corridor.

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

Arguably the best player afield in game one, Hobbs proved his top 10 credentials with another superb outing. His return from injury has been seamless, cracking in and running hard to find plenty of the ball over the last fortnight. Hobbs started in midfield and got to work straight away, though some of his ball use was rushed under the early pressure. He still got good penetration on his kicks and brought good intensity to the contest with his tackling. Having moved forward after half time, Hobbs still managed to find the ball through sheer work rate and finished the game with two goals, one of which was a clean snap in term three.

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

From what we saw on Sunday, Country is set to use Rachele as a pretty permanent forward fixture. The mercurial Murray Bushrangers talent looked switched on early, presenting well up at the forward 50 arc with good separation on the lead. He notched an early score via that method, then speared a pass to Conforti for the game’s first goal having been hit further out. Rachele grew a touch quieter after his early glimpses, but still provided an option at half-forward and slotted his first goal in the third term, before adding another from a goalmouth scramble in the following period.

#6 Marcus Herbert (GWV Rebels)
181cm/81kg | 13/08/2002 | Midfielder/Forward

The smooth-moving Rebels midfielder was a centre bounce starter for Country, before being shifted forward in the second half. In his primary post, Herbert got busy around the ball and showed nice agility on a few occasions to wheel into space before delivering a kick. He was one of the many Rebels to end up in attack, booting two goals after half time with one from a 40m set shot and the other out the back in open play.

#8 Harvey Gallagher (Bendigo Pioneers)
179cm/75kg | 26/09/2003 | Midfielder/Forward

Gallagher was another to feature in the midfield-forward rotation, starting in attack before spending more time among the engine room. In his time up forward, the Bendigo Pioneers product worked hard up the ground and looked to run the ball back towards goal, showing positive intent when in possession and releasing kicks at full tilt. He also worked hard in that sense without the ball, burning his opponent with his work rate on fast breaks to get to the next contest inside 50.

#11 Zavier Maher (Murray Bushrangers)
184cm/82kg | 5/05/2002 | Inside Midfielder

As one of Country’s centre bounce staples, Maher produced a big performance from the engine room. He set his side on the front foot, winning a heap of ball at the coalface with his mature frame and turn of speed allowing for regular extraction. He was often the player to get first hands on the ball and looked a lot cleaner than in previous outings, while also getting good penetration on his clearing kicks out of congestion. Maher’s explosiveness also allowed him to get to the outside, where he lowered his eyes a touch more but still showed room for improvement in that department.

#13 Sam Breuer (GWV Rebels)
183cm/80kg | 26/06/2003 | Defender/Midfielder

The story of Breuer’s season could be observed through the journey of his four quarters on Sunday, as he started steadily in defence before coming to life through midfield. Once he entered the centre bounce mix, Breuer was able to find much more of the ball and have an impact moving forward, using his turn of speed and penetrating kick coming to the fore. His intent and pressure acts were also up, making for a well-rounded midfield game.

#14 Jamieson Ballantyne (GWV Rebels)
183cm/79kg | 16/04/2003 | Wing

In what was one of his best performances to date, Ballantyne made the wing his own and was a crucial cog to Country’s success between the arcs. He battled really well to split and win a bunch of contests on the outer, before helping his side progress its transition with his run and carry. The Rebels prospects also snuck forward and hit the scoreboard, converting well via set shots.

#16 Kai Lohmann (GWV Rebels)
6/05/2003 | 185cm/76kg | Forward

A player with plenty of flair and eye-catching athletic traits, Lohmann always promises to provide some exciting moments. That was again the case on Sunday, though he just lacked that finishing touch at times to cap off his good work. The dynamic forward did well to impact further afield and link Country into attacking 50, while also becoming a threat closer to goal. He missed a couple of chances on goal during the third term, with a set shot falling short and a snap put just off target.

#21 Josh Gibcus (GWV Rebels)
195cm/84kg | 4/04/2003 | Tall Defender/Forward

Utilised at either end of the ground, Gibcus was again able to showcase his strong aerial prowess and athleticism. The standout GWV Rebels prospect started in his usual defensive post and timed his leaps well, rising for typically assured intercept marks and spoils. His distribution by foot was also noticeably more clean than in previous weeks, shown as he took the kick-ins. Gibcus was then swung forward, where he continued to compete in the air and despite not clunking too many marks, he managed to bring the ball to ground and allow others to enter the play inside 50.

#30 Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons)
204cm/90kg | 24/04/2003 | Ruck

Conway was one who had a nice moment in each term, plying his trade in the ruck and eventually spending some time up forward. The Geelong Falcons bigman used his size and reach on a couple of occasions to clunk strong marks down the line, with his pack grab on the wing during the first quarter particularly strong. He is also building his follow-up work and did well to win a centre clearance in term two, but had one effort by foot he would want back in the following period. Conway’s forward stint was not as productive, but he was solid as usual in the ruck with his craft.

VIC METRO:

By: Declan Reeve

#3 Jake Soligo (Eastern Ranges)
179cm/80kg | 25/01/2003 | Midfielder

Has somewhat been overshadowed at times by Eastern teammate Tyler Sonsie, but with Sonsie missing in this clash, Soligo took the opportunity to put his name up as arguably the best Metro player on ground for the game. He was at his usual best with his inside ball winning, throwing himself into everything in an attempt to win the hard balls and handball out to runners. He took some good marks throughout the game, with an early one being full stretch overhead under direct pressure off an opposition inside 50. He was always happy to do the hard work, with his pressure and tackling top notch once again, putting on so much pressure it forced an out on the full kick from an opponent at one stage in the game. Early on in the game when goals weren’t flowing, Soligo was the one to break through for Metro with two early goals; the first of which was a kick on the run from 50 out, and the second of which less than two minutes later, converting a set shot from about 45 meters out.

#4 Corey Preston (Eastern Ranges)
181cm/76kg | 18/12/2002 | Defender/Forward

Lining up across the half-back line, Preston was one of Metro’s best with some exceptional ball use coming out of the defensive half, in a game where clean kicks to marks were few and far between. Positioning well behind the play to rack up intercept possessions, Preston’s tendency was to push up and impact contests in the middle of the ground, before turning on the jets and kicking well when he got the ball, causing headaches for Vic Country. He was an aerial threat at times, taking an impressive overhead contested mark in the second quarter to highlight what he can do in that regard. There were times when he found himself one-on-one with Country’s Josh Rachele, able to match his exceptional athleticism to spoil a few of his marking attempts.

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

Forming a good dynamic with Soligo, Ward played his usual balanced role around the midfield, able to crack in and win it in tight, but just as capable of holding out to receive a releasing handball. What was impressive was Ward’s confidence in his speed and elusiveness, which he doesn’t always show off, going for a few runs with ball in hand that led to dangerous Metro plays. One such instance came in the first quarter where he went just the 10 meters with speed, then delivered the ball to a leading target inside 50. That same kind of burst was shown when he scored the first goal of the second quarter as well, getting onto the end of a kick in transition, taking a run from the centre square with two bounces en route to kicking the goal from a slight angle. 

#8 Marcus Windhager (Sandringham Dragons)
183cm/82kg | 16/05/2003 | Defender/Midfielder

The St Kilda Next Generation Academy (NGA) member had arguably his best display for the year playing in the defensive 50 and midfield, where his power in his acceleration and leap caught the eye. His leaping was most obvious in the backline, where he often got first hands to the ball in the air. Even if he didn’t always hold onto the ball, he could stop opponents winning it cleanly. His acceleration was obvious around stoppages, where he would get in at the contest and burst out to handball to runners.

