Tag: max holmes

2020 AFL Draft Standouts: Geelong and Port Adelaide

AHEAD of the 2021 AFL National Draft, we cast our eyes back 12 months ago to when the newest draftees had their names read out, and what they have accomplished since at the elite level. In the fifth piece of 2020 AFL Draft standouts (first chance at AFL level), we look at the 3rd and 4th placed teams in Geelong and Port Adelaide.

Geelong

#20 Max Holmes
#33 Shannon Neale
#47 Nick Stevens

Geelong would be satisfied with their decision to trade a future first round draft pick to Richmond to secure the services of Holmes at pick 20. The speedy forward made his way into the Geelong senior team as early as round three, in their annual Easter Monday clash against Hawthorn. In his debut, Holmes was fantastic, gathering 16 disposals to go with four marks in a composed effort, but was unluckily dropped to serve as medical sub the following week. He found himself in and out of the team throughout the season, before cementing his spot in the forward line as the team geared up for another finals campaign. Holmes had strong performances of the home-and-away season, including gathering a career-high 18 disposals in the heartbreaking loss to the Demons in round 23. His place in the team was strong during the Cats’ finals appearances, and had career-high tackles and clearances in the semi-finals victory against the GWS Giants. Holmes has certainly impressed with his work when the ball is on the deck, and looks to be a big part of the future down at Kardinia Park.

Neale and Stevens did not feature at senior level, but were able to work on their craft at VFL level throughout the season.

Port Adelaide:

#16 Lachie Jones
#49 Ollie Lord
R: Taj Schofield

Jones proved to be a strong addition to the Port Adelaide list, featuring in six matches for the Power, a number that would have likely been higher if not for an unfortunate ankle injury sustained in round five against the Blues. Jones instantly won the hearts of the Port Adelaide faithful with his impressive play and even more impressive mullet. Jones had firmly established himself in the Power 22 with a spot across half-back thanks to strong defensive work and line-breaking run, and the injury ended up interrupting a promising season. Jones wouldn’t be able to cement a spot in the in-form Power squad as he recovered from the injury, but regardless, the future still looks strong for the cult hero.

Lord was able to develop at SANFL, learning from some of the veterans of the club in the art of a key forward in the modern game, booting 10 goals in 14 games at state league level. The other player taken in the Rookie Draft without any prior AFL experience was father-son prospect Taj Schofield, and whilst he did not get to step up to AFL level,  he averaged 16.9 disposals across 10 matches at SANFL level.

Throwback: 2019 AFL Grand Final curtain-raiser

WITH news that Western Australia will take on South Australia in an epic Under 19-themed AFL Grand Final curtain-raiser event, we take a look back at the last time budding AFL Draft prospects took the field ahead of their future counterparts, in 2019. The annual Under 17 Futures All Star clash has been scrapped for the last two years due to Covid restrictions, but proved a valuable sighter for the 2020 crop.

46 of the nation’s best talents got together to form Team Brown (black) and Team Dal Santo (white), battling it out on the big stage in what ended up being a very rare occasion for last year’s draft class, given it was ridded of an Under 18 National Championship and plenty of regular season football.

Of the 46 players afield, 36 have since been drafted with 22 making their AFL debuts this season. Among them was Sydney Swans Academy graduate Braeden Campbell, who shot into top 10 consideration with a best afield performance for Team Brown, who ran out 47-point winners.

A teammate of Campbell’s on the day, Jake Bowey also showcased his class with quick and clean skills, and will likely line up for Melbourne in this year’s AFL decider – bringing his journey full circle. Also available for selection in the big dance is Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who featured for Team Brown and was last year’s number one pick.

Eight of 2020’s top 10 draftees took the field, and it would have been a perfect record had Denver Grainger-Barras and Nik Cox been available. The earliest pick to miss selection was Luke Pedlar, who was snapped up by Adelaide with pick 11. A range of first round bolters also missed, including 2021 debutants Tom Powell, Conor Stone, Max Holmes, and Brayden Cook.

While the showcase nature of the game makes for required viewing for most keen draft watchers, fans would also have taken a keen interest given the whopping 18 club-tied players who were selected. It was no secret from even that early stage that the 2020 draft would be heavily compromised, and that figure only proved as much.

Nine Northern Academy talents took the field, with Campbell and his Swans Academy teammate Errol Gulden the standouts. Of the seven-man Next Generation Academy crew, Ugle-Hagan, Lachlan Jones (Port Adelaide), and Reef McInnes (Collingwood) were all selected in the first round, while Taj Schofield landed at Port as a father-son candidate. Luke Edwards also fell under father-son eligibility, but was taken by West Coast in the open draft after Adelaide passed on nominating him.

While there were plenty of eventual draftees who missed out on selection in this game, but later proved their worth, the Futures fixture has long been an important one in identifying the next generation of talent. In 2019, it proved particularly essential given the class of 2020 endured a heavily interrupted season and limited opportunities to shine on the big stage.

This year, with another clash between WA and SA, there looms another critical opportunity for budding prospects to stake their claims as genuine contenders under a grand spotlight. There will inevitably be a riser, a surprise packet, one who stamps his first round credentials. We’ll find out who on September 25.

Featured Image: Port Adelaide’s Taj Schofield in action during the 2019 Futures All Star showcase | Credit: AFL Photos

Cats too strong and structured for AFL Academy as Daicos furthers his case for top selection

THE NAB AFL Academy suffered a heavy loss to the Geelong VFL side going down 149-19 in what was a one-sided contest from the start. There was no expectation of a win for the Australian side going against AFL-listed players and bigger bodies who have trained and played together for much longer than the few days the Academy players spent together.

Geelong scored the first two goals of the game through Luke Smith and Jordan Johnston who would both remain prolific all game with four and three goals, respectively. The Cats dominated play and possession early, but Australia was able to settle the game a bit and work the ball forward. Nick Daicos eventually found East Fremantle’s Jack Williams inside 50 who kicked truly on a tight angle.