#12 Finn Callaghan (Sandringham Dragons)
189cm/82kg | 26/04/2003 | Balanaced Midfielder

Being pushed back out to the wing as he had done earlier in the NAB League season, it took Callaghan some time to work into the game and start impacting like he’s proven he can. Apart from taking the advantage from a teammate’s free kick and missing a shot on goal from 25 out early on, it was another typical Callaghan display that we’ve become slowly accustomed to. He held his space well when positioned on the wing, taking some good overhead grabs but also proving crafty when having to pick the ball up off the ground, getting separation on opponents when he had the ball to give himself space to deliver via foot, usually to a central target. He moved into a rover spot in the second half where he really put his foot down and started stamping some more authority on the game, able to accelerate away from the opposition as he got handball receives from the stoppage winners. Callaghan also looked particularly classy when bringing the ball out of the defensive half, side stepping opponents and delivering in front of leading targets.

#13 Luke Cleary (Sandringham Dragons)
189cm/80kg | 5/03/2002 | Defender

A pretty standard day at the office for Cleary, where he showed some superb positioning in the defensive half that led to him racking up intercept possessions. Cleary used this positioning to get in front of opponents or be an extra number to other contests and take marks in the defensive half, using his penetrative and accurate kick to hit some game opening passes going forward. He took the kick-ins at stages where he ran the ball out and kicked long, often to the top of the centre square.

#14 Luke Nankervis (Sandringham Dragons)
189cm/76kg | 25/05/2003 | Wing/Forward

Splitting his game time between the wing and the half-forward role as he does in the NAB League, Nankervis had some nice moments throughout the game, bringing his usual strengths with his leap, speed and marking particularly impressive. It’s been noted before that his ability to keep his hands free in tackles and contests is outstanding. It led to him getting some free kicks as the game went on, as opponents tried to get the ball out of his hands, pushing him in the back or getting him high in the process. He was the first link in a fourth quarter chain of play that led to a Metro goal, taking a high-leaping contested mark and then kicking it in front of a teammate to run onto. He showed defensive accountability as well throughout the game, running hard for tackles and spoils even when it wasn’t in his area.

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

Playing a bit everywhere, Howes showed he has the versatility to impact around the ground really well regardless of the position his magnet is in. He managed to consistently get good separation on his leads, making it easy for him to take marks on his chest or out in front. He was good in contested marking situations as well, even out-marking highly touted Vic Country product Josh Gibcus when he ran back with the flight in defensive 50 and held it well. Howes was a strong tackler when in close, especially around stoppages, making it hard for Country to run it out cleanly when he was around. He would follow up from his marks and free kicks with clean ball use, trying to get it into the corridor with most of his disposals.

#19 Mitch Owens (Sandringham Dragons)
190cm/85kg | 24/09/2003 | Forward

Another St Kilda NGA prospect for Metro, Owens impressed with his work inside 50. Standing up in tackles was one of his biggest strengths and led to a moment in the second quarter where he won the ball off the ground, kept his feet with the contact and handed it off to a teammate in the goal square for an easy goal. His work aerially was also really strong, taking some good one grab marks around the ground – one of which in the fourth quarter came deep inside 50, taking an intercept mark from an intended switch kick, and put himself on the scoreboard. 

#23 Cody Raak (Western Jets)
193cm/80kg | 8/10/2002 | Defender

The Western Bulldogs NGA member has been one of the strongest defenders in the NAB League this season, and continued that in the trial game for Metro. Looking most impressive in the first half, Raak was doing a lot of the same things he’s become renowned for, taking marks as a kick behind the play defender, spreading the opposition with his switch kicks and stopping opposition attacks with his tackling and defensive work. What was good to see, was how proactive he was in initiating offensive plays with his kicking, rather than always looking for safe options.

#26 Anthony Caminiti (Northern Knights)
Key Forward

A late call-up to the trials, Caminiti has previously impressed in APS footy with bags of goals. Whilst the scoreboard alluded him to a degree in this contest, he still managed to look good as a lead up forward option, getting separation from his opponents well and sticking most marks. He looked surprisingly elusive for a big man as well, having a few moments where he was composed in traffic to give hands off to a runner in a good spot. Whilst he might have liked a more complete performance, he certainly showed some really good glimpses.

GAME TWO | VIC COUNTRY 14.5 (89) def. VIC METRO 12.15 (87)

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Michael Alvaro

#3 Max Walton (Gippsland Power)
180cm/73kg | 6/11/2003 | Small Defender

Walton brought his best traits to the fore on Sunday, reverting back to his usual running defender role and providing plenty of offensive drive for Country. The Gippsland Power product took some of the early kick-ins and did not hesitate to get on his bike straight away, carrying the ball out of defensive 50 and utilising his long kick. His positive rebounding and ability to chain one-two plays down the line made for some smooth transitions, traits which are also applicable to the wing, where Walton may also end up.

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

Macdonald provided a good bit of spark to the centre bounces for Country, with his clean bursts away from congestion proving a real weapon in the opening stages. The Dandenong Stingrays midfielder was able to win a bunch of centre clearances, either breaking into space with speed or kicking long under immediate pressure. He snuck forward in the second quarter and struck a handy 45m set shot goal, before being shifted forward more often after half time, but missing another chance to add to Country’s tally.

#7 Judson Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
179cm/69kg | 17/10/2003 | Small Forward/Midfielder

While his five-goal performance was somewhat overshadowed by the exploits of Metro’s Sam Darcy, Clarke emerged as a genuine top 25 prospect with his team-best performance on Sunday. The zippy midfielder-forward started brightly, slamming home the game’s first goal from a set shot and sharking a sharp nice later in the opening term. He added majors in each of the next three quarters, including one on the three quarter time siren and a lovely conversion from range which capped off his outing nicely. Clarke’s pace, clean hands and spearing left-foot kicking were real highlights on the day, especially on the attack.

#9 Mitch Knevitt (Geelong Falcons)
193cm/77kg | 8/01/2003 | Inside Midfielder/Forward

Knevitt continues to show a few different sides to his game, with the big-bodied midfielder showing glimpses of his high potential. He played almost exclusively in midfield for the first three quarters and was typically strong around the ball, winning clearances and standing up in tackles to flick out handballs over his shoulder – one of his best traits at stoppages. Knevitt also did well to compete aerially and was eventually moved forward, hitting the post with a snap and unfortunately putting a set shot well wide in the fourth term.

#12 Will Bravo (Dandenong Stingrays)
181cm/77kg | 6/05/2002 | Midfielder/Forward

While he only stands at 181cm, Bravo brings real physicality and hardness to the contest each time he plays. The top-ager’s speed is also a useful trait in midfield, and he leant on it while breaking forward and looking to chain possessions with repeat running efforts. He also used his pace to impact defensively and applied some absolutely crunching tackles in an attempt to set the tone after half time. Bravo moved forward in the final term, but looked much more impactful further afield.

#13 Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons)
180cm/79kg | 8/07/2002 | Wing

It is no secret that Gribble knows how to find the ball. That was no different on Sunday, as the Geelong Falcons running man found plenty of it through sheer work rate and smarts. He was everywhere early, dropping back to the defensive 50 to help shift the ball forward, while doing his usual bit between the arcs and accumulating possessions. Gribble also snuck forward and was gifted a goal in the second term, converting well with a snap right on the behind post. The top-ager didn’t try and do too much in possession either, meaning Country could link cleanly.

#14 James Cahill (Dandenong Stingrays)
183cm/80kg | 10/01/2003 | Forward/Wing

In his usual half-forward to wing rotation, Cahill was a busy type as he worked up the ground and looked to use his skills going into attack. He started inside attacking 50 and finished with aplomb for the game’s second goal, before providing useful dash in transition as a link into Country’s forward arc. He was a touch quieter after half time with his move to the wing, but popped up with some nice moments.

#17 Bryce Milford (Dandenong Stingrays)
195cm/82kg | 8/07/2002 | Tall Utility

Milford was involved in almost everything Country produced going forward in the first half, as he presented with separation on the lead time and time again to good effect. A mobile type at 195cm, the Dandenong Stingrays utility also gave a chop-out in the ruck, but looked most dangerous with his marking in the front half. His lone goal of the game came in the opening quarter, via a clean set shot, and Milford could have finished with a couple more if not for inaccuracy. His first half was a good measure of his potential, though he faded a touch after the main break.

#24 Oscar Morrison (Geelong Falcons)
193cm/86kg | 21/08/2003 | Defender

While Morrison’s game would not have been one to yield enormous numbers, the aerially adept defender played a couple of key roles and held firm across Country’s backline. The Geelong Falcons prospect, donning his usual headband, was easy to spot out there and also caught the eye with his play. He was typically assured in the air and read the play well to intercept, while also distributing the ball quite reliably. He even spent some time on Darcy during the second half, engaging the key forward in battles of strength inside 50 to help combat the 11cm height difference.

#25 Justin Davies (Dandenong Stingrays)
192cm/92kg | 29/04/2003 | Defender

Another Country defender with sharp skills and versatility, Davies played both tall and small on Sunday. He matched up on bigger opponents at times but held his own, before looking productive when let off the leash and allowed to intercept more freely. The Dandenong Stingrays talent showed good smarts to meet the ball on the intercept both in the air and at ground level, taking it cleanly and keeping the play moving with his quick decision making on the rebound.

#29 Max Annandale (Geelong Falcons)
192cm/86kg | 30/01/2002 | Forward

Country’s hero in game two having booted the winning goal, Annandale did most of his work inside attacking 50 and proved a viable marking target. His hands were strong overhead, as the Geelong Falcons forward took advantage of quick and long delivery to his area for two of his three major scores. The top-ager was also gifted one in the second term, cutting off a kick across goal and converting without fuss. Overall he was a solid option deep in attack, and an important one in the end.

VIC METRO:

By: Declan Reeve

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

Playing almost exclusively in the midfield for the game, Dib showed cleanliness below his knees and a seemingly fearless approach to winning contested footy. Whilst this change meant he wasn’t getting as much time to compose himself before getting rid of the ball, he still managed to show glimpses of smart ball use, with his natural tendency to use both sides of his body meaning he could always get rid of the ball quickly under pressure. He needs to find a way to add more penetration consistently, but overall it was a good outing.

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

Playing through the midfield for most of the contest, Taylor had a quiet start to the game, but really came into it from the second quarter onwards. He became a regular danger around stoppages and provided clean ball use when given the slightest bit of space, often running to be the receiver if he wasn’t the initial ball winner. He was however, still finding himself as that initial ball winner from clearances pretty often, with a really good purple patch for centre clearances in the second quarter where he won three in a row and followed up with clean ball use when the options were there. He was smart and realistic in his own ability with the footy, often being in a spot where he could try and pull off a miracle disposal, but would go for a shorter handball or kick – never as flashy as the other option but infinitely better. This was best highlighted in the third quarter, where he collected a ground ball, had enough room to snap around the body on goal but opted to handpass to Sam Darcy who was running into goal.

#7 Lachlan Rankin (Oakleigh Chargers)
182cm/68kg | 5/02/2003 | Defender/Forward

Splitting his time between the forwardline and backline, Rankin added a touch of class to both lines and demonstrated composure with the ball. He kicked Metro’s opening goal for the game, getting the handball from a pack and kicking it off a step from 45 meters out. His switch into the defensive half worked wonders for Metro, as he set up well for intercept possessions behind the play, where he’d run on with the ball and use it well by hand and foot alike, often spotting up the inside 45 options well and darting his kicks low and hard. Had a great display of workrate in the final quarter, where he tripped up as an opponent side-stepped him on the half-forward line, but ran hard to chase the same opponent and lay a tackle about 25 meters out from goal. 

#8 Darcy Wilmot (Northern Knights)
183cm/75kg | 31/12/2003 | Defender

Whilst not necessarily winning as much ball as he has done in the NAB League of late, he brought his same eye catching and daring dash out of the defensive 50 and kick-ins, causing headaches for Country as they were unable to consistently structure against it. He used the ball well by foot as he didn’t try to blaze away with his top line speed, rather composing himself prior to kicking the ball to make sure it was effective. Wilmot even took time to get it onto the opposite foot when going forward and being pressured on his favoured right side. He looked strong in the air as well, taking some impressive quick reflex intercept marks in the defensive 50.

#10 Paul Curtis (Western Jets)
183cm/73kg | 4/03/2003 | Forward

As a smaller marking target in the forwardline, Curtis was a dangerous option up forward even if overshadowed by Darcy. With his ability to get separation from opponents and take marks, but also his cleanliness below his knees, he’s rather versatile in his approach to getting the ball. His kicking for goal left a bit to be desired at times, but the way he managed to win the ball inside 50 meant through sheer quantity of shots he ended the day with three goals, where he could’ve had four or five more had it not been for inaccuracy. With some polishing of that kicking for goal, there’s no doubt Curtis could be a very serious threat at the next level.

#16 Karl Worner (Oakleigh Chargers)
188cm/78kg | 16/06/2002 | Wing

In arguably his best display for the year, Worner was consistently impactful around the ground, making the wing his own but often getting down deep into defence to assist with his strong marking. That marking was often a headache for Country, consistently strong above his head even in packs and seemingly never being spoiled through the game which gave Metro a level of certainty when kicking the ball to him. He also showed good follow up ball use with penetrative kicking to the advantage of his teammates when moving it forward or laterally, and was happy to take on opponents with his run and carry when applicable.

#19 Braden Andrews (Oakleigh Chargers)
189cm/83kg | 21/02/2003 | Defender/Midfielder

With an injury affected start to the year for the AFL Academy member, Andrews took the trials as an opportunity to remind those that may have forgotten of his skill and strengths. Splitting his game time between the defensive 50 and the midfield, Andrews was impressive in patches across both roles. In the backline, he looked good with his positioning behind the ball, taking some impressive marks above his head and following up with good use by foot, mostly hitting his targets but getting smothered off the boot a couple of times. When getting his runs through the midfield he was a strong body around stoppages, able to win the ball and move through traffic, then handball to release runners going forward.

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

One of the best performing Metro players across the day, at least in the midfield, Goater pushed his draft credentials higher with some stellar midfield play, especially around stoppages. He did pretty much everything well, demonstrating cleanliness below his knees, even when under pressure, with multiple one hand pick ups on the run and pinpoint handballs to runners in the same motion. He kicked well, balancing how he kicked for the situation, hitting short 45s and switching the ball when it was the best option, but also demonstrating some real dangerous kicking in transition – with one in particular being a 50 meter pass from the wing to the forward pocket. His stoppage work was at its usual high level, able to read the ball off the rucks’ hands better than most opponents and weave through heavy traffic in a way he has little right to, then using those quick hands or kicking to get Metro forward.