The game would remain between the arcs as Australia wrestled back some momentum, but the likes of Charlie Constable and Quinton Narkle showed why they are in contention for senior selection dominating possession and pushing their side to a 21-point quarter time lead.

The second quarter would only be the start of the significant bleeding for Australia, as Geelong’s pressure around the ball intensified, and their already clean ball movement became cleaner. They would dominate the play, but they could not reflect it on the scoreboard as their inaccurate kicking flattered Australia at half-time.

The Australian defence was working overtime as Smith kicked his second, and Max Holmes and Darcy Fort also hit the scoreboard. While they did well to place pressure on some shots to force five behinds for the quarter, Australia’s foot skills out of defensive 50 were inconsistent as they would either turn the ball over or put it back into dispute.

Subiaco’s Neil Erasmus was lively in the second quarter as was Oakleigh’s Ned Moyle in the ruck, but it was Giants Academy member Josh Fahey (15 disposals) and Daicos (13 disposals) leading the way. Constable managed 17 first-half disposals for the Cats while Narkle (15 disposals, one goal) and Smith (13 disposals, two goals) helped extend the lead to 42 points at the main break.

Geelong showed no remorse for the promising youngsters as Smith’s third goal would propel them to winning the quarter 52-8. Their superior physicality and team cohesion rose to prominence as they were much more composed with ball in hand, moving it forward with ease and cleanliness.

The value of the AFL-listed players remaining in the elite training environments really came to the fore as they just overran the Australian side with spread and pressure. They were plus 58 in disposals for the quarter and never allowed Australia to link with handballs and run and carry. Former Murray Bushranger Jye Chalcraft capitalised on the dominance with a nine-disposal quarter. Current Murray Bushranger Josh Rachele kicked Australia’s second and last goal for the game with a bomb from outside 50.

Geelong ran out the game and kicked away to a commanding 22.17 (149) to 2.7 (19) victory. It was always going to be tough for the Academy players. Brisbane Lions recruitment consultant Leon Harris stressed that it is “more what they take out of it than how well they play”.

Geelong won the disposal count 367-214 and placed enough pressure on Australia to force them into kicking 68 more times than they handballed. They controlled possession and won the mark count 96-59, while the ruck contest was relatively even.

Fahey was named best on ground for the Australian side with 23 disposals, while Daicos continued his NAB League form finding the footy 26 times. Chargers’ teammate Moyle was also serviceable with 11 disposals and 13 hitouts, while South Adelaide’s Jason Horne (12 disposals, six tackles) maintained his effort all game.

For Geelong, Smith managed four goals in the end to go with his 22 disposals and seven marks as Johnston also booted four majors from his 20 disposals. AFL-listed Constable (29 disposals), Narkle, (22 disposals, two goals), and Holmes (23 disposals, three goals) did no harm to their AFL recalls.

No doubt a learning curve for the NAB AFL Academy members as recruiters look forward to their return to their respective state league competitions and of course the national championships where they will hope they implement some learnings from this game. The players will meet with clubs in Melbourne tomorrow as recruiters continue to profile the draft hopefuls.

Picture credit: Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos

2021 VFL: Round 1 Draftee Focus – Tigers pair push for early debuts

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) returned over the weekend after a year away, with the revamped structure seeing 22 teams battle it out across 11 fixtures up and down the eastern seaboard, stretching from Friday to Sunday. Senior-listed players who missed AFL selection were able to get some run in their legs through the state league, with a bunch of 2020 draftees among them. We take a look at how prospects from the latest draft class fared in Round 1.

A pair of first year Richmond talents staked their claims for an early call-up in the competition’s season-opener, as the Tigers ran out 40-point victors over St Kilda’s VFL affiliate, Sandringham. Maurice Rioli Jnr was the first to garner some attention for a senior berth, after booting two goals from his 17 disposals in an exciting display. Loping ruck-forward, Samson Ryan was the other, having translated his preseason form to a three-goal haul on Friday afternoon.

For the Zebras, Tom Highmore pushed his case for a recall after being dropped from the Saints’ senior side. The marking defender reeled in seven grabs against Richmond, among his 16 disposals (13 kicks). The Saints’ first selection in last year’s intake, Matthew Allison also got a run for his new side, contributing five touches. Top-up selections Derek Eggmolesse-Smith and Mason Wood were also solid for their respective teams, leaning on their prior AFL experience.

Number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan continues his attempt to crack the Western Bulldogs’ forwardline, booting two goals from 11 touches in the reserve grade. Dominic Bedendo found the ball eight times as the Bulldogs beat Gold Coast, whose rookie selections proved the pick of their new crop. Aiden Fyfe (16 disposals, eight marks) and Rhys Nicholls (17 disposals) fit in nicely, as Category B rookie Hewago Paul Oea had it 19 times. Prized coups Alex Davies and Joel Jeffrey also ran out for the Suns in their 67-point loss.

While their statesmen went down to a Victorian opponent, the Brisbane Lions came up trumps against Essendon with a 66-point win on Saturday afternoon. Academy graduate Carter Michael found plenty of the ball with 25 disposals and four marks, while the hard-running Harry Sharp (19 disposals, six marks, four tackles) stakes his claim for another senior crack. Raw tall forward Henry Smith booted a couple of goals, as Blake Coleman and Deividas Uosis also ran out in the maroon, blue and gold. Versatile NGA product Josh Eyre (eight disposals, three marks) was Essendon’s lone 2020 draftee afield.

A state league Sydney derby saw the Swans defeat the Giants by 26 points on the same afternoon, with both sides fielding multiple fresh faces across both levels in 2021. Sydney rookie Malachy Carruthers accumulated 19 disposals (16 kicks) and 10 marks in an impressive first-up effort, while academy graduate Marc Sheather notched 10 touches and kicked a goal.

Prized GWS pick Tanner Bruhn got a good run on the ball to amass 27 disposals in the charcoal and orange, an effort capped by two goals. Fellow Victorian Ryan Angwin showed his potential with 18 touches of the ball, while mature-age selection Jacob Wehr had it 17 times with 12 kicks. Cam Fleeton and Category B bolter Will Shaw also got some run in their legs for GWS.