#27 Sam Darcy (Oakleigh Chargers)
204cm/73kg | 19/07/2003 | Tall Utility/Ruck

Arguably the highest profile prospect playing across either game, the Western Bulldogs father-son prospect well and truly put himself into pick one conversations, slotting six goals and missing some fairly gettable late shots to prove that he gets enough of the ball when he’s being targeted by his teammates. Darcy’s marking was strong throughout the game, with his reach and overall height meaning he was able to take marks relatively easily, even without getting much separation from his opponents. He made up for the difficulty in getting separation on certain opponents with solid leading patterns, switching direction and turning opponents around with his constant movement which was particularly helpful in transition, as Metro’s damaging ball users moved it quickly. There was a switch of opposition in the last quarter, and with a slower opponent Darcy was able to get separation with more ease, meaning he was able to just lead straight at the ball carrier rather than get carried away with complicating his leads. As mentioned, his marking was superb, but one particular one late in the game, where he got tripped up but still managed to take the mark when falling down perfectly demonstrated just how strong his marking was. A good set shot and able to snap the ball straight through the big sticks when on an angle, it was a great showing from Darcy, and one that’ll get Dogs fans extremely excited.  

Draft Central Power Rankings: June 2021

POWER Rankings are back. Draft Central’s first edition for 2021 features 25 of the nation’s best AFL Draft prospects, with plenty of football already played and the best yet to come. This year’s crop already shapes as being much different to that of 2020, as many more midfielders dominate the pointy end and a far more open pool sees only four of our selected group already tied to clubs. The race for number one honours is also heating up, currently down to two very worthy contenders. Find out who takes out the top gong and which prospects are on the rise in our June Power Rankings.

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

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

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

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

Season so far:

Horne has hardly missed a beat at SANFL League level for South Adelaide, turning in a consistent level of performance across his seven outings thus far. With added time spent at the centre bounces, he is finding more of the ball and averages a tick over 15 touches per game, including 2.9 clearances and 3.7 inside 50s. Horne has also found the goals in four of those appearances, making the most of his time inside attacking 50 as well. The 17-year-old’s form was good enough to warrant selection in the initial South Australian state squad, though he did not quite make the final cut. He also featured for the AFL Academy against Geelong VFL, proving a key figure in midfield with his attacking intent and maturity on the ball.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus

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

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

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

Season so far:

Daicos’ figures so far in 2021 are nothing short of remarkable. He leads the NAB League for disposals (average 35.5), kicks (22.3) and goals (nine total) having arguably been the best player afield in all four of his outings to this point. The 18-year-old has increased his disposal output with each passing game as a mainstay in Oakleigh’s midfield, though he has also rested forward at times and is capable of accumulating off half-back. Some of that forward time is down to management, as Daicos suffered a corked thigh in Round 1 and was held back from a VFL debut during the NAB League hiatus. He did turn out for the AFL Academy though, skippering the side and again proving the best among his peers.

>> Q&A
>> Head-to-Head: Daicos vs. Sonsie
>> NAB League POTW: Round 3

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

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

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

Season so far:

Sonsie made a hot start to the season as Draft Central’s Round 1 NAB League Player of the Week. He hit the ground running with 34 disposals and two goals, proving damaging when on top. Across four NAB League outings this year, the 18-year-old has snared five goals from an average of 25 disposals and while he has not always been the best player afield, his class shone through in promising patches. Sonsie also represented Box Hill in the VFL, showing good signs in his state league debut with 24 touches and two well-finished goals, warming to the level steadily. His best has been great to watch, hence his current ranking, but sustaining that impact and doing it both ways is the next step.

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

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

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

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

Season so far:

Starting in the SANFL Under 18s, Roberts put up outstanding numbers across his first three outings. As a key fixture in midfield, he averaged 32 disposals, 6.3 clearances, 7.7 inside 50s, and a tick under two goals per game to earn a richly deserved League call-up. He made a steady start to life in the top flight, ushered in via the front six for two games, averaging 9.5 disposals. School football then came calling, with Roberts captaining the St Peter’s First XVIII and proving one of the more productive campaigners of that competition.

>> Q&A
>> SANFL League Player Focus

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

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

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

Season so far:

Sinn’s figures read as consistently as anyone across three NAB League appearances, with the 18-year-old gathering 20 touches in each. A kick-first type, he goes at around three-to-one in terms of ratio and has constantly looked to open games up via that method. While his efficiency has been hit and miss at times, Sinn’s intent and endeavour has been apparent in 2021. A steady start in Round 1 was capped off by a clutch goal late in the piece as Sandringham got up over Oakleigh, with the Dragons coaching staff pulling the trigger early on his midfield release. In Round 3, he was utilised there permanently and registered a whopping 10 inside 50s. He copped a stud to the calf and sat out the late stages of that game, but has been sidelined to this point with a hamstring strain sustained while training with the AFL Academy. The current Victorian lockdown may be a blessing in disguise for Sinn, who should return once the competition recommences.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

#6 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Wing
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

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

A second Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 10, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser has the potential to crack Sandringham’s stacked midfield and showcase his balance, though he will be seen moreso in the APS Football competition towards the middle and back-end of the year.

Season so far:

Chesser has featured in just two NAB League games for Sandringham thus far, with a knee complaint seeing him miss the Dragons’ Round 4 clash with Dandenong as well as the AFL Academy showcase against Geelong VFL. He started slowly in his first hitout, but ended up playing a key role in the clutch moments to help lift his side to victory against Oakleigh, winning 23 disposals and five inside 50s. He was less prolific the following week in soggy conditions against Northern, booting a goal from 13 touches on the wing. While he hangs back well for handball receives on the outer, Chesser also showed he can dig in to win his own ball in those fixtures.

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

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

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

Season so far:

Having been pegged for a League berth in Round 1, Johnson shook off injury to start his season through the Colts in Round 2. His output proved steady, averaging 17.5 touches and a goal per those outings before a promising display for the AFL Academy saw him finally crack the senior level upon his return to Subiaco. He only averaged 6.7 touches in his first three top flight outings, before regaining some ball winning form with 21 and nine tackles back at Colts level. His best has been shown in patches thus far, but his ceiling remains quite high. Dominating in midfield with higher numbers and translating his form to senior grades will be the next step.

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

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

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

Season so far:

In two games so far for the Murray Bushrangers, Rachele was able to show his blend on midfield and forward craft. Against Bendigo in Round 2, he spent more time in the engine room and snared 1.3 from 19 disposals, before coming to life as a more permanent forward in the next game against Geelong Falcons. Rachele’s special finishing ability was on full show as he snared four majors in the Bushies’ big win, running amok inside attacking 50. He copped a head knock in that game and was rested the next week after spending time training with Carlton.

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

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

One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams is the first genuine tall to appear on our list. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 19 goals in six WAFL Colts games to this point and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung forward this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.

Season so far:

Williams has found the big sticks in each of his six WAFL Colts games this season, booting multiple majors in five of them with two bags of four and one five-goal haul the standout performances. He is yet to drop below 13 disposals and has stayed relevant in each game with his impact up the ground, proving a viable marking target with an average of six clunks per outing. While that marking prowess was tested against senior bodies in the Academy game, Williams’ rate of development is calling for a senior berth some time in the future.

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

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

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

Season so far:

Gibcus has performed exceptionally well across four NAB League outings in 2021, maintaining a high standard and consistently bringing his superpowers to the fore. He has averaged 15.3 disposals, 6.3 marks, and five rebound 50s as a permanent defender for the Rebels, sometimes acting as the floating player back there and even moving onto dangerous marking targets. The 18-year-old looked well up to scratch in his appearance for the AFL Academy, taking on the kick-in duties at times and showing glimpses of his usual best.

#11 Finn Callaghan
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Wing/Half-Back
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg

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

One who seems destined to end up in the top 10, and potentially top five come year’s end, Callaghan has enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back is difficult to stop at full flight, with his blend of straight line power and swift agility proving difficult to combat. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his long boot, but recently showcased his potential on the inside as the Dragons shifted their magnets.

Season so far:

Starting as a half-back who would roll up to the wing, Callaghan built on the promise he showed during preseason and at training in years gone by with a terrific NAB League debut. He gathered 19 disposals against Oakleigh and looked ominous, with his Round 4 and 5 performances cementing his top 10 potential. Callaghan booted a goal from 24 disposals against Dandenong, before shifting to the inside against Western to rack up a high of 31 touches. While he has played in midfield at school football level, that confirmation of his inside/outside balance rose his ceiling even further. He also built into the AFL Academy game, showing some dash on the outside.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

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

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

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

Season so far:

Fahey confirmed his potential with a terrific showing for the AFL Academy against Geelong VFL in April, collecting 23 disposals and booting forward nine rebound 50s to take out the Presidents Medal. He was a vocal member of the defence in that game and showcased his leadership qualities, as one of the junior prospects who looked most invested in the contest. Fahey has also turned out for the GIANTS’ VFL side, making a steady debut with nine touches in Round 1 before managing 24 in Round 5 against Richmond. As expected, 16 of them were kicks and he clunked six marks in a showing of his ability to be a safe outlet and intercept threat in defence.

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

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

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

Season so far:

Van Rooyen started his senior career in style, booting two goals from 12 disposals and four marks, before being held goalless in a couple of quieter outings. He was rested upon his glandular fever diagnosis, and eased back into action through the Colts grade. There, he regained his goalkicking form with three majors in managed gametime, before returning his best performance to date with 24 disposals, six marks and another three goals in Round 8 against East Perth. The 194cm prospect also got a run through midfield late in that game, having shown nice mobility in his movement up the ground and back towards goal.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

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

Snapshot: An exciting forward who has transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching athletic traits and plenty of upside.

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

Season so far:

Mixing his time between the WAFL Colts and PSA competitions in Western Australia, Erasmus has been a standout through midfield. He averages bang on 28 disposals for the Lions across four games so far, incredibly with a high of 29 and low of 27. He has also taken almost eight marks per game and has been able to sustain his impact, while having the potential to burst to life at any given moment. Erasmus was also terrific for the AFL Academy as a medium forward, serving a reminder of his aerial skills and looking to have improved his disposal by foot – a growth area – as the game wore on.

#15 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Defender/Forward/Ruck
19/08/2003 | 197cm | 73kg

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

The apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top 15 pick made on potential, with that versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy has impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck in the NAB League, but has also had an eye-catching forward foray at school football level. Bulldogs fans, you have another on the radar.

Season so far:

Darcy made his NAB League debut in Round 3 against Eastern Ranges, immediately exceeding expectations in tricky conditions for a tall. He looked impressive with his leap in the ruck and down back, earning a steady 13 disposals and seven hitouts for the day. His stocks continued to rise in Round 4, as that marking prowess came into play against the Western Jets. Darcy clunked nine grabs and had 21 disposals, again as a key defender who pinch-hit in the ruck. He then ventured into the school football realm with Scotch College, translating his form to a forward role where he picked up a bag of five goals in one game, and continued to stand out as a dominant key position talent.

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

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

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

Season so far:

Bazzo has proven his swingman potential in 2021 by finding the goals in bunches at each level he has played. He snared four majors during a preseason hitout and went on to boot two in each of his opening two WAFL Colts games, before finding similar form for Guilford Grammar at school football level. He was kept quiet in his most recent Colts outing, having just eight touches and being held goalless, but was a solid figure down back for the AFL Academy. His judgement of the ball in flight and intercept marking quality was clear in that game, as always, but Bazzo continues to add strings to his bow.

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

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

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

Season so far:

Hobbs’s sole full appearance for the NAB League season came in his side’s opening fixture, against the Geelong Falcons. He was a constant in midfield and proved his ball winning ability, notching 22 touches and five inside 50s while also laying eight tackles. His Round 4 return game against the Murray Bushrangers was cut short, but Hobbs again started in midfield, as he will likely do all year.

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

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

Murley is an exciting player in full flight, able to break forward quickly with gut running and terrific speed from midfield. He dominated the SANFL Under 18s competition last year and was part of Norwood’s premiership-winning team, showcasing his undeniable talent and upside. In 2021, his progress has been halted by injury, though the 17-year-old has already earned a Reserves berth and remains one of South Australia’s brightest prospects. Having made his return last week, he could well be one to rise up the board with a consistent run of form.

Season so far:

Starting out at Reserves level, Murley adjusted to the more mature bodies steadily with 13 disposals across his first two outings. He is one who will likely use his clean skills and forward run on the outer at senior level, or even as a high half-forward given his knack for finding the goals. Injury meant he could only partially participate in AFL Academy training before missing out on the showcase game against Geelong VFL, but Murley made his return to the SANFL Reserves with 10 disposals in a heavy loss. Watch for his progress as the season wares on.

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

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with speed, agility and the ability to fly high, Goater is a prospect with great potential.

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

Season so far:

Featuring in midfield for Calder straight off the bat, Goater returned a promising first-up performance with 22 disposals against Western in the season opener. He showcased his ability to hit the scoreboard in the next two NAB League games, while bringing a touch of composure to his midfield craft by shifting his focus to be more of a distributor by hand. He did so again after the break against Bendigo, again starting in the middle before switching out to the wing. Goater also got a taste of VFL action in May, turning out for Essendon in Round 5 and booting a goal among his seven touches.

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

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

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

Seasons so far:

Draper has been super consistent across his seven SANFL Under 18 appearances, averaging 23 disposals and over six clearances per game. He has only dropped below 20 touches once with a high of 27, while finding the goals in all bar two of his outings for the Panthers. He has proven an apt receiver at the stoppages, able to burst away for clearances while also using his leap and smarts around goal to impact the scoreboard. Like Horne and Roberts, he could be one to climb the grades if he continues to post such numbers.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus

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

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

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

Season so far:

Eyes quickly turned to Andrew after he collected 22 disposals, three marks and 11 hitouts on his NAB League debut, before going on to prove it was no fluke by impressing across another three outings. He found himself spending more time forward against the Sandringham Dragons in Round 4 and kicked a goal, but has some development left in his decision making and disposal by foot at times. He boasts clean hands and was better aerially than his averages of three marks and 14.5 hitouts suggest. The same could be said about his game for the AFL Academy, where Andrew was tried up either end before excelling in the ruck during term four, throwing his 200cm frame into each centre bounce with a phenomenal vertical leap.

#22 Ned Long
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
5/02/2003 | 192cm | 88kg

Snapshot: Long is a tall midfielder who navigates the contest with great agility for his size, and can also find the goals when resting forward.

A midfielder in that desired 190cm-plus mould, Long moves well through congestion and often has no trouble getting his hands on the ball. He featured in the 2019 Vic Metro Under 16 squad and was already a good size back then, seeing him play two games for Northern as a 16-year-old. The 18-year-old is one of the many Knights with solid running capacity, which bodes well for extended midfield time despite being able to hit the scoreboard while resting forward or drop back to impact aerially. He will swap his time between the NAB League and APS Football competitions, also representing Melbourne Grammar.