Collingwood’s bumper draft haul has already made an impact at the top level, but there were also plenty of first year players plying their trade in the twos last week. Most hit the scoreboard too, as Collingwood snuck past Werribee; with Oliver Henry (11 disposals, seven marks, two goals), Caleb Poulter (18 disposals, seven marks, one goal), Reef McInnes, Liam McMahon and Jack Ginnivan (all one goal) making their marks. Tasmania rookie Isaac Chugg was also promising, finishing on 15 disposals and six marks.

Sunday saw a couple of aligned units lock horns at Box Hill City Oval, as the hosts went down to Casey Demons by 51 points. First round Melbourne selection, Jake Bowey made a good start to end with 23 disposals and four marks in red and blue, as Deakyn Smith (20 disposals, seven marks, six tackles) and the dynamic Fraser Rosman (10 disposals, two goals) also showed plenty. The Demons’ side is currently hard to crack, though.

Preseason supplemental selection Lachlan Bramble showed his ability at the level by ticking onto 20 disposals for the Hawks, also getting his hands dirty to lay eight tackles in the loss. Hawthorn NGA product Connor Downie looked in line for an early senior berth – not as concussion sub – but had nothing doing. He notched 10 disposals in this VFL outing.

Geelong thumped North Melbourne to start its season on the ideal note, with repeat-run machine Max Holmes arguably the pick of the draftees with 22 disposals (16 kicks). Nick Stevens clunked eight marks in the hoops and snared a goal, as athletic West Australian tall Shannon Neale managed seven disposals.

For North, Eddie Ford made a promising start with 13 touches and three marks, while the speedy Phoenix Spicer also made an appearance. Elsewhere, Corey Durdin was Carlton’s lone draftee in action as the Blues went down by a point to Southport. He had 10 disposals and kicked a goal, playing the small forward role.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/Getty Images via AFL Photos

2020 AFL Draft recap: Geelong Cats

GEELONG was one of the big winners during trade period and thus, was not left with an entirely stunning hand leading into this year’s AFL Draft. But as Stephen Wells and co. so often do, they managed to make their mark on the event. Not only did the Cats enact a bold live trading move to jump up the order, but they also did so to nab one of the biggest bolters among the 2020 intake. Elsewhere, Geelong’s need for long-term ruck depth was met and somewhat of a local pick rounded out the initial intake, while a remarkable Category B rookie get had already been confirmed.

GEELONG

National Draft:
#20 Max Holmes (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#33 Shannon Neale (South Fremantle/Western Australia)
#47 Nick Stevens (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

Rookies:
Paul Tsapatolis (Cat B)

Geelong made the bold move of trading out of next year’s first round to secure a massive bolter in this year’s crop, snapping up Max Holmes with Pick 20. Clubs like Melbourne and St Kilda were also eyeing off the son of Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lee Naylor, whose athletic pedigree translates to his footballing style. Holmes’ running capacity appealed to many clubs in that range and despite not playing a whole lot of football of late, he was extremely sought-after. Having rotated between half-forward and the wing during his one NAB League appearance last year, Holmes is set to develop in the latter role as a genuine outside runner.

The Cats signalled their intentions in targeting a developing tall prior to the draft, and Shannon Neale is one which they may see Mark Blicavs-like potential in. At 202cm, the West Australian has largely been utilised as a raw ruck/forward with good marking and running abilities, especially having come from an athletics background. It seemed necessary to act at Pick 33 given he may not have been available thereafter, though very few rucks ended up being taken in the National Draft.

Capping off the Cats’ haul was the selection of Nick Stevens at Pick 47. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels graduate acts as somewhat of a local pick given he schooled at Geelong Grammar, where he also played during last year’s APS competition. He has shot up to 192cm to be placed into the tall category, but has otherwise played as a classy user across half-back who provides sound rebound. With his height and athletic upside, Stevens could also develop further afield or adjust to become that prototype interceptor in the back half. The Category B coup of 202cm ruck Paul Tsapatolis, a high-level former basketballer, adds to that tall depth in the long-term.

Featured Image: Max Holmes was one of this year’s big draft bolters | Credit: (Retrieved from) Herald Sun

2020 AFL Draft Fallout: Bolters and Sliders

THE DUST has settled on another AFL Draft after the rookie intake was completed this morning; leaving keen watchers, fans, and analysts to pick up the pieces and make something of what was a rollercoaster event which seemed to drag on for an eternity. Like any other intake, the 2020 version was littered with sliders and bolters, so we take a look at some of the names which perhaps ended up with surprising numbers left next to them by night’s end.

Full draft profiles on each prospect mentioned below can be found in our AFL Draft Guide.

THE BOLTERS:

While already pegged as a top five selection, Will Phillips somewhat bolted into North Melbourne’s considerations at pick three, throwing as spanner in the works among the top 10. But arguably the biggest first round bolters were selected right after that mark, with Adelaide pouncing on Luke Pedlar at pick 11. The explosive midfielder has battled injuries over the last two seasons but showed great quality on-field when given the opportunity, proving a key cog for Glenelg and Prince Alfred College, the latter of which he captained.

GWS snapped up a couple of Victorians they were keen on in Conor Stone (pick 15) and Ryan Angwin (18), with Collingwood also said to be in the market for Stone. The Oakleigh Chargers product is a medium forward with great goal sense who can also run off the wing with elite running capacity. Angwin, who has drawn comparisons to Xavier Duursma is a different type of wingman with plenty of raw potential. He has filled out nicely and attacks the ball with vigour despite his light frame, while also boasting nice athletic traits.