Season so far:

Long made a terrific start to his 2021 campaign, managing 26 disposals, nine marks and three goals against the Western Jets. That dominant display was backed up by 15 touches and a goal against stiff opposition in Sandringham, though his effort to lay nine tackles suited the wet conditions at Preston City Oval. Long’s final NAB League appearance before the break saw him return to his best, impacting both around the ball and close to goal with 25 disposals and another haul of three goals against Gippsland Power. He has since moved on into the APS competition, with promise of a late-season return to NAB League action.

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

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

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

Season so far:

While his season as a whole has been outstanding, Browne has hit a purple patch over his last three outings with an average of 36.7 disposals in that time. He hit his season high of 38 touches in Round 8, distributing well by hand on the inside and looking to drive his side forward from where it matters most. Overall, he has averaged 32.5 disposals across six Colts games in 2021, while also showing similar form in his state’s Under 19 trial game. He could well be in for a promotion and should be one of Western Australia’s most prominent figures at the national carnival.

#24 Lewis Rayson
Glenelg/South Australia | Half-Back/Midfielder
14/01/2003 | 181cm | 74kg

Snapshot: Rayson is a lightly-built small defender who sparks attacks on the rebound, with his accumulative factor boding well for more time in midfield.

A dashing half-back who loves to take the game on and can open it up by foot, Rayson has made a terrific start to his 2021 campaign. The 18-year-old is slowly filling out his light frame but is not afraid to win his own ball and compete aerially, making him more than your average running defender. He missed out on AFL Academy honours but was a lock for his state’s academy hub and will likely be a key feature for the Croweaters come National Championships time. Rayson is also being trialled in midfield, where his ball winning ways have continued.

Season so far:

Rayson has been a mainstay in Glenelg’s Under 18s setup, playing six games so far with averages of 30.2 disposals, 7.2 marks, and a combined 7.6 breaches of either arc. Typically a rebounder accustomed to working in space, Rayson has been able to win just as much of the ball on the inside and still looks to be an attacking threat out of the middle. He is still quite light though and is improving his contested game, adding a handy string to his bow which already features some desirable traits.

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

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

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

Season so far:

Wilmot’s numbers so far this NAB League season have been wonderfully consistent, twice registering 15 touches, and twice having it 16 times. His rebounding power is evident with an average of over four per game, and his running bounce total would also be a handy stat to look at given how often he has taken the game on running out of the back half. Wilmot has also shown pretty clean disposal despite the speed at which he operates, proving more than just a one-trick pony across half-back.

IN THE MIX:

There are plenty of prospects vying for position across a very even group past the 20-mark, with near-on another 20 capable of filling those five spots out to number 25. Dandenong Stingrays pair Connor Macdonald and Miller Bergman are among them, with the former a medium midfielder who has started the year well, and the latter a true utility who can use his clean kicking and marking ability off half-back, or up forward.

Almost inevitably, Sandringham also has another couple of prospects around the mark, with 190cm marking forward/wingman Blake Howes a player with plenty of upside, and rising half-forward Luke Nankervis also proving his worth as a genuine prospect this season. Both are developing types who suit a range of roles, and are really excelling with their versatility.

Other NAB Leaguers in the mix include Lachlan Rankin (Oakleigh Chargers) and Josh Ward (Northern Knights), who both have wonderful skills and are clean with ball in hand. Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels) is a half-back who has recently been moved up to the wing, impressing with his kicking and competitiveness. Speaking of, Collingwood NGA prospect Youseph Dib has proven up to the rigours of senior football, turning out in the VFL and cracking in across multiple roles with his mature body. Sam Banks is the Tasmanian to watch, a smooth and classy half-back who is currently out with a broken wrist.

A strong South Australian crop is fronted by the likes of Nasiah Wanganeen and Jase Burgoyne. The latter is a Port Adelaide father-son who has made his League debut, but both have strong family ties to the elite level. Adelaide NGA prospect Isaiah Dudley is another in that boat, with the diminutive midfielder-forward showing his terrific skills upon returning this season. Sturt key forward Morgan Ferres could be another to monitor, having also earned a senior berth in 2021.

Of course, the form of North Adelaide midfielder Hugh Jackson is hard to ignore, with his clean skills and ball winning ability catching the eye. In a similar vein, the exploits of hard running Swan Districts midfielder Max Chipper have also been noted, along with Jackson’s Roosters teammate Blayne O’Loughlin. The latter is also an Adelaide NGA prospect and an AFL Academy representative.

Scouting Notes: 2021 AFL Under 19 Academy vs. Geelong VFL

THE AFL Under 19 Academy suffered a 130-point thumping at the hands of Geelong VFL on Saturday morning, with the hosts flexing their muscle in the showcase fixture at GMHBA Stadium. Result aside, it proved an eye-opening opportunity for the nation’s brightest young talents to test their measure against seasoned operators. Our scouts were on hand in Geelong to deliver their opinion-based notes all 24 Academy players.

>> Match report: AFL Academy vs. Geelong VFL

#1-17 (By Ed Pascoe)

#1 Blayne O’Loughlin (North Adelaide/SA)

The usually prolific North Adelaide prospect found the going a bit tougher against the Geelong VFL side but made his possessions count by both hand and foot and often looked composed under pressure. O’Loughlin showed great courage sitting in front of oncoming talls leading up at the ball where he was crunched.

#2 Austin Harris (Gold Coast/QLD)

The speedy defender tied to the Gold Coast Suns, Harris had some nice moments down back showing plenty of dare and dash with ball in hand, despite his light and small frame Harris still managed to get involved and even got a run on the wing late in the game. It is still up in the air which position will be his best going forward.

#4 Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers/VC)

The exciting Murray forward took some time to get into the game but he certainly looked like the Academy’s most dangerous forward, looking dangerous whenever he got the ball or was in the vicinity. He kicked a great goal from beyond 50m after taking a lead up mark which was one of only two goals scored for the Academy. Rachele was skilful in the air and at ground level and his efforts to tackle were also a highlight.

#5 Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges/VM)

Not the game Sonsie would have wanted as he pushes for his claim in the first round of this year’s draft, the smooth moving midfielder from Eastern Ranges found the going tough against the bigger bodies in the Geelong midfield and was later moved to defence, yet still could not work his way into the game. Despite using the ball well when he got it, he did not get it enough to really make a big impact.

#6 Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers/VM)

The Collingwood father-son prospect continued his strong start to the year with another prolific game through the midfield leading his side as captain he also lead in disposals with 26. The smooth moving midfielder from Oakleigh Chargers was crafty around stoppages and smart around the ground just knowing where to be at all times and his skill by hand and foot was superb especially with some of his kicks inside 50 early in the game. Although he did not kick any goals as he usually does – he had a few missed shots showing great agility both times but just missing – it was another strong game from Daicos who continues to press his claim as the best prospect in this years draft pool.

#7 Cooper Hamilton (Bendigo Pioneers/VC)

The tough Bendigo defender/midfielder showed his usual traits as a clean and tough competitor with his sturdy frame and desperation on show. Starting down back it took a while for Hamilton to work into the game but got more involved with some midfield time in the last quarter.

#9 Jason Horne (South Adelaide/SA)

The impressive midfielder who has already tasted action against senior bodies at South Adelaide, took what he has learnt from that time into the Academy game showing great tackling intent and playing with a lot of maturity. Despite not being overly prolific with 13 disposals for the game, Horne made every touch count, looking impressive with his burst and clean hands at stoppages and his ability overhead with a strong mark at half-back in the second quarter showcasing his overall elite attributes.

#10 Matthew Roberts (South Adelaide/SA)

Coming off a 37-disposal game last week for South Adelaide, the tough midfielder was played forward all game for the Academy and although it was disappointing that he did not get a run in his favoured position, he managed to do some nice things and was perhaps his side’s most prolific forward. Roberts got to show his long left foot with a nice kick inside 50 and a 50m shot at goal in the first quarter. Although the shot was a behind, he would have likely had a more prolific game forward with a closer game and better service coming inside 50.

#11 Jase Burgoyne (WWT Eagles/SA)

The Port Adelaide father-son prospect from Woodville-West Torrens started the game in his usual role at half-back showing his clean hands and composure with ball in hand. Burgoyne would move to the wing in the second half which proved a good move as he started to win more of the ball although his kicking did not come off a few times he did well to try and create although he will want to work on his defensive side on a more consistent basis to better round out his game.

#13 Lachlan Rankin (Oakleigh Chargers/VM)

Used on the wing and later forward, Rankin would not have a prolific day like his fellow forwards and wingmen, and despite his best efforts defensively, he would not get to show why he was a late addition to the Academy squad, with the small utility impressing at NAB League level for Oakleigh Chargers.

#16 Josh Fahey (GWS/NSW-ACT)

One of the few standouts for the Academy side, the GWS GIANTS Academy member offered plenty of drive from defence using his speed and long left foot to break the lines and it was no surprise that he took kick-outs with those strengths. He took one good intercept mark which could be considered low, but he played percentages and went with the fist multiple times to great success. Fahey showed great leadership qualities being vocal down back and he was prepared to work hard with and without the ball. Sharing some similarities to AA defender Michael Hibberd, he could be set for similar accolades at the next level. Speaking of accolades, he would win the Presidents Medal for his 23-disposal and nine-rebound 50 game.

#17 Nasiah Wanganeen (Glenelg/South Australia)

The athletic wingman from Glenelg did not win a lot of the ball, but he had some good moments by foot playing wing early in the game before moving back in the last quarter showing good composure and a nice spoil deep in defence was also good.

#19-31 (By Michael Alvaro)

#19 Neil Erasmus (Subiaco/WA)

The West Australian ended up being quite a handy addition to the Academy squad, able to show his worth in some nice pockets of play. He came to life during a second term purple patch, where his vertical leap and overhead marking were prominent. Erasmus rose well both on the lead and to intercept across half-forward, where he was posted for most of the game. He would later be shifted up onto the wing where he worked back more defensively, but arguably looked more dangerous in attack during the first half. Erasmus had a set shot attempt on goal fall shot in term two and took some time to eventually hit his targets by foot on the move, but returned a promising game overall.

#20 Finn Callaghan (Sandringham Dragons/VM)

Another late inclusion, Callaghan took some time to get up to speed with the pressure gauge set, but began to string together plays more indicative of his talent as the contest wore on. When given the opportunity, he showcased his long and penetrative left-foot kick, looking a touch more comfortable when streaming forward in space. The Sandringham Dragons bolter was a little fumbly below his knees which brought on more pressure than required, though he has the frame to beat opponents when going low and hard. Callaghan shifted to half-back in the final term and was released for a couple of trademark runs before breaching the forward 50 arc by foot. He is difficult to stop in full flight with that mix of size, speed and agility.

#21 Blake Howes (Sandringham Dragons/VM)

On a tough day for Academy forwards, Howes returned a relatively quiet outing having been permanently employed among the front six. With a light frame considering his height, Howes could not quite burst free from tackles he normally would at Under 19s level, but competed well to win a couple of contests in the opening and closing terms. The first was a handy split at half-forward before dishing off to the running Lachlan Rankin, and the second was an instance where he had to cop contact to create a spill inside 50, as the ball was not delivered to his advantage. A good leaper with sticky hands, it was a difficult outing for Howes to show those traits.

#22 Matthew Johnson (Subiaco/WA)

While injury scuppered his chances of an early-season League debut in the WAFL, Johnson put his hand up for such honours with a solid outing against mature bodies. Having played exclusively in midfield, the tall ball winner looks like being in the right shape to do so after his time off. He was the Academy’s third most prolific player, even with a disposal count of 13, showing clean hands and poise at the coalface. His one-touch potential was shown early with a beautiful half-volley gather at half-forward, before going on to take a strong overhead grab later in the first term. Johnson also notched a few clearances but was given little time to think about delivering anything more than a quick kick forward. His uncontested touches were polished though, and he looms as the prime tall inside midfielder in this crop.

#23 Jacob Van Rooyen (Claremont/WA)

Arguably the leading key position forward among a raft of high-level midfielders in this year’s draft pool, Van Rooyen was posted permanently in the familiar centre half-forward position. The Claremont product competed well among a front six that was afforded few opportunities and less than ideal delivery. He presented up the ground and was unlucky not to have been paid a sliding mark on defensive wing in the first term. He would continue to gain separation while up the ground, even when his efforts went unrewarded, while also playing a hand in attempting to lock the ball in his side’s attacking 50 with pressure at the contest. Despite a frustrating outing at times, the ‘Flying Dutchman’ remains a frontrunner in his role.

#24 Rhett Bazzo (Swan Districts/WA)

While he has swung forward to good effect in the WAFL Colts, Bazzo reverted back to his defensive duties for the Academy and built into the game well despite being handed tough assignments. A good reader of the ball, Bazzo was caught lacking early as he was caught behind, but saw that kind of positioning pay off later on as he chimed in with well-timed spoils and some terrific intercept marks inside defensive 50. He was under the pump at times given the speed of which Geelong moved the ball forward, but stood up in one-on-one battles against taller and more developed opponents, like Sam De Koning. His confidence seemed to grow with each defensive act, though he could do little at times as the Cats swept up relentlessly after the initial effort. Bazzo’s disposal, mostly by foot, was also assured on the last line.

#25 Josh Gibcus (GWV Rebels/VC)

The GWV Rebels defender is such a smooth operator on the last line, contributing wonderfully poised disposal on the rebound under a good amount of pressure. He was kept very busy inside defensive 50 and did his best to repel by foot, hitting targets both short and long on the rebound. Gibcus’ reading of the play is also sound, as he popped up to clunk eye-catching marks with nice timing and clean hands. In such a tough role deep among an under-siege defence, he was also impressive at the fall of the ball and swept up as per usual for the Academy. He should be one climbing draft boards after a stunning start to the year.

#27 Jack Williams (East Fremantle/WA)

It was somewhat of an almost day for Williams, who very nearly made the best of limited chances in the Academy forward line. The rising East Fremantle talent started with a strong mark on the lead, before booting his side’s first goal of the game with a wonderfully fluent set shot routine. He would go on to work up the ground and present well down the line, but could not quite hold his marks as he was met with contact by stronger-bodied opponents. Perhaps different umpires would have paid a couple of marks for the balls he got first hands to, but it was not to be for Williams. Still, his short moments were eye-catching despite the absence of end product after his first term goal.

#28 Mac Andrew (Dandenong Stingrays/VC)

One of the steepest risers in this year’s crop, the Melbourne Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect proved his true first round potential. He played up either end and gained a good tick for his versatility, but well and truly came to life in the final term with an awesome showing in the ruck – despite the result being well beyond his side at that point. Andrew caught the eye with phenomenal vertical leaps at each centre bounce, with his first act of the final term a follow-up clearance. He highlighted his marking ability with a nice clunk in front, and showed off some finesse in the ruck with a wonderfully directed hit to the anchoring Jason Horne. Having started forward, the Dandenong Stingrays talent snared the first score of the game with a snap, before displaying clean hands on the move and flying well in his less fruitful move to defence. Demons recruiters will now be sweating on his potential after a string of terrific performances, if they were not already.