Geelong traded up twice to snap up Max Holmes at pick 20, who proved one of the biggest late bolters among round one. Holmes’ running capacity appealed to many clubs around the mark, with the Cats pouncing before the likes of Melbourne and St Kilda. At pick 24, Collingwood snuck in a Blake Coleman bid, which was threatened even earlier before trading out for Adelaide to select Brayden Cook, who came from nowhere to be considered a massive first round chance this year. Rounding out the early surprises, Matt Allison was snapped up by St Kilda at number 26, with some other clubs lurking for a dynamic tall around that mark.

The second round was headlined by a few neat risers, including Seamus Mitchell at pick 29 to Hawthorn. He is a pacy small forward with good x-factor, similar to West Australian Tyler Brockman who landed at the Hawks in the following round. Collingwood secured a need in Liam McMahon, who could develop into the long-term key forward option fans have been crying out for. Shannon Neale was off the board at 33, shipped off to Geelong as a prospect who could follow a path similar to Mark Blicavs. Richmond pulled a cheeky bid on Essendon NGA Josh Eyre before taking Samson Ryan from nowhere at pick 40, a developing ruck who is a couple of years on from his top-aged peers.

Looking at the Rookie Draft, Jack Saunders was one of the big surprises as Hawthorn snapped him up with the fourth selection. The South Australian is a hard outside runner who provides long-term cover in that role for the Hawks, who are bringing in some good youth. Isaac Chugg was another choice to attract some attention as Collingwood pounced on the athletic Tasmanian. He looms as a developable half-back or wingman with raw pace.

THE SLIDERS:

A couple of slight sliders emerged early, with the dominoes falling after North Melbourne opted to snare Phillips with pick three. Elijah Hollands, who was widely predicted to be taken there, fell to Gold Coast at number seven and was the Suns’ sole National Draft selection. Tanner Bruhn was one pegged for top 10 status but ended up just escaping that range. It hardly took long for GWS to snap up the classy midfielder at pick 12, before the Giants opted to secure a couple of sliders almost immediately after.

Oliver Henry was another linked with one of Essendon’s three top 10 picks, but the dynamic swingman slid to Collingwood’s pick 17. He looms as a terrific replacement for Jaidyn Stephenson in the Pies’ forwardline. Collingwood NGA Reef McInnes was one who would have tempted clubs in the 8-12 range, but the Magpies were able to maximise their hand after he dropped late into the first round. At pick 23, he was a quickly matched bid for Collingwood, who will likely give him some early exposure around the ground before being thrust into midfield.

Outside of the early proceedings, Jack Carroll proved one of the steals of the draft as Carlton took little time in taking him off the board with pick 41. The classy West Australian was said to have first round suitors, but adds some terrific late value for the Blues as a balanced kind of midfielder who uses the ball excellently and has promising athleticism. Similarly, Eddie Ford was a steal for North Melbourne all the way down at pick 56. He is one who cut his teeth as a high-flying medium forward but has eye on long-term midfield development and brings good variety to the Roos’ overall draft haul. Fremantle would also be laughing with its two NGA products in Brandon Walker and Joel Western only attracting bids in the 50s. Both looked a class above at Colts level this year and have some seriously impressive athletic attributes across the board.

Inside midfielder Zane Trew was a surprise slider into the rookie draft but was given his chance by local side, West Coast, while Jack Ginnivan found his way to Collingwood as yet another shrewd Victorian pick for the Pies. Plenty of talls missed out altogether, with key forwards Kaine Baldwin and Jackson Callow among the most unlucky, while Zavier Maher and Liam Kolar were a couple of potential bolters who did not find a suitor.

Featured Image: Collingwood’s Victorian 2020 AFL Draft haul | Credit: Collingwood FC

2020 AFL Draft: Club by club

IF you are waking up to try and scroll through and find who your club’s newest players are, look no further as we piece together last night’s National Draft club by club. To check out the player profiles of each player selected, click below:

Adelaide:

#2 Riley Thilthorpe (West Adelaide/South Australia)
#11 Luke Pedlar (Glenelg/South Australia)
#25 Brayden Cook (South Adelaide/South Australia)
#28 Sam Berry (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#38 James Rowe (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

Brisbane:

#24 Blake Coleman (Brisbane Lions Academy/Allies)
#43 Harry Sharp (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#48 Henry Smith (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

Carlton:

#37 Corey Durdin (Central District/South Australia)
#41 Jack Carroll (East Fremantle/Western Australia)

Collingwood:

#17 Oliver Henry (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#19 Finlay Macrae (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#23 Reef McInnes (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#30 Caleb Poulter (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)
#31 Liam McMahon (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#44 Beau McCreery (South Adelaide/South Australia)

Essendon:

#8 Nik Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#9 Archie Perkins (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#10 Zach Reid (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#39 Josh Eyre (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
#53 Cody Brand (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Fremantle:

#14 Heath Chapman (West Perth/Western Australia)
#27 Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth/Western Australia)
#50 Brandon Walker (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
#54 Joel Western (Claremont/Western Australia)

Geelong:

#20 Max Holmes (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#33 Shannon Neale (South Fremantle/Western Australia)
#47 Nick Stevens (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

Gold Coast:

#7 Elijah Hollands (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

GWS:

#12 Tanner Bruhn (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#15 Conor Stone (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#18 Ryan Angwin (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#58 Cameron Fleeton (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#59  Jacob Wehr (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

Hawthorn:

#6 Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#29 Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
#35 Connor Downie (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#46 Tyler Brockman (Subiaco/Western Australia)

Melbourne:

#21 Jake Bowey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#22 Bailey Laurie (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#34 Fraser Rosman (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

North Melbourne:

#3 Will Phillips (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#13 Tom Powell (Sturt/South Australia)
#36 Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#42 Phoenix Spicer (South Adelaide/South Australia)
#56 Eddie Ford (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

Port Adelaide:

#16 Lachlan Jones (Woodville West-Torrens/South Australia)
#49 Ollie Lord (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

Richmond:

#40 Samson Ryan (Brisbane Lions Academy/Allies)
#51 Maurice Rioli Jnr (Oakleigh Chargers/NT Thunder/Allies)

St Kilda:

#26 Matt Allison (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
#45 Tom Highmore (South Adelaide/South Australia)

Sydney:

#4 Logan McDonald (Perth/Western Australia)
#5 Braeden Campbell (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)
#32 Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)

West Coast:

#52 Luke Edwards (Glenelg/South Australia)
#57 Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

Western Bulldogs:

#1 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country)
#55 Dominic Bedendo (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

2020 AFL Draft: Pick by pick

AFTER an unconventional season of football, the 2020 AFL National Draft has come to a close with a number of young and exciting players finding their way to new homes for the 2021 season. Here is the full run down of picks, with the highly touted Jamarra Ugle-Hagan making his way to the Western Bulldogs at Pick 1.

Round 1

1 Western Bulldogs – Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

2 Adelaide Crows – Riley Thilthorpe (West Adelaide/South Australia)

3 North Melbourne – Will Phillips (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

4 Sydney Swans – Logan McDonald (Perth/Western Australia)

5 Sydney Swans – Braeden Campbell (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)

6 Hawthorn – Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts/Western Australia)

7 Gold Coast Suns –  Elijah Hollands (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

8 Essendon –  Nik Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

9 Essendon – Archie Perkins (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

10 Essendon – Zach Reid (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

11 Adelaide Crows – Luke Pedlar (Glenelg/South Australia)

12 GWS GIANTS – Tanner Bruhn (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

13 North Melbourne – Tom Powell (Sturt/South Australia)

14 Fremantle – Heath Chapman (West Perth/Western Australia)

15 GWS GIANTS – Conor Stone (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

16 Port Adelaide – Lachlan Jones (Woodville West-Torrens/South Australia)

17 Collingwood – Oliver Henry (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

18 GWS GIANTS – Ryan Angwin (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

19 Collingwood – Finlay Macrae (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

20 Geelong –  Max Holmes (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

21 Melbourne Demons – Jake Bowey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

22 Melbourne Demons – Bailey Laurie (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

23 Collingwood – Reef McInnes (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

24 Brisbane Lions – Blake Coleman (Brisbane Lions Academy/Allies)

25 Adelaide Crows – Brayden Cook (South Adelaide/South Australia)

26 St Kilda – Matt Allison (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Round 2

27 Fremantle – Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth/Western Australia)

28 Adelaide- Sam Berry (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

29 Hawthorn – Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo Pioneers)

30 Collingwood – Caleb Poulter (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

31Collingwood – Liam McMahon (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

32 Sydney Swans – Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)

33 Geelong – Shannon Neale (South Fremantle/Western Australia)

34 Melbourne – Fraser Rosman (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

35 Hawthorn – Connor Downie (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

36 North Melbourne – Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong Falcons)

37 Carlton – Corey Durdin (Central District/South Australia)

38 Adelaide – James Rowe (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

39 Essendon – Josh Eyre (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

40 Richmond – Samson Ryan (Brisbane Lions Academy)

41Carlton – Jack Carroll (East Fremantle/Western Australia)

42 North Melbourne – Phoenix Spicer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

Round 3

43 Brisbane Lions – Harry Sharp (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

44 Collingwood – Beau McCreery (South Adelaide/South Australia)

45 St Kilda – Tom Highmore (South Adelaide/South Australia)

46 Hawthorn – Tyler Brockman (Subiaco/Western Australia)

47 Geelong – Nicholas Stevens (GWV Rebels)

48 Brisbane Lions – Henry Smith (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

49 Port Adelaide – Ollie Lord (Sandringham Dragons)

50 Fremantle – Brandon Walker (East Fremantle/Western Australia)

51 Richmond – Maurice Rioli Jnr (Oakleigh Chargers/NT Thunder/Allies)

52 West Coast – Luke Edwards (Glenelg/South Australia)

53 Essendon – Cody Brand (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

54 Fremantle – Joel Western (Claremont/Western Australia)

55 Western Bulldogs – Dominic Bedendo (Murray Bushrangers)

56 North Melbourne – Eddie Ford (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

57 West Coast Eagles – Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

58 GWS GIANTS – Cameron Fleeton (Geelong Falcons)

59 GWS GIANTS – Jacob Wehr (Woodville-West Torrens)

2020 Draft Central Phantom Draft: First Round prediction

THE STAGE is set for the 2020 AFL National Draft to get underway tomorrow night, poised to present one of the most unpredictable and even events in history. It has been an unprecedented year in many aspects; with Victorian talents, who typically make up over half of the selected players, unable to take the field as top-agers, while prospects from around the nation showed their wares throughout improvised state league seasons.

There are plenty of moving parts to play out, but Draft Central can finally reveal its first round Phantom Draft ahead of the big day. Live trading has not been taken into account in this effort, but club needs, preferences, and our own rankings have been considered with each pick. The shape of the first round will likely look much different after high-stakes live trades and academy bids, but this is an insight into what each club at the top end may be looking for with their picks.

Pick 1 | Jamarra Ugle-Hagan – Western Bulldogs (Adelaide bid matched)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 195cm | 90kg

The consensus best player in the draft pool yields a bid where he ultimately should, at pick one. Adelaide will not have access to the Lance Franklin-like key forward though, as he is tied to the Western Bulldogs’ Next Generation Academy (NGA). The Dogs will quickly match the bid, putting Adelaide back on the clock. Ugle-Hagan promises to bring great athleticism and aerial prowess to the Bulldogs’ forwardline alongside Aaron Naughton, coincidentally fitting their most pressing list need perfectly.

Pick 2 | Logan McDonald – Adelaide
Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 196cm | 86kg

Having bid on a key forward with pick one, Adelaide will almost inevitably snap up another when its selection slides to number two. McDonald is arguably the next best option in his position and has enjoyed a stunning campaign at WAFL League level with Perth. His contested marking and endurance combine for a package similar to that of Nick Riewoldt, but the West Australian is set to blaze his own trail. While it has been a talking point, the go-home factor is minimal here, with local talent Riley Thilthorpe also in the mix and Crows supporter Elijah Hollands another who has been considered for much of the year.

Pick 3 | Elijah Hollands – North Melbourne
Murray Bushrangers/Vic County | Forward/Midfielder
25/04/2002 | 188cm | 80kg

One who could easily have pushed to be the number one ranked player with a top-age campaign, Hollands fits North Melbourne’s need for a dynamic midfielder in the long-term. He spent 2020 recovering from an ACL tear and has mainly cut his teeth as a half-forward thus far, but has all the traits necessary to make a more permanent midfield transition down the line. Given the Roos’ need for key forward support with Ben Brown out the door, McDonald and Riley Thilthorpe could also be desired options here, but Hollands has long been linked with this pick – which North Melbourne has also committed to.

Pick 4 | Will Phillips – Sydney
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
22/05/2002 | 180cm | 80kg

While others are bullish on linking key defender Denver Grainger-Barras to this pick, the Swans may also look to add to their long-term inside midfield depth with Phillips. He may not be the big body to replace Josh Kennedy down the line, but is a reliable ball winner with very few weaknesses who looks every bit the 250-game prospect. As far as comparisons go, he may well be this year’s Matt Rowell, who he spent time alongside in Oakleigh’s premiership midfield during 2019. He looms as the best pure midfielder available at the top end.

Pick 5 | Braeden Campbell – Sydney (Hawthorn bid matched)
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Balanced Midfielder/Forward
4/02/2002 | 181cm | 75kg

Hawthorn, who could well be looking for a midfielder like Phillips, might then be the one to keep Sydney accountable with a top 10 bid on academy product, Campbell. The 181cm midfielder has some elite traits, headlined by his versatility, searing speed, and damaging left-foot kick. The Swans will likely be a touch perturbed by a bid this early, but should take little time to match the selection and end up with consecutive picks. They will then sweat on when a bid for Errol Gulden arrives, ideally in the second round.

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

With its first top five pick in 15 years, Hawthorn is in a great position to stock up in a couple of key areas. With McDonald and Phillips off the board in our draft, Thilthorpe is a terrific option should he survive Adelaide’s first selection. The 201cm ruck/forward has two years of senior SANFL football under his belt and moves incredibly well for his size, covering plenty of ground and winning the ball both in the air and at ground level. He plays mostly as a key forward, but can also rotate through the ruck as a quality second option.

Pick 7 | Denver Grainger-Barras – Gold Coast 
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
14/04/2002 | 194cm | 78kg

This is your typical best available kind of pick, with Grainger-Barras a true bargain outside of the top five. He is clearly the best key defender available and showed off all of his intercept marking prowess against top three fancy, McDonald during the WAFL League season. He is quite lean but makes up for it with courage and athleticism and has plenty of time to fill out. The Suns may already lay claim to a solid key defensive set-up, but they also tend to look for star power with their picks and the West Australian has plenty of it. A midfielder could also come into consideration here.

Pick 8 | Tanner Bruhn – Essendon
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
27/05/2002 | 183cm | 74kg

Essendon fans may bemoan this selection because of the current profile of their team’s midfield. At 183cm, Bruhn is not exactly the big-bodied ball winner the Bombers have been crying out for, but has plenty of classy qualities on the inside with the potential to also utilise his skill on the outer or up forward. The Geelong Falcons product may not have gained a ton of exposure on-field over the last two years, but has shown all of his worth when given the opportunity and would be a terrific addition to Essendon’s starting side.

Pick 9 | Zach Reid – Essendon
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Key Position Defender/Utility
2/03/2002 | 202cm | 83kg

The Bombers will almost certainly look for a tall option with one of their three-consecutive picks within the top 10, and Reid looms as the best of the lot in that range. He looked incredibly sharp at the recent Victorian testing day and at 202cm, possesses wicked skill by foot. The Gippsland product is also incredibly versatile and has a knack for swinging forward to kick clutch goals, but looks most suited to a key defensive post where he can read the play, intercept, and rebound.

Pick 10 | Archie Perkins – Essendon
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
26/03/2002 | 188cm | 79kg

Linked to clubs as high as the top five, Perkins has also long been attached to Essendon’s picks and we have taken the opportunity to snap him up. It looms as somewhat of a prospective selection, but Perkins is exactly the kind of explosive, powerful midfielder which Essendon fans would love to get on-board. He is billed as one who could turn into that prototype midfielder/forward in the mould of Nat Fyfe, especially given his aerial ability and knack for finding the goals. A bid on Collingwood NGA member Reef McInnes could also be considered here, and the Bombers could field bids for the pick from the likes of GWS and Collingwood.

Pick 11 | Finlay Macrae – Adelaide
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
13/03/2002 | 186cm | 78kg

Having already snared a tall, Adelaide can focus on building its midfield at this range and Macrae is a terrific option should that be the case. The half-brother of Jackson, he boasts a similar appetite for the ball and is exactly the kind of player you want delivering it inside 50. He is clean and dual-sided with terrific decision making to boot. The Crows could also be the ones to bid on McInnes here, though Collingwood may be proactive and trade with Adelaide to this pick, thus ensuring that is not the case.

Pick 12 | Lachlan Jones – Port Adelaide (GWS bid matched)
WWT Eagles/South Australia | General Defender
9/04/2002 | 186cm | 89kg

Jones would be a very handy fit for the Giants’ backline, but is tied to Port Adelaide through its NGA and will quickly have a bid in this range matched. Essendon is another club which has been linked to Jones, but the feeling is that he will slide into the teens, potentially even further than this point. A bid here is still quite realistic though, especially given Jones’ exposed form at senior level in 2020. He was a key part of the Eagles’ premiership defence and stood out with his mix of aggression and class on the rebound. A readymade player if there ever was one.

Pick 13 | Nik Cox – GWS
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Key Position Utility
15/01/2002 | 200cm | 87kg

With their first defensive choice unavailable to them, GWS would likely spend little time in looking for someone like Cox to fill that gap in the long-term. While he is a versatile type who can also play up forward, Cox’s magnificent ball use on either side and athletic traits suit the defensive caper. He still has plenty of filling out to do and improvements to be made in the contested side of the game, but should develop well alongside the likes of Phil Davis and Nick Haynes. Heath Chapman is another who could be snapped up here, while Macrae would be an enticing midfield option if still on the board.

Pick 14 | Tom Powell – North Melbourne
Sturt/South Australia | Midfielder
2/03/2002 | 183cm | 74kg

The Kangaroos may already lay claim to a bunch of inside types through midfield, but Powell would be hard to pass up at this range. He averaged over 35 disposals in the SANFL Under 18s this year and was a consistent clearance machine. His outside game and damage by foot are areas to work on, but the 183cm prospect is well aware of that and even showed improvement there throughout the year. Could form the future of North’s midfield alongside Hollands, Jy Simpkin, and Luke Davies-Uniacke.

Pick 15 | Nathan O’Driscoll – Fremantle
Perth/Western Australia | Balanced Midfielder
17/05/2002 | 187cm | 78kg

Perhaps a bold choice here by the Dockers, O’Driscoll is one whose range divides many a draft watcher. What we do know for certain is that he gives 100 per cent each time he plays, making him one of the hardest working midfielders going both ways. His character will appeal to clubs and the local factor makes him a desirable choice for Fremantle. The likes of Chapman, Jack Carroll, and Brayden Cook may also be around the mark here.

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

One who had top 10 potential, was pegged for such status, and has perhaps now slipped back out of that range, Henry would be a quality choice for GWS at pick 16. The brother of Geelong’s Jack, he is able to play up either end of the ground and thrives aerially. He could be the dynamic marking forward which many clubs are after, so would be too hard to ignore if he slides all the way back here.

Pick 17 | Heath Chapman – Collingwood
West Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
31/01/2002 | 192cm | 81kg

After a disastrous trade period, Pies fans would be absolutely chuffed if Chapman gets to their first pick and he would suit their needs well; potentially freeing up Darcy Moore to fill a key forward post, or acting as another intercept defender in tandem with Jeremy Howe. Collingwood could also be one to trade up and get a selection like Chapman in just outside the top 10, with Cox and Reid other players in contention. The concern will also surround a potential McInnes bid, but that is allayed in this scenario.

Pick 18 | Bailey Laurie – GWS
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
24/03/2002 | 179cm | 78kg

Laurie has been heavily linked with the Giants’ first round picks and would be a shrewd selection in our eyes. He is another classy ball user who adds to GWS’ strong creative element in the front half and while he may be pegged as a bolter, Laurie looms as one who could quickly repay the faith. He makes things happen and will quickly endear himself to fans.

Pick 19 | Conor Stone – Collingwood
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Medium Forward/Wing
22/04/2002 | 188cm | 81kg

Another first round bolter of sorts from the Oakleigh Chargers, Stone has attracted interest from Collingwood on the back of some promising form as a bottom-ager. His five-goal haul on NAB League debut was a particular highlight, but the medium forward also showed some star power on the wing while running out for St Kevin’s. His running power and goal sense make for a versatile package who could prove too hard to ignore.

Pick 20 | Reef McInnes – Collingwood (Richmond bid matched)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
12/12/2002 | 193cm | 86kg

While this bid has been linked to picks as high as the top 10, one at pick 20 would arguably suit McInnes’ true value a little more. The inside midfielder tore up the draft combine with a searing 20m sprint time and has risen up draft boards as a result, making him a player of interest inside the top 20. Collingwood would be more than happy to match here, after their first two selections.

Pick 21 | Zavier Maher – Richmond
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
5/05/2002 | 184cm | 83kg

Richmond is not afraid to make surprise selections and Maher could be the next in that category. The Murray midfielder has recently been linked to the top 25 and might match the Tigers’ need for some long-term squad depth, despite the array of midfielders they already boast. With his burst from the contest, he looms as one with a point of difference from the others, though.

Pick 22 | Jack Carroll – Melbourne
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder/Defender
20/12/2002 | 187cm | 76kg

This was one of the more straightforward picks across a very even first round. The West Australian looks like developing into the wingman Melbourne is crying out for and did not quite cover last trade period, while also having the potential to cover as a classy half-back or develop into an inside type. He uses the ball beautifully, can find the goals, and is a great size for modern-day football.

Pick 23 | Brayden Cook – Melbourne
South Adelaide/South Australia | Wing/Forward
18/07/2002 | 189cm | 82kg

Yes, perhaps another wingman, but one who looks likely to develop as a forward early in his career. Cook is this year’s great bolter and shot onto the scene on the back of a SANFL Under 18s season where he averaged over two goals per game. He is terrific in the air and makes good decisions going forward, while also boasting the wildcard of being a game-winning type close to goal.

Pick 24 | Luke Pedlar – GWS
Glenelg/South Australia | Inside Midfielder/Forward
17/05/2002 | 183cm | 80kg

The Giants are said to have great interest in Pedlar and should they not pounce with a pick in the teens, he would be a steal for them at this stage. While injuries have curtailed his last two seasons at different points, Pedlar has shown his outstanding hunger for the ball and eye-catching burst from congestion on every occasion afforded to him. Add leadership quality and forward potential to the mix, and you have a very handy bolter.

Pick 25 | Max Holmes – St Kilda
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Wingman
29/07/2002 | 189cm | 74kg

Holmes’ running capacity is what will appeal most to clubs around this range and he has come from seemingly nowhere to jet into draft contention in 2020. He comes from good athletics pedigree but has played high-level football throughout his junior career and will be a handy developable pick. Jake Bowey and Eddie Ford could also be in the mix here.

From the clouds: This year’s biggest AFL Draft bolters

EACH year a great deal of AFL Draft intrigue surrounds the prospects who seemingly come from the clouds to land on clubs’ radars. Labelled the bolters, these players are the ones who enjoy steep rises as top-agers to trade obscurity for potential stardom. Last year we saw Will Day, Mitch Georgiades, and Sam Philp taken in round one, Sam Sturt was famously snapped up with Pick 17 the year before, Gold Coast pulled a surprise with Wil Powell in 2017 and well, you get the gist.

In taking a look at the potential bolters in this year’s crop, we are not just talking about players like Logan McDonald or Archie Perkins, who have risen from first round projection to possible top five status. Instead, we will take you through the names from around the nation who have come from greater obscurity to enter the draft frame at differing points. Some will feature at the top end, others might just scrape in at the back, but they all share the common story of coming from a long way back to gain recognition from AFL club recruiters.

Full profiles for all the players mentioned below can be found in our AFL Draft Guide, which is free to download.

THE BOLTERS

STATE BY STATE

South Australia:

South Australia not only lays claim to arguably the biggest bolter of the lot this year, but potentially the biggest overall list of players who suit the category. Headlining the crop is of course South Adelaide wingman/forward Brayden Cook, who went from battling for gametime as a bottom-ager to earning a Reserves call-up early in 2020 and averaging two goals per game in the Under 18s. His nous close to goal and overhead marking ability proved to be game-winning traits for the Panthers this year, propelling Cook into first round contention.

Likely joining him in the top 25 are gun midfielders Tom Powell and Caleb Poulter, who were two of the most consistent ball winners in this year’s SANFL Under 18s. Powell is one of the finest exponents of the handball to come through the junior ranks and proved impossible to ignore on pure numbers in 2020. He was highly rated internally but hardly got the opportunity to show his wares in 2019, suffering multiple injury setbacks and having hip surgery in his bottom-age campaign. Poulter is somewhat of a late bloomer who has enormous upside and great presence on the field as a tall midfielder. His range of weapons include a raking left peg, clean hands, and the ability to play inside, out, and up forward.

Other top-agers in the extended conversation include Luke Pedlar, Malachy Carruthers, Phoenix Spicer, and Xavier Robins. All four earned national draft combine invites after promising seasons, with Pedlar one who has also recently garnered first round interest. The tough and explosive midfielder was a leader among the Glenelg and Prince Alfred College squads this year, before injury cut his campaign short. Defenders Carruthers and Robins both impressed during the school football season before returning to SANFL competitions, while Spicer caught the eye with his dash and x-factor playing on a wing for South Adelaide.

Last but not least are the mature-agers. Mitch Duval and Tom Highmore both earned draft combine invites and were the only prospects over 19 years of age to do so this year. Both read the play beautifully across half-back, mark well, and provide value on the rebound. Premiership Eagles James Rowe and Jacob Wehr will also attract interest. Rowe is a small forward with excellent smarts and natural ability, while Wehr is a rebounding defender with class who was struggling for Reserves games not too long ago.

Victoria:

Despite not getting the chance to put in a full top-age season, there are a bunch of Victorians that have put their hands up for draft bolter status with impressive preseason showings and testing performances. Hulking Sandringham Dragons ruck Max Heath is near the top of the pile after returning dominant trial games. He took on some stern advice after his bottom-age year and came back a different player, throwing his weight around as an aggressive tall who can impose himself on the contest.

Northern Knights product Liam Kolar is in a similar boat after his preseason efforts, making for a steep rise having come from a soccer and athletics background. The raw tall debuted late last year for the Knights but seemed to have hit new heights in 2020 with his speed-endurance mix and rate of development impressing onlookers all the way back in March. Matt Allison and Fraser Rosman are other dynamic talls with great athleticism and upside who have entered the conversation.

Sandringham not only lays claim to Heath in the bolter category, but has also seen the likes of Luke Cleary, Max Holmes, and Lachlan Carrigan burst onto the scene. All three come in at over 189cm and can play in multiple roles. Holmes is the son of Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Lee Naylor, while Carrigan’s genetics have seen him benefit from a massive growth spurt which has coincided with his overall footballing development as a wingman.

One who has come from arguably the furthest back is Corey Preston, who earned a draft combine invite this year despite not having yet made his NAB League debut. The 180cm Eastern Ranges graduate is a midfielder/forward with nice athletic traits. Speaking of, Oakleigh’s Conor Stone has really cemented himself among the top-end group of late. He booted five goals on his NAB League debut last year and was part of the Chargers’ premiership side.

Among the ranks in country regions, Geelong’s stacked top-age cohort includes the likes of Blake Reid and Charlie Ham. Reid did some impressive things last year as the Falcons struggled to string results together, while Ham is a late bloomer much like elder brother, Brayden of Essendon. Both players earned combine invites and performed well, just like new 2km time trial record holder Harry Sharp. The former steeplechaser was primed for a big year after showing nice glimpses as a hard working wingman/small forward for Greater Western Victoria.

Western Australia:

Much like the South Australian crop, those from the West have benefitted greatly from being able to prove their worth on-field in a compromised year. Even before then, 204cm Claremont ruck Kalin Lane loomed as a massive bolter in 2020 after being included in the West Australian academy hub. It came after just one bottom-age appearance and he repaid the faith with an outstanding top-age campaign at Colts level.

Isiah Winder also hit great heights this year and was a standout combine tester come season’s end. He earned plenty of plaudits for his breakout performance in last year’s WAFL Colts Grand Final and has since transitioned from a small forward role to impact through midfield and even earn a League debut with Peel Thunder. Along with Lane, he is a developmental option with plenty of desirable traits for his role.

Among the smokies to have come on strongly are Tyler Brockman and Jaiden Hunter. Brockman is an exciting small forward/midfielder with great speed and goal sense, while Hunter is a tall usually accustomed to key defensive duties, but made to take on Perth’s primary ruck role at 194cm. His athleticism and mobility are outstanding. Claremont pair Jack Avery and Logan Young also enjoyed stellar campaigns in 2020, with Avery a promising intercept defender, and Young a reliable midfield ball winner.

Featured Image: South Adelaide bolter Brayden Cook gets a kick away | Credit: Nick Hook/SANFL