#29 Toby Conway (Geelong Falcons/VC)

Playing in his home region, Conway was afforded the starting ruck gig and got to battle it out with an AFL-listed big man in Darcy Fort. He would have learned some handy lessons in positioning and bodywork in each ruck contest, but Conway did his best to compete in those situations. He worked back to offer some aerial support to his defenders and even took an early mark from a long kick-in. Conway also rested forward and spent plenty of time deep in the final term without seeing too much action. He led well on one occasion but was spoiled from behind, unable to cap his outing with a goal.

#30 Ned Moyle (Oakleigh Chargers/VM)

One of two 19-year-old prospects afield, Moyle carried his promising NAB League form into this outing and competed well against stiff opposition. The Oakleigh Chargers big man rotated into the ruck and was not afraid to leap into or wrestle with his senior adversaries. He also did well to stay relevant as the ball fell to ground level, prizing a few clearances forward – even if they were rushed scrubber kicks. Moyle also had the confidence to grab from the ruck and took a nice mark from a kick-in during term two. Like Conway, he rested forward and was stationed there more frequently during the second half, but just lacked the mobility and composure to make a true impact in those attacking positions.

#31 Fraser Marris (GWV Rebels/VC)

The latest of inclusions in this Academy squad, Marris was relatively competitive in his late-notice opportunity and contributed some handy clean touches. Posted in defence as a small, the GWV product fared well in early one-on-ones without having too many wins, but showed his ability to find the ball in space with neat uncontested touches, mostly delivered by foot. He played his role well and should be one to gain some VFL opportunities, ironically enough with the Cats.

Image Credit: Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos

Full squad: AFL Academy to take on Geelong VFL on Saturday morning

THE AFL Academy is set to take on Geelong VFL tomorrow, making for an exciting curtain raiser to Saturday’s AFL clash between Geelong and West Coast. Bouncing down at 10:10am at GMHBA Stadium, the featured bout sees 24 of the nation’s brightest AFL Draft prospects granted with the opportunity to go head-to-head with a mature outfit containing plenty of elite level talent.

There has been a raft of changes to the original 21-man squad, announced in December of last year, as top-up players and injury replacements filter into the side. Among the inclusions are a good amount of tall prospects, with rucks Mac Andrew, Toby Conway, and Ned Moyle all earning call-ups for their promising NAB League form.

Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) talent Blayne O’Loughlin, the nephew of Michael, came in alongside Conway and Moyle, as did dynamic marking defender, Josh Gibcus. Skilled Oakleigh Chargers utility Lachlan Rankin is the latest inclusion, replacing Josh Sinn who pulled up sore after academy training this week.

Sinn’s Sandringham Dragons teammate Campbell Chesser has also been sidelined with a knee complaint, while Tasmanian Sam Banks (broken wrist) and Ben Hobbs will miss after sustaining injuries during the latest round of NAB League action. Braden Andrews and Cooper Murley will also sit out, sporting previous knocks.

The final couple of additions should add some dash and dare on the outer, with the fast-rising Finn Callaghan and Nasiah Wanganeen both getting their chance, while eye-catching West Australian Neil Erasmus was also rewarded for his early-season exploits.

Here’s a look at how the squad may line up:

FB: Blayne O’Loughlin, Rhett Bazzo, Josh Fahey
HB: Jase Burgoyne, Josh Gibcus, Finn Callaghan
C: Nasiah Wanganeen, Tyler Sonsie, Matt Roberts
HF: Matthew Johnson, Jacob Van Rooyen, Blake Howes
FF: Neil Erasmus, Jack Williams, Josh Rachele
FOL: Ned Moyle, Nick Daicos, Jason Horne

BENCH: Mac Andrew, Toby Conway, Cooper Hamilton, Austin Harris, Lachlan Rankin, Ned Stevens

INJURED: Braden Andrews, Sam Banks, Campbell Chesser, Ben Hobbs, Cooper Murley, Josh Sinn

Starting from the back, there should be plenty of drive to come from this lot. Recent inclusions, O’Loughlin and Callaghan are quite varied in terms of height, but both love to get going on the rebound and use the ball by foot. GWS Academy product Josh Fahey is another in that category, while potential Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne brings clean skills and plenty of versatility. Despite moving forward this year, Rhett Bazzo was the sensical full back choice, with Gibcus’ marking prowess also landing him a starting spot in the spine.

This team gets a big tick for versatility in the key position department, with Bazzo one of the many prospects who can shift roles. Fellow West Australian Jack Williams, named at full forward, has been known to swing back, while Gold Coast Academy tall Ned Stevens can arguably play on each line. He may be freed up to play at either end, given the rich ruck stocks available.

The magnets are likely to be shuffled elsewhere, too. Tall inside midfielder Matthew Johnson has been named at half-forward having endured an injury interrupted preseason, but will likely rotate through the engine room. Matt Roberts, named on the wing can also play on the inside but rests forward well and has terrific running capacity. Blake Howes (half-forward) is also known to roam a wing, while Josh Rachele and Erasmus are others with promising midfield craft.

Elsewhere, Cooper Hamilton is a solid figure who can be utilised up either end or in that midfield rotation, while small utility Austin Harris will look to use his smarts as a defender, forward, or wingman. Rankin is another in that boat, having previously played as a running defender or wingman, but more recently been utilised up forward.

Lastly, arguably the centrepiece of the lineup lies at the centre bounces. Top five candidate Tyler Sonsie joins clear pick one frontrunners, Nick Daicos and Jason Horne at the heart of the team, set to form a potent midfield trio for the Academy bunch.

Full squad:

#1 Blayne O’Loughlin (SA) North Adelaide
#2 Austin Harris (Qld) Gold Coast Suns
#3 Cooper Murley (SA) Norwood*
#4 Josh Rachele (Vic C) Murray Bushrangers
#5 Tyler Sonsie (Vic M) Eastern Ranges
#6 Nick Daicos (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers
#7 Cooper Hamilton (Vic C) Bendigo Pioneers
#8 Ben Hobbs (Vic C) GWV Rebels*
#9 Jason Horne (SA) South Adelaide
#10 Matt Roberts (SA) South Adelaide
#11 Jase Burgoyne (SA) Woodville-West Torrens
#12 Sam Banks (Tas) Clarence*
#13 Lachlan Rankin (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers
#14 Campbell Chesser (Vic C) Sandringham Dragons*
#15 Josh Sinn (Vic M) Sandringham Dragons*
#16 Josh Fahey (NSW/ACT) GWS Giants
#17 Nasiah Wanganeen (SA) Glenelg
#18 Braden Andrews (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers*
#19 Neil Erasmus (WA) Subiaco
#20 Finn Callaghan (Vic M) Sandringham Dragons
#21 Blake Howes (Vic M) Sandringham Dragons
#22 Matthew Johnson (WA) Subiaco
#23 Jacob Van Rooyen (WA) Claremont
#24 Rhett Bazzo (WA) Swan Districts
#26 Ned Stevens (NT) Waratah/Gold Coast Suns
#27 Jack Williams (WA) East Fremantle
#28 Mac Andrew (Vic C) Dandenong Stingrays
#29 Toby Conway (Vic C) Geelong Falcons
#30 Ned Moyle (Vic M) Oakleigh Chargers
#35 Josh Gibcus (Vic C) GWV Rebels

* – denotes injured

The game will be streamed live via the official AFL app and website. Keep an eye out for Scouting Notes on each Academy player, post-match.

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos