Tag: northern academy

QAFL finals wrap: Cats’ Colts join Seniors in the big dance

GRAND finalists have been set across the QAFL Senior, Reserves, and Colts grades with Gold Coast clubs Labrador and Broadbeach represented across two of the three levels. The Cats will face Maroochydore in the senior decider after the Roos jumped minor premier Labrador in an epic comeback win, but the Tigers’ Reserves and Colts downed Palm Beach Currumbin (PBC) and Morningside respectively to set up final week appearances.

Maroochydore’s epic last gasp victory in the top flight sets up an intriguing grand final meeting with Broadbeach, who will be out to rectify last year’s loss to Morningside after earning the week off. The Roos got the jump with a five goals to one opening term but fell 18 points behind at half-time, and were 22 points down with less that 10 minutes left to play. As Labrador began to rest its guns, a five-goal swing ensued and the Roos saluted to the tune of 10 points, 13.10 (88) to 11.12 (78).

Sam McLaughlin was outstanding for the victors and slotted a key late major, as the likes of Michael Steven (four goals), Lochie Laing and Mitchell Scholard (both three) also found the big sticks throughout. Former-AFL Irishman Pearce Hanley booted five goals for Labrador, while Alex McKay played a key role through the engine room. From an Academy sense, products Mackenzie Riddle (Gold Coast) and Ben Thomas (Brisbane) featured for either side.

While the seniors were done-in, Labrador’s second side defeated PBC by 22 points to secure a spot in the grand final alongside Morningside. Minor premiers across both grades, the Tigers were able to convert on this occasion having set up an early buffer and lead at every break.

Northern Territory native and Gold Coast eligible tall Ned Stevens snared a goal in just his fourth game for the season, having battled a niggling groin injury. Fellow tall Thomas Hofert also got a run for the victors, along with 2002-born SUNS Academy products Bailey Reeves, James Smith, Shaye Walsh, and Riley Johnson. Top-ager Luke Coombes notched his 12th reserves game, while Brinn Little turned out for PBC.

In the Colts grade, Labrador will take on Broadbeach after the Cats downed Morningside on Saturday, restricting the second-ranked Panthers to just two goals from 11 scoring shots in a dominant 46-point victory. State Under 17 squad members Jared Eckersley and Kye Reynoldson were among the Cats’ best, while Cooper Parkes snared four majors in the win. For Morningside, representative selectees Harry Taylor, Thalayn Ryschka, and Bryce Longland all featured in their side’s final game for the season.

Image Credit: Brooke Sleep Photography via AFLQ

Ones to Watch: 2022 Northern Academy prospects

WITH the likes of Harris Andrews (Brisbane Lions), Jack Bowes (Gold Coast SUNS), Tom Green (GWS GIANTS), and Isaac Heeney (Sydney Swans) among the many great Northern Academy products, there are always prospects of note coming out of each region in an AFL Draft sense. While there may not be as many featuring at the top end of this year’s crop, there are still a bunch to consider and plenty more for the future. In a special Ones to Watch edition, we take a look at some of the Northern Academy talents to keep an eye on ahead of next year’s intake.

BRISBANE LIONS

Jaspa Fletcher

Fletcher has somewhat a double-link to the club, being not only an academy member but also a father-son prospect, with his father Adrian playing 107 games for the Brisbane Bears/Lions. Fletcher looms as one of the top Northern State talents heading into 2022, with his speed and class by foot two standout attributes in his game. Fletcher is also extremely versatile, able to fill a role up either end, on a wing or right in the thick of things in the engine room, giving whichever team he plays for a lot of options.

Riley McMillan

A creative player in the forward half of the ground, McMillan has a lot of tricks to win the ball and get himself out of congestion, combining his speed and agility to get clear from opponents and then use the ball well by foot to get it to his teammates. When McMillan has run through the midfield, his positioning around stoppages has been consistently good, with his clean hands in close a crafty weapon.

Bailey Tome

A hard at it inside ball winner, Tome is the type of hard-working midfielder that makes life easier for the outside runners. With impressive movement that allows him to keep up with most opponents and be able to tackle as soon as they grab the ball, it is not uncommon to see Tome lay three or four tackles in a short period, as is his relentless approach.

Others:

Ravi Schofield is an exciting forward that can pinch hit in the midfield and use his athleticism as a weapon. Benjamin McCarthy plays as a reliable defender who can also fill a role forward. Liam McNeil and Thalayn Ryschka are two impressive ruck options for 2022. Will Ashcroft, whilst not an academy prospect, is tied to the club via father-son rules as the son of Marcus. He looks an early top five contender and is currently plying his trade for the Sandringham Dragons at NAB League level.

GOLD COAST SUNS

Jared Eckersley

A high-leaping running defender, Eckersley is another Broadbeach product that was able to impact at Under 19’s level in 2021. He was consistently a roadblock to opposition attacks, contesting well with his spoiling and rebounding effectively with his long kick to get his side back in its front half from defensive 50. 

Cody Harrington

Utilising his speed and smarts, Harrington is a constant danger in the forward half of the ground and can hurt the opposition in plenty of ways. Coming from talent factory Broadbeach, whilst Harrington is more than capable of playing a traditional small forward role, he’s an aerial and one-on-one marking threat, making him a difficult match up for one defender to deal with. To go with all this, Harrington is also a solid tackler, taking opponents down more often than not when he gets a hold. Harrington is a goal sneak as well, able to kick them from anywhere or set them up by hitting teammates with his deadly kick. 

Campbell Lake

Popping up all over the ground regardless of his starting position, Lake is a hard working midfielder with genuine will to run both ways and win the football. A Labrador product, Lake combines this work-rate with quality disposal, particularly when heading inside 50, often looking to hit up leading forwards or putting it where he wants them to go.

Others:

Levi Fyffe and Joshua Young are high leaping and exciting forwardline targets who have formed a dangerous duo when playing together, with the two often working up the ground as well to be link up options. Kye Reynoldson is a winger who can also play half-back that turns opponents inside out with his evasiveness, and possesses a penetrating kick. Taine Dawson rotates between the forward line and the ruck, with some impressive speed off the mark and a high leap that makes him a danger around the ground.

GWS GIANTS

Angus Curry

Currently boarding as Wesley College, Curry has had a few more chances to impress than a lot of other Northern Academy prospects for 2022; playing for Wesley, Oakleigh Chargers in the Under 17 series and the GWS Academy at different times. Curry doesn’t let his shorter stature hold him back, showing a lot of tenacity with his approach to contests and tackles, but also balancing that with quality ball use when he wins it.

Luke Lawrence

Looming as a dangerous midfielder that can rest forward in the future, Lawrence has made the most of his limited appearances in 2021 – including a three-goal haul in his only NAB League appearance. Mostly playing through the midfield through the academy series, Lawrence’s ability to get away from, or around, opponents with his speed and agility is eye catching, while his ability to find the right handball option in close most impressive.

Dayne Posthuma

Posthuma is a no fuss tall defender, remaining consistently accountable for his own opponent whilst drifting across and intercepting in front of contests to aid his teammates. The 197cm Queanbeyan product has a good leap and read of the ball, as well as a deceiving amount of speed, where he usually follows up with clean ball use.

Others:

Nick Madden is a strong bodied ruck who is already 203cm and is strong one-on-one, providing headaches for opposition as he positions down the line to take intercept marks. Harry Rowston is an in and under midfielder that can be damaging with his disposal, able to get through traffic and provide second efforts. Nathan Battaglia provides an athletic option up forward capable of getting high on opposition shoulders with plenty more to work with going into the future.

SYDNEY SWANS

Tye Gander

An athletic medium forward option, Gander is electric around the contest and even more exciting when leading up at the footy, getting on an opponents’ shoulders without putting a hand on them and sticking high marks or selling candy to open up more space, Gander is capable of it all. His leap is such a strength it is not uncommon to see him rotate through the ruck and win some contests, then follow up his own tap at ground level.

Billy King

A physically imposing but also athletic ruck and forward option, King wins most ruck contests he attends; able to out-body opponents well, but just as capable of leaping over them even when giving up a little bit of height. What makes King so dangerous is his strong marking when resting forward and good leading patterns, making him a danger when he gets on the move inside 50.

Joshua Nicholls

With a nice bit of speed to help him, Nicholls can fill in role up either end, on a wing or even through the midfield, applying the same level of intent to win the ball and use it. A jack of all trades type, Nicholls is good across the board with his skills and footy IQ, making him particularly dangerous when given the freedom to roam around the ground and impact where he sees fit.

Others:

William Sabolch is a solid defender that can run through the midfield, with his ball use particularly impressive out of the back half and resulting in a lot of attacking plays. Bililign Robertson plays mostly on a wing but is more than comfortable in congestion where he can find a backwards handball option, whilst Christian Webster is a taller option that can play up either end with a good mark. Indhi Kirk, the oldest child of Brett, is also in the academy and possesses some impressive tricks as a small forward, whilst fellow club legend Michael O’Loughlin has had his nephew TJ Speedy Coe recently switch across from rugby, bringing a lot of speed and excitement to the forwardline.

QAFL Player Focus: Bodhi Uwland (Broadbeach)

EXCITING Gold Coast SUNS Academy talent Bodhi Uwland returned to the QAFL Seniors grade on Saturday, lining up in defence as Broadbeach downed Labrador to book a grand final spot. A high flier who chimes in with eye-catching intercepts, Uwland has represented the SUNS Academy at NAB League level and got six VFL games under his belt in 2021. His form saw him named as Gold Coast’s male academy player of the year, having previously earned Allies and National Draft Combine selection.

We put Uwland’s semi-final performance under the Player Focus microscope this week, breaking down his game quarter-by-quarter.

>> Up the Grades: Prospects playing senior footy

POCKET PROFILE

Bodhi Uwland
Broadbeach/SUNS Academy/Allies

DOB: 25/07/2003 (18)
Height/Weight: 185cm/84kg
Position: Medium Defender/Midfielder

Strengths: Vertical leap, intercept marking, kick penetration

2021 Averages:

VFL: 6 games | 12.5 disposals | 4.0 marks | 1.8 tackles | 0.7 inside 50s | 1.7 rebound 50s | 0.1 goals (1 total)
NAB League: 2 games | 24.0 disposals | 4.5 marks | 5.5 tackles | 5.0 inside 50s | 3.5 rebound 50s | 1.5 goals (3)

2021 QAFL Seniors, Semi-Final 1 | Labrador 9.13 (67) def. by Broadbeach 9.17 (71)

#40 Bodhi Uwland (Broadbeach)

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1

Looking to make good on his call-up from the Reserves, Uwland started brightly with his most productive quarter in terms of pure numbers. He was stationed in a familiar defensive post but roamed high up the field, tracking his opponent and taking up aggressive positions behind the ball.

A capable intercept marker, Uwland was sometimes caught out when looking to intercept, running under the ball as the seniors moved it a touch further and more efficiently to start off. It meant he had to rove front and centre at times, rather than flying for marks.

One of his forays up the ground ended in a score, as Uwland snuck free in the corridor to mark uncontested, before moving straight on and unleashing a shot with bounced over the back for a behind. He looked to use that booming kick up the other end too, launching a kick-in to half-back with good penetration.

Uwland was overall quite effective with his ball use, notching three kicks and two handballs including one breach of either arc to showcase his ability to impact on the attack.

Q2

The second quarter was easily Uwland’s most quiet, as essentially all of his work was done without the footy. He again tracked the play all the way up to his attacking half and helped set a high line for Broadbeach’s defensive press, but could have been a touch more urgent on the way back.

Uwland did make some better follow-up efforts as the term wore on though, laying tackles which interrupted a couple of quick Labrador breaks in transition. In a ball winning sense, that reaction-based movement meant he saw less of it, despite working into space on the outer.

Q3

Uwland came back relatively well in term three after a quiet second quarter, picking up four kicks, two marks, and a couple of rebound 50s as his booming kick came to the fore from defence.

He positioned a little deeper and was made to do some defensive chasing, including one effort to pressure Pearce Hanley inside defensive 50 which showed he was warming well to the finals intensity.

His two marks were taken uncontested, but Uwland looked to move the ball on quickly with one, kicking laterally to the wing, while the other was sent long down the line to a contest. Uwland got similar meterage with another kick-in and overall produced a handy period of play as Broadbeach fought off Labrador’s run of play.

Q4

Uwland again did not see as much of the ball as Broadbeach got back on top for the win, but he popped up with an absolutely clutch tackle late in the piece. He also finally got a good run at the aerial ball, launching in packs to impact a couple of opposition set shots which fell short.

His highlight for the day was the aforementioned tackle, which may well have been a goalsaving one at half-back as Labrador surged through the corridor and looked to be headed deep inside 50. With his couple of disposals, Uwland was again effective and played the percentages, rounding out a promising performance as the Cats held on for a spot in the decider.

Rogers looks towards Gulden source of inspiration

THE Sydney Swans Academy has been a raging success for the New South Wales-based club, producing the likes of Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills, and most recently Errol Gulden and Braeden Campbell. It means the next generation of Swans stars never have to look far for inspiration, with the visual of their elders’ journeys serving as a clear pathway to the top.

For current Academy member Felix Rogers, that pathway has taken on a varied route but still holds some influence from closer to home. The small midfielder-forward is crafty with ball in hand and has little trouble finding it, much like one of the Swans’ most recent Academy graduates.

“I’d say someone who I’ve really moulded my game on pretty recently is Errol Gulden,” Rogers said. “He was only a year ahead of me in the academy. I played and trained with him and was always underneath him in that role as the link forward or midfielder. “My biggest strengths would be my kicking and that kicking leading to goals… this year I played on-ball and drifted forward again, I think another strength which showed was my ability to find the footy pretty well.

“(Tackling) is a part of my game I can improve. “Definitely because I’m shorter than the average AFL player, that’s always looked upon as a bit of a weakness but I guess it’s not the size of the dog in the fight.”

Born in London, Rogers moved to Australia with his family at age four, only picking up the native football code when he was about 10. After missing the cut in his first crack at entering the Swans Academy, the 18-year-old has been there ever since and yielded some terrific honours en route to Allies squad selection this season.

“I only really started playing AFL when I was about 10 and really, really got into it,” Rogers said. “I was playing (European) football up until then, obviously coming from England. “Outside of the Swans Academy, I’ve gone through my local club which is Willoughby Wildcats, then into (AFL Sydney) Premier League with the North Shore Bombers.

“(NSW-ACT) Rams was great fun for Under 16s. We were up on the Gold Coast and had a pretty good team. I played pretty decent in that carnival but ended up doing my shoulder at the end of it, in the last game against Tasmania. Ever since then I’ve had to get that right and I was lucky enough to have it ready and okay this year. “That lead me into a couple of good NAB League games for the Swans and lead into Allies selection which was my goal all year round. I was super ecstatic to make the squad. It’s just unfortunate that’s looking more and more unlikely to go ahead.”

While currently in lockdown and pondering the “what ifs” of season 2021, Rogers still managed to produce some blistering form when allowed on the park. He got a taste for senior football with four games in Sydney’s Premier Division and turned out in a VFL scratch match, while also averaging 28.3 disposals, 6.7 inside 50s and booting four goals across three NAB League outings.

“I think I’ve probably had one of my better years to date,” he said. “For me, this year’s kind of been a bit of a ‘wonder if?’. “Had the Swans had five more games where I kept up the numbers I had, could I be in a lot better position to try and get myself drafted? “Had the Swans not finished up so early and COVID not interrupted, would I have gotten games for the Allies?

“This was my first year of senior footy. It was good fun, it’s a good group and it’s really interesting to play with bigger bodies. “It’s not as fleet-footed as NAB League games and what-not but it’s an interesting dynamic.”

Having been immersed in the Sydney pathway program for many years now, Rogers is an avid Swans supporter and says landing at his home club would be his “first choice”, but is happy to land just about anywhere at the end of this “crazy” year.

The budding draft prospect is also completing his Year 12 studies online with sights studying business and law alongside football next year. As for his escapes from “repetitive” lockdown living, Rogers has gotten into golf. A stint on the Gold Coast also helped him focus on football and get out of the current bubble.

“I’m big time into my golf, that’s my hobby outside of AFL,” he said. “It’s a bit hard with all the time it takes up but I find that a good release from footy and from school. “Day to day is very repetitive. I’ve still got online classes so I try and do a bit of exercise in and around them – go to the little home gym we have here and go for a kick or go for a run. It’s hard to try and keep that routine but it’s definitely valuable, especially with the small chance of Allies games still going ahead.

“I was in the Gold Coast about a month ago. “I lived up there and was training with the Suns Academy for a bit and played a VFL game. “That was a good experience and that was a bit of an escape from COVID lockdown which was lovely and meant I could focus on my footy a bit more as well.”

With such a series of experiences comes some important mentors too, from those who have nurtured Rogers through the Swans Academy, to others who have come in and guided him more recently.

Jared Crouch, Chris Smith, and Nick Davis at the Academy have been phenomenal,” he said. “They help us in every facet of the game. I think another key mentor for me only really came this year and that was Lloyd Perris. He used to be in the academy system and played with Isaac Heeney. He’s now our North Shore Bombers coach, he knows all about the system and has been very good with me and trying to help forge a path.”

While overlooked for the initial National Combine intake, Rogers caught the eye this year and if there is anything his journey through the Swans’ pathway has shown, it’s that he can overcome early obstacles to produce great things.

Draft Central Power Rankings: September 2021

IT has been a long wait, but the Draft Central Power Rankings are back for another edition. The September update sees our list of top prospects stretched to 30 after a last-gasp National Championships fixture and some handy showings from rising stars amid the on-again, off-again nature of season 2021. While changes are scarce at the top-end, there are six fresh faces among the overall intake and a couple of notable risers who continue to garner attention.

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

>> 2021 AFL Draft Combine List: 90 prospects earn invites

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

August Ranking: #1

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 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. The Magpies are in for a rare talent.

Last month:

In what was a quiet month for Victoria’s metropolitan prospects, Daicos still managed to dominate headlines. The father-son candidate officially nominated Collingwood as his destination of choice, committing two years on top of his original starting contract as he waits to join the senior squad in November. He looks a lock to be bid on with one of the first two picks.

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

Nick Daicos on the ball for Oakleigh Chargers

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

August Ranking: #2

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

Heralded as the clear number one choice coming into 2021, Horne-Francis retained his crown for our first two rankings updates. 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 18 in June, Horne-Francis 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 well in contention for number one status.

Last month:

We got to see some of Horne-Francis’ blinding best during August, as two of his four SANFL League appearances yielded high level returns. He kicked off the month with 22 disposals and three goals against Central District, before bookending it with 24 disposals, five clearances, seven tackles, nine inside 50s and a goal against West Adelaide. In between those outings, he also skippered South Australia’s Under 19 squad. While down on his usual lofty standards, Horne-Francis spent plenty of time forward and made his presence felt – particularly during a productive final quarter.

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

Jason Horne-Francis captaining South Australia | Credit: SANFL

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

August Ranking: #3

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 clean kicking, and seems to manufacture time on the ball in the clinches.

Last month:

While there ended up being no football for Victoria’s metropolitan regions, Callaghan was arguably set for a pretty steady August in any case. The smooth mover was due to return from a foot injury which kept him from representative honours in July, but can now rest up ahead of the combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Callaghan vs. Sinn

Finn Callaghan in Vic Metro colours

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

August Ranking: #4

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 three candidate on potential and the clear best tall in the draft, with his versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy initially impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck at NAB League level, but went on to consolidate his top-end credentials with outstanding performances up forward. Bulldogs fans, you have another key position jet on the radar.

Last month:

Another Vic Metro prospect who did not get on the park in August due to a lack of NAB League and APS football, Darcy remains in top three contention and like Daicos, will inevitably attract a very early bid.

Sam Darcy is the leading tall in this year’s crop

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

August Ranking: #5

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 had an interrupted start to his 2021 campaign due to injury, but has well and truly proved his top 10 credentials since getting back on the park. 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 soon-to-be 18-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and has taken full toll with dominant numbers upon his return to action.

Last month:

Victoria’s Country regions briefly got back on the park in August, and Hobbs managed to sneak in a couple of outstanding performances for his GWV Rebels. Consistent as ever, he racked up 34 and 32 disposals across the two games while also finding the goals in each. Hobbs’ hard edge, ball winning ability, and reliability continue to be his key strengths, despite both of his August outings resulting in losses.

>> NAB League POTW: Round 9

Ben Hobbs kicks Vic Country forward

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

August Ranking: #7

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.

Once again, 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:

Like Hobbs, Gibcus got on the park for a couple more appearances in GWV colours. He was also consistent in his output, managing 12 and 13 disposals in the respective losses, while also rising for three marks in both games. The tall talent may be quiet at times, but has terrific upside and some eye-catching strengths across the backline.

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

August Ranking: #6

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

Another key position talent who rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew is well and truly out of reach for Melbourne as a Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate by now. He currently sits inside the top 20 group quite unanimously, 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 NGA talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap and clean follow-up work stands out.

Last month:

While considered a Country region, much of Dandenong’s list lies within the Metro ring and thus, the Stingrays’ last game came on August 1. Andrew was afield for the loss to Eastern Ranges, notching 17 disposals, four marks and 16 hitouts. He looked quite raw and struggled for footing at times, but popped up with a couple of typically impressive overhead marks as he rotated forward from the ruck.

>> ‘Rays on the rise

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

August Ranking: #8

Snapshot: A classy midfielder who is consistently 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 well among the 2021 crop’s first round bracket. 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 won the same honours this year as a rising draft eligible Under 19 talent.

Last month:

Like many of his Metro-based counterparts, Ward did not see any action over the last month due to a lack of APS and NAB League competition.

Josh Ward captained Vic Metro this year

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

August Ranking: #9

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

Arguably Western Australia’s leading prospect, Erasmus has built on the promise he showed in last year’s WAFL Colts grand final which saw him come into 2021 as a first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 decider, showcasing 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:

Western Australia’s vice-captain returned emphatically via the state side at the end of July during trials, but did not get to take the field in last week’s National Championships bout. The Hale School skipper sustained a corked thigh in his August 14 PSA outing and played the next week despite it, but saw said injury flare up just before he was set for representative duties. Erasmus was brave in his school outings as he endured the knock, impacting as one of his side’s best players with more time up forward. He has not played in any WAFL grade since May, and may well have played his last game for the year – pending another state Under 19s clash.

>> WA U19s Player Focus: Neil Erasmus

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

August Ranking: #10

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

Sonsie has been on the sidelines since late-June due to injury, sustaining bone bruising in the second half of Eastern’s Round 9 loss to Sandringham. He was thus ruled out of Vic Metro duties in July, and did not manage to get on the park last month with metropolitan NAB League regions out of action.

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

#11 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Defender/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg

August Ranking: #11

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 most damaging 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 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 looked close to regaining top form at times.

Last month:

Injured during the final term of July’s Victorian Challenge Match, Sinn was set to make his return in the back-end of the NAB League season. With that now scrapped for Metro regions, he can look forward to turning out at the Draft Combine.

>> Compare the Pair: Sinn vs. Callaghan

Josh Sinn carries the ball forward for Sandringham Dragons

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

August Ranking: #13

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:

The Murray Bushrangers only played once, at the very start of August but had the bye during the competition’s mid-month return. Rachele did not turn out in the aforementioned fixture, and his three-goal APS dig with Caulfield Grammar on July 31 was his last outing.

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

August Ranking: #14

Snapshot: Draper is a classy midfielder-forward who utilises his agility in tight spaces through 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 all three SANFL grades 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 will feature highly on many draft boards despite being snubbed by the AFL Academy, and has great upside in his current role.

Last month:

Draper returned from injury through the Reserves last month, with his 14 disposals and four clearances enough to earn a League debut the following week. He looked classy in possession while averaging 11 disposals and five marks in his two top flight appearances, before turning out for South Australia in the Under 19 championships fixture. The first round talent was a touch down on his usual output but did some nice things rotating through midfield from the forwardline. He then dropped back down to Under 18s level, producing 24 disposals, five marks and six clearances in a finals loss to West Adelaide.

>> SANFL U18s Player Focus
>> Feature

#14 Jye Amiss
East Perth/Western Australia | Tall Forward
31/07/2003 | 195cm | 85kg 

August Ranking: #19

Snapshot:

You’ll hear plenty of puns regarding the key forward’s ironic surname but it’s true that Amiss is more hit than, well, miss. The East Perth spearhead has dominated the 2021 WAFL Colts season thus far, booting 51 goals in 13 games with a ridiculously good conversion rate of 78 per cent from his scoring shots. He proved undeniable for selection in a West Australian state squad stacked with key position talent, and doesn’t need a wealth of opportunities to make an impact. With sound overhead marking and an improving ground level game, Amiss is an irresistible threat inside attacking 50. He bolted into our rankings with a debut inside the top 20, and makes another move having excelled on the big stage.

Last month:

Amiss has skyrocketed into top 15 contention over the last two months, with his latest patch of form only consolidating said status. He started out with 18 disposals, 11 marks and six goals against the bottom WAFL Colts side after starring in state trials, before snaring two goals on each side of his National Championships outing. As WA’s spearhead, Amiss snared two goals and passed off some gettable opportunities in a terrific display where he constantly found separation on the lead, marked cleanly overhead, and kicked a highlight reel goal.

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

August Ranking: #12

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

Another member of South Adelaide’s football factory, Roberts’ form over the last few seasons has seen him prove difficult to deny of first round contention. 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 18-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, 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:

Like South Adelaide teammate Draper, Roberts returned from injury through the Reserves where his 18 disposals and five marks were enough to yield a League call-up. He had not trouble finding the ball with 20 disposals and seven inside 50s in his game back in the top flight, before kicking two goals from 13 touches on the other side of his National Championships appearance. Roberts found indifferent form in said fixture, putting in a shift during term two to keep SA in the contest, but proving a touch scrappy with his disposal at times. He found plenty, nonetheless and continues to put up strong numbers.

>> Q&A
>> Feature
>> SANFL League Player Focus

Matthew Roberts gets a kick away | Credit: Nick Hook Photography

#16 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Outside Midfielder/Defender
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg

August Ranking: #16

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 20, 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 had only just cracked Sandringham’s stacked midfield in a bid to showcase his balance, having lacked continuity while battling a knee injury earlier in his campaign.

Last month:

Another who was primed to impress in the back-end of the year, Chesser did not get the chance to prove his worth given the lack of APS and metropolitan NAB League football. He already missed a chunk of time earlier in the year having undergone knee surgery, but will be preparing for the Draft Combine.

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

August Ranking: #17

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

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, pinch-hit up forward, and has proven his class off half-back. He is another who stakes his claim on high upside.

Last month:

Goater technically made an appearance in August, albeit on the first day as his Calder Cannons beat the Murray Bushrangers. The talented utility continued to showcase his versatility, starring in defence with 28 disposals, 11 marks and eight rebound 50s before Metro regions again went into lockdown. His intercept marking ability and clean kicking skills proved weaponous.

#18 Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera
Glenelg/South Australia | Wing
22/02/2003 | 188cm | 70kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A smooth-moving wingman with plenty of tricks, Wanganeen-Milera can carve up the opposition with his combination of agility and elite decision making by foot.

Wanganeen-Milera comes from good pedigree as the nephew of Gavin Wanganeen and son of Terry Milera, but is blazing his own trail en route to first round contention. Class is the word which often comes up when describing the flying Glenelg wingman, as he dances around opposition players and delivers pin-point passes by foot. The 18-year-old started out in the Bays’ Reserves team this year but has since made an impact at League level, and was a late call-up to the AFL Academy squad in April. He has proven one of the most exciting draft prospects to watch over the last two months, performing well against high levels of competition and holding his own. The scary thing is, he still has plenty of room to grow and improve.

Last month:

While he made his SANFL League debut in July, Wanganeen-Milera made arguably his biggest impact in August. He kicked a clutch goal in Glenelg’s dramatic win over Norwood, and booted another major from 13 disposals the next week before slotting into South Australia’s Under 19 state squad. He was a standout at that level, tearing up the wing and oozing class with each disposal to thrust his name into top 15 calculations. His last outing was back in the League grade, managing nine touches as Glenelg lost its first game for the season on the eve of finals.

>> SANFL Player Focus

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

August Ranking: #15

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 skills 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:

Johnson turned out for back-to-back games in the WAFL Reserves grade to start the month, returning mixed results. While he was quiet with seven touches in his first dig, the tall midfielder backed it up with 22 disposals and 10 marks to showcase the range between his best and worst form. He had previously proven all class against his peers though, and that was no different as he represented WA in last week’s National Championships showcase. Running through midfield, Johnson’s kicking was outstanding and he proved a top level type with ball-in-hand.

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

August Ranking: #18

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:

Like many of his Metro-based Victorian counterparts, Wilmot’s last game came on August 1. The speedy half-back was one of Northern’s best in a home loss to Bendigo, contributing 16 disposals, four rebound 50s, and plenty of run out of the back half. A vocal kind of leader, he also read the play well and got behind his teammates with great voice. There have, unfortunately, been no opportunities since.

Darcy Wilmot on the fly for Northern Knights

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

August Ranking: #20

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 35 goals in 12 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 continues to prove an ominous type at WAFL Colts level, consistently kicking multiple goals and dominating in the air. He booted eight goals from a combined 29 disposals and 13 marks in his two games in the lead up to state Under 19 representation, before returning with another three majors from 17 touches and nine marks last week. In his National Championships outing, Williams showed promising signs up forward and found the big sticks, but could have ended up with more had he converted and stuck even more overhead marks inside 50.

#22 Sam Butler
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
10/02/2003 | 184cm | 73kg

August Ranking: #24

Snapshot: Butler has wonderfully clean hands and burning pace, traits which have translated well from an initial forward role, to a more recent midfield venture.

Another prospect with ties at the elite level, Butler is the brother of St Kilda forward, Dan. He is an exciting player in his own right though, with sharp skills by hand and a terrific turn of speed which serve him well in a creative sense. Having proved himself in the forward half, Butler went on to impress with his clean ball winning ability in midfield before injury struck. He missed out on representing Vic Country as an Under 19 having done so at Under 16s level, but is a player who catches the eye and would have been a lock for said honours if the opportunity presented once again.

Last month:

While Butler was steady with 10 disposals and 1.2 in his August 1 outing upon returning from injury, he built back to form in his next appearance. Turning out in a loss against Gippsland, the midfielder-forward racked up 27 disposals and four marks to be one of the Rebels’ better players on the day, before all Victorians were sent back into the current state of lockdown.

>> NAB League Player Focus

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

August Ranking: #21

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 top 25 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 against Geelong VFL.

Last month:

The sole NSW-ACT representative on this list, Fahey has also been impacted by lockdown over the last month but managed to sneak in a senior game. He turned out for local, AFL Canberra First Grade outfit, Queanbeyan on August 7 and produced the goods. Fahey snared three goals and was among the Tigers’ best players in a 129-point win over Gungahlin. Opportunities continue to prove scarce though, unfortunately.

>> Feature

#24 Tom Brown
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Medium Defender
30/07/2003 | 186cm | 71kg

August Ranking: #22

Snapshot: A dashing half-back with terrific athleticism in the form of speed and a vertical leap, Brown is a bolting talent who you’ll likely miss if you blink.

While Geelong gained access to sister, Millie via father-daughter rules, Tom Brown is ineligible to be drafted by the Cats under the father-son category as his father Paul falls just short of the 100-game qualification. Nonetheless, the Murray Bushrangers prospect has plenty of eye-catching traits which will help him blaze his own trail. A Vic Country Under 16 and now Under 19 representative, Brown is capable of playing on each line but looks to have found a home across half-back, where his dashing style and overhead marking shine. An ankle injury kept him out for a large chunk of the season, but he since returned and looked raring to break into first round contention.

Last month:

As has proven a repeated tale for Victorians on this list, Brown only managed one NAB League outing in August. He was steady with 12 disposals, two marks and three tackles in Murray’s low-scoring loss to Calder at the start of the month, but has not had any further opportunities to impress with no APS competition, and the Bushranger’s bye on August 15.

#25 Zac Taylor
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Small Midfielder/Forward
31/01/2003 | 180cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A crafty small prospect with outstanding vision, skills and decision making, Taylor has no trouble finding the ball and makes things happen when in possession.

A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Taylor proved undeniable for repeat honours in the Under 19 grade this year given his outstanding NAB League form. The 180cm midfielder-forward combines toughness with high level smarts; not afraid to work hard to win his own ball, but most effective when able to accumulate and tear sides apart with his sharp skills. The 18-year-old has a great turn of speed and looks to be creative with each possession, breaking into space with his zip before hitting targets further afield. He is particularly reliable by foot and puts up ultra-consistent numbers each week, making him a deserved entrant to the top 25 up our September update.

Last month:

There has been no NAB League action for Metro prospects past August 1, but Taylor made than lone appearance count after impressing at representative level. He racked up a whopping 37 disposals, four marks and four inside 50s in a tight win against Murray on that day, having built into a ridiculous strong vein of form.

>> NAB League Round 15 POTW

Zac Taylor is a crafty user of the ball

#26 Blake Howes
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Wing

7/04/2003 | 190cm | 79kg

August 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.

While unranked last month, Howes is one who previously featured in our top 25 and is a player who should be well known to keen draft watchers. He was an All Australian at Under 16 level, plying his trade as a high-marking medium 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:

It was unlucky for a player like Howes that the latest lockdown came, given he had been building into some really promising form for Sandringham Dragons up on the wing. He notched 20 disposals and two goals against strong opposition in GWV on August 1, continuing to show his potential and genuine upside.

#27 Mitch Knevitt
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
8/01/2003 | 193cm | 81kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A big-bodied midfielder with great size and reach, Knevitt dominates at the coalface and impacts around the ground with his strong overhead marking, a feature also sighted up forward.

One who was marked by his teammates as one to watch during preseason, Knevitt has taken full advantage of finally getting the opportunity to impress with some outstanding form in 2021. The 193cm midfielder provides range and size which proves difficult to combat at the coalface, as he digs in to win contested ball and stands up in tackles while dishing it out. The Geelong Falcons product is also developing his outside game and is athletically sound, getting to more contests around the ground and making an impact with his contested marking. He fits the modern day midfielder-forward prototype given his built and ability, with the performances to match his potential now coming to the fore.

Last month:

Knevitt had been building ominous form before the latest Victorian hiatus, with his sole outing in August an absolute blinder. The big-bodied midfielder dominated with 36 disposals, 10 marks, eight inside 50s and a goal against the Bendigo Pioneers, steering Geelong to victory in his most complete performance yet. He had also put in a massive shift in late-July and was impressive at representative level, helping him climb into top 30 range.

>> NAB League Player Focus
>> NAB League Round 16 POTW

#28 Judson Clarke
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Small Forward/Midfielder
17/10/2003 | 179cm | 69kg

August Ranking: #25

Snapshot: Clarke is a zippy small forward/midfielder who can light up the game in a flash with his forward run, tricky agility, and eye for goal.

While his exploits were on full show earlier in the year, Clarke stamped his credentials with a breakout performance in the Under 19 Victorian trials, bagging five goals in a starring display. The crafty Dandenong Stingrays product represented Vic Country at Under 16 level and continues to show promising glimpses both in the NAB League and at school footy level. He is nimble in possession with a mix of speed and agility, and looks to make things happen in the front half with creative energy and smarts at the fall of the ball. Clarke often finishes his work with spearing left-foot kicks, making for an exciting package as far as small prospects go. While he can roll through midfield, the 17-year-old looks most damaging up forward and can cement his spot here with more eye-catching big game showings.

Last month:

The Yarra Valley Grammar student had his last outing on July 30, playing against Peninsula Grammar in the AGSV football competition. As a result, he missed out on Dandenong’s August 1 bout and was then impacted by Victoria’s restrictions on metropolitan areas.

#29 Jesse Motlop (FRE NGA)
South Fremantle/Western Australia | Small Forward/Midfielder
23/11/2003 | 176cm | 74kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: A highly skilled small forward with great goal sense, speed and smarts, Motlop comes from good pedigree and can make his presence known in a flash.

Another player with ties to the elite level, Motlop is the son of former Port Adelaide and North Melbourne forward Daniel, but is ineligible for father-son selection. He is part of Fremantle’s NGA, though it will be difficult for the Dockers to secure his services via bidding as Metro-based WA prospects can only be matched on with a bid after pick 40. To any club, Motlop offers an exciting mix of speed and skill as a small forward, able to find the goals regularly with clever finishes while also providing forward pressure. An Aquinas College student, he topped the PSA goalkicking charts last year as a bottom-ager and has cracked the WAFL League grade this season, spending more time in midfield against his peers.

Last month:

Motlop capped off a strong PSA football season with Aquinas College in August, spending more time in midfield after his forward feats in Year 11. He then turned out for Western Australia in last week’s National Championships fixture, snaring a classy small forward’s goal and showing flashes of his brilliance. Upon returning to the WAFL League grade, Motlop booted 2.2 from 13 disposals in a productive display as South Fremantle downed West Coast. He is well poised to now feature in the Bulldogs’ finals campaign.

#30 Jacob van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Defender
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg

August Ranking: NR

Snapshot: van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands and a booming kick, but has also shown great potential as a swingman and even in midfield.

Having been earmarked as potentially Western Australia’s best tall prospect coming into the season, van Rooyen has overcome some adversity en route to recapturing his best form. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games as a bottom-ager. 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 halted his progress a touch, but van Rooyen started out the season at League level and has shown he is physically a level above the Colts grade.

Last month:

van Rooyen was in serious form heading into last week’s National Championships showcase, booting 11.5 from a combined 44 disposals and 16 marks in two WAFL Colts appearances. Having starred in his usual forward post with all the physicality expected of him, van Rooyen translated that form to a defensive swing for WA’s Under 19 side. He was exceptional against South Australia, helping out on the last line and popping up as an aerial force to clunk multiple intercept marks. He was more steady with seven touches and two goals in his latest Colts dig, but has proven his swingman credentials.

>> WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 8

Jacob van Rooyen is a powerful prospect | Credit: Claremont Football Club

IN THE MIX:

West Australian midfielder Josh Browne is the only player who comes out of last month’s list of 25, but remains around the mark in an even bunch having returned to his ball winning best post-injury. East Fremantle teammate Corey Warner has produced an eye-catching season in the APS and at League level, while intercept marking machine Rhett Bazzo came into consideration after his outstanding National Championships performance for WA. Claremont ruck-forward Eric Benning has also put his hand up of late, but Fremantle fans will want to keep the athletic bigman’s potential on the down-low.

Fellow tall Toby Conway is arguably the best pure ruck of this year’s crop and has hardly put a foot wrong when given the chance. Sandringham Dragons and St Kilda NGA pair Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens have also risen into second round calculations on the back of their desirable traits, while midfielders Connor Macdonald and Jake Soligo are consistent performers who earned representative honours this year.

Over in South Australia, Cooper Murley remains unlucky having again been sidelined through injury (collarbone), but has serious talent. North Adelaide accumulator Hugh Jackson put up some extraordinary early-season numbers and made his Reserves debut last week, with Port Adelaide father-son Jase Burgoyne continues to perform and state Under 19 vice-captain Lewis Rayson was a member of our top 25 earlier in the year.

Up the Grades: Which youngsters cracked senior footy?

WITH finals time finally upon us in state leagues around the nation, there are plenty of budding AFL Draft prospects who are stepping up on the big stage. In a look Up the Grades, we highlight some of the National Combine invitees, state squad members, and academy products who plied their trade at senior level this past weekend.

A talented quartet of South Australian Under 19 representatives plied their trade in the SANFL top flight this past weekend, headlined by pick one contender Jason Horne-Francis. After a relatively quiet National Championships dig by his lofty standards, the explosive midfielder-forward sent a reminder of his talents with 24 disposals, five clearances, nine inside 50s and a goal as the Panthers downed West Adelaide. Matthew Roberts also featured as South secured finals, snaring two goals from 13 disposals.

First round bolter Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera also returned to the League grade, though his Glenelg side lost its first game for the season right on the eve of finals. The 18-year-old wingman notched nine disposals and four marks for the Bays. Elsewhere, top-ager Max Litster was productive on debut with 23 touches and seven marks as Woodville-West Torrens trounced Central District. Raw Bulldogs defender and combine invitee Leek Alleer took two marks from eight disposals, while Tasmanian Oliver Davis (16 disposals) turned out for Adelaide’s last game of the season – a loss to Norwood.

There were a few more debuts in the Reserves, including North Adelaide midfield pair Hugh Jackson and Harvey Harrison. Both managed 11 disposals with the latter, an emergency for last week’s championships clash, also kicking a goal. Under 18s skipper and Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate Blayne O’Loughlin also featured for the Roosters, who beat Sturt.

The Double Blues were served well by state vice-captain Mani Liddy (26 disposals, eight clearances) who is in good touch, while Zac Becker also built on his representative form with 22 touches and a whopping 13 rebound 50s in the loss. Up the other end, it was a quieter day for fellow tall Morgan Ferres.

Woodville-West Torrens and Central Districts were the other two sides to field a bunch of Under 19 state squad members, as the Eagles got up by 15 points. Most of them turned out in Bulldogs colours, including debutant Luca Whitelum (21 disposals, nine marks) and Shay Linke (18 disposals, nine marks, eight tackles), who narrowly missed the starting squad.

Adelaide NGA small forward Isaiah Dudley was productive with 15 touches and a goal, while the speedy Lachlan Grubb had it 12 times. For the Eagles, bottom-ager Adam D’Aloia ran out at the level once more and laid six tackles to go with his 14 disposals. Northern Territory native Ronald Fejo was another to watch in the two’s, booting a goal from 24 disposals as West Adelaide downed South.

Over in Western Australia, a trio of state squad guns hit League level after helping the Black Ducks to last week’s Under 19 win. Peel Thunder utility Brady Hough was arguably the pick of the bunch, registering 22 disposals, nine marks, five inside 50s and a goal in his sparkling top flight debut.

Backman Jack Avery took five marks for Perth in a loss to West Perth, while Fremantle NGA prospect Jesse Motlop booted 2.2 from his 13 touches as South Fremantle beat West Coast. Classy Subiaco midfielder Matthew Johnson was also set to line up for the Reserves, but did not end up taking the field at any level.

Three seperate age groups were represented among the Tasmania Devils players to turn out in Sunday’s TSL preliminary final, which saw Launceston qualify for this week’s decider with a big win over Clarence. National Combine invitee Baker Smith was among the Roos’ best in the loss along with Darcy Gardner (one goal), as Noah Holmes again got stuck into his ruck duties.

Bottom-agers Tom McCallum and Bryce Alomes also lined up for Clarence, as did the 2002-born Lachlan Borsboom. In the navy blue of Launceston, Zach Morris continues to provide quality with his versatility, while top-agers Jayden Hinds and Bailey Gillow played their parts off the bench with a grand final appearance up for grabs.

The QAFL entered its second week of finals, leaving a couple more left to play, with a scattering of Brisbane and Gold Coast academy products hitting the senior grade. Suns Academy player of the year Bodhi Uwland turned out for Broadbeach, who secured a spot in the grand final by downing Labrador.

The exciting defender-midfielder was joined by Cody Harrington (one goal) and Ryan Pickering in the winning side. For Labrador, top-ager Bailey Reeves and Mackenzie Riddle were among the squad which will get a second chance at grand final qualification next week.

Maroochydore is the team the Tigers await, after the Roos defeated reigning premier Morningside in style on Saturday. Daniel Lanthois booted a goal for the victors, while big-bodied midfielder Toby Triffett was named the Panthers’ best, as fellow top-ager Saxon Crozier managed a goal and Max Nelson again played his part.

Featured Image: Brady Hough (left) earned a WAFL League debut this week | Credit: Shazza J Photography

Academy watch: Lions return for QAFL finals impact

THE 2021 QAFL finals series kicked off this past weekend, with a pair of elimination finals seeing the two lower-ranked sides pull off memorable upsets. Those teams in question were Morningside and Maroochydore, who will now face off in Saturday’s second semi-final after their narrow victories.

As this year’s reigning premier, the Panthers have plenty of work to do to defend their crown from fifth, but started off their finals campaign strongly. They raced out to an early lead and were over 40 points in front at stages, before holding off a fast-finishing Surfers Paradise to come away six-point victors on the road.

Among Morningside’s squad was a couple of very handy inclusions, namely Brisbane Lions Academy products Saxon Crozier and Toby Triffett. Both made just their second QAFL appearances for the season after runs in the VFL, while Max Nelson lined up down back alongside bottom-ager Ben McCarthy.

Max Pescud made up the Gold Coast Academy representation for Surfers, rotating forward from the wing to be one of the better Demons afield. We take a look at how all five of the aforementioned northern academy prospects fared on the elimination final stage, in a special QAFL edition of Academy Watch.

SCOUTING NOTES

Surfers Paradise 9.11 (65) def. by Morningside 10.11 (71)

#5 Toby Triffett (Morningside)

One who appears to have gained a wealth of confidence and knowledge from his time in the VFL, Triffett was a dominant contested ball winner on Saturday. The blue-booted midfielder proved strong with his ability to fire away handballs under tackling pressure and even break a few, looking quite effective by hand. He did tend to hack his clearing kicks a touch, but had no trouble finding the ball with his wickedly clean hands and solid frame. In a tone-setting act, his lone major for the game came during Morningside’s opening term flurry, as he burrowed in to rip the ball free from a forward 50 pack and snapped it home. A top performance.

#27 Saxon Crozier (Morningside)

Returning to QAFL action alongside Triffett after his own VFL tenure, Crozier took up a very familiar role on the wing for Morningside. He proved a little scratchy with his very first touch, but fixed up quickly to level with the pace of the game. Crozier had some unlucky moments in the first half with free kicks against, but clunked a nice intercept mark and looked promising when released into space via hand. That trend continued as he worked into either arc and proved productive by foot, spearing the ball to teammates. He also hit the scoreboard in term three, tracking the ball well off a stoppage with gut-run inside 50 to get the spill and convert into an open goalsquare.

#44 Ben McCarthy (Morningside)

The sole bottom-ager in this lot, McCarthy has played 13 games for the Panthers’ senior side this year and looks a settled member of the lineup. He played in defence on Saturday but was sighted trailing his opponents all the way up to half-forward, ensuring they wouldn’t get an easy kick rolling up the ground. A touch light-on, McCarthy often knew to stay down as contests formed down the line, helping to mop up the spills and kick forward. He had a couple of nice moments in the third quarter, laying a holding the ball tackle and smothering his opponent under a minute later after he had turned the ball over.

#52 Max Nelson (Morningside)

Nelson was one of the Panthers’ most important players in their elimination final triumph, playing a key role down back with plenty of work to do. He was tasked with the kick-in duties and often roosted the ball well beyond defensive 50, while also providing a bit of dash on the rebound with a good amount of confidence to take on opponents. He looked to crash packs from behind if the ball came back his way and managed to chime in with some important intercept possessions, making for a really solid game across the defensive arc.

#61 Max Pescud (Surfers Paradise)

Having taken up a starting spot on the wing, Pescud made arguably his most profound impact up forward. He showed a good turn of speed and quick skills when stationed further afield, before bringing his overhead marking ability to the fore inside 50. Pescud produced a few key plays during term two upon his switch; cutting across a pack to mark inside 50, manufacturing a goal assist with his twists and turns, and splitting a 1v2 situation which lead to another major. While he looked to be unselfish when in possession near goal, Pescud nabbed a major of his own in term four to help sustain Surfers’ fightback. His tackling intent and pressure was also terrific throughout the game.

Featured Image: Saxon Crozier in action for Morningside | Credit: RF Photography

Anderson rides the wave of a long footballing journey

THERE are few junior footballers who have experienced a journey quite like that of Angus Anderson. The Sydney Swans Academy captain hails from Sawtell, a coastal town in northern New South Wales, but has ticked off a plethora of other destinations en route to earning a National Draft Combine invite this month.

The six-hour drive to Sydney initially made it difficult for the 18-year-old to regularly participate with the Swans Academy, but he put his name in lights this year after spending a preseason with the Southport Sharks VFL side, and earning a spot on their supplementary list.

“I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be the skipper for the Swans Academy,” Anderson said. “It’s a great honour really, especially since I’m not down there every weekend, so it just shows that the coaching staff and the team have had faith in me.”

Anderson travelled three hours up to the Gold Coast to train with Southport, ticking off a third state on his list of destinations. The second was Victoria, where he lived with his aunty and uncle while linking with the Eastern Ranges’ Under 16 NAB League program. In Melbourne, he also spent a term at Box Hill Secondary College and is currently completing his Year 12 studies back home in lockdown.

With a diverse range of experiences, Anderson has also been able to lean on a bunch of highly renowned coaches and staff. Among them are former AFL players, along with current and former NAB League coaches; including Jared Crouch and Chris Smith (Swans Academy), Leigh Clarke (Box Hill Secondary), Sean Toohey (Eastern Ranges), and Jarrod Field (Southport).

Also on that list of mentors is Anderson’s Victorian father, who coached him locally “all the way through” to senior level at the Sawtell-Toormina Saints, making him “a big influence” over his footballing career.

From enjoying the surf in the “laid back” town of Sawtell to “maturing as a person” while living with his aunty and uncle in Melbourne, Anderson has learned plenty over the last few years and gained a ravenous work-ethic. That trait translates to his football, where the big-bodied midfielder showcases a great appetite for contested ball.

“I feel like my contested ball is my strength,” Anderson said. “I’m a big-bodied mid who can win the ball and I’m slowly developing my outside game. “I can run out games well for a big-bodied mid, I like the physical aspect of AFL so I can tackle, and my hands around the ball and my ability to use both sides (are strengths).”

While leading the Swans Academy in a three-game NAB League stint this year, Anderson averaged 24 disposals, 3.5 tackles and a goal per game, as one of his side’s standout performers. Having already gotten a taste of senior football, he went on to represent the Swans at VFL level, and earned selection in the Under 19 Allies squad. Still, there is plenty the youngster is working on.

“I have heaps of areas I’m focusing on,” he said. “I feel like since I’m a bigger-bodied mid, I’ll be paired up with a couple of smaller mids occasionally. I’ve been working on my pack marking and I get to drift down forward I’ve been working on my goalkicking as well.”

Swans star Luke Parker is a player Anderson looks to mould his game on, while also noting the likes of Christian Petracca, Dustin Martin, Patrick Cripps, and Marcus Bontempelli as some of his favourite players. As one of just five NSW-ACT natives to earn a combine invite thus far, he is one step closer to joining them in the big leagues.

“Especially if I look back at myself at the beginning of the year, these achievements have been so big and I’ve been so proud of myself that I’ve made it this far,” he said. “It’s a huge honour to be a part of the initial 90 for the combine. “From a little kid coming from northern New South Wales, a little coastal town. “Barely anyone has been this far so it’s a huge honour.”

For now, Anderson is enjoying some of the extra down time he gets to relax in between school, going out for a surf every day and itching to get back on the park should the opportunity await.

He sought to thank all of his mentors and coaches along the way, Southport and the Sydney Swans for the opportunities they presented, and AFL North Coast for their support over the years.

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

Fahey dashes towards footballing dream

ARGUABLY this year’s leading Northern Academy prospect has turned out for two of them across his footballing journey, but returned home in 2021 as he looks to materialise his AFL dream. That prospect is Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Academy standout Josh Fahey, and Canberra is home to him.

His academy eligibility was up in the air last year as he moved with family up to Queensland, linking up with the Gold Coast Suns’ program and looking likely to enter the open draft this year. But schooling and the allure of a home within the Giants family brought Fahey back to his roots, also confirming his status as a GWS-eligible talent.

The dashing defender put his name in lights in April, turning out for the AFL Academy in a 130-point thrashing at the hands of Geelong VFL. While the result was not ideal, Fahey took out the MCC President’s Medal as best afield for the Under 19 team, collecting 23 disposals as part of a besieged back six.

During preseason, Fahey highlighted the showcase game as a landmark he was most looking forward to reaching this season. With the opportunity to better his own game by playing alongside the best footballers this country has to offer, Fahey shone.

“Being part of the AFL Academy, playing with the best players in the country I think I can learn a lot off them,” Fahey said. “I’m looking forward to playing with most of the Melbourne boys really. Obviously they’ve got that stereotype down there of how good they actually are… just playing with them I think is going to take my game to another level.”

While injury slightly disrupted his campaign early on, Fahey has also turned out for GWS at state league level this season. Across three games, his best outing came against reigning VFL premier Richmond in Round 5, where he notched 24 disposals. He continued his taste of senior football with local side, Queanbeyan in the AFL Canberra competition, making for quite a diverse schedule.

Hailing from the Canberra region and with family ties in other sporting codes, it has not always been footy for Fahey. The 17-year-old marks his Under 15 SSA All Australian selection as a turning point in his chosen career path, which lead him to state Under 16 selection and the aforementioned AFL Academy honours.

“I’ve only played (Australian football) for five years now,” Fahey said. “I grew up with League and Union my whole life because dad coached Rugby Union at a pretty high level… so I’ve been here for five years and don’t regret a thing coming over.”

“Under 15s was the main thing when I made the All Australian team and was only playing at club level every now and then. That’s probably the main thing that got me over the line really.”

Fahey says tackling is the main facet of either rugby code he has managed to transfer to football. Though it is a strength, the 186cm prospect’s speed and penetrative kick are arguably his most eye-catching traits.

“I wouldn’t say (tackling) is my greatest strength but it’s maybe above average compared to others,” he said. “At the end of the day my game comes down to my kicking and I judge how impactful I was on the field that day through my kicking and targets.”

“The main thing I’m working on is taking my aerial game to another level. Being 186cm I think I can really use that to my advantage this year.”

While current and future opportunities are slightly blurred as most of the nation endures lockdown protocols, Fahey’s end goal is clear – get drafted. The run-and-gun defender has shown top 25 potential at his peak, though the Giants will likely hope to keep that under wraps.

Image Credit: AFL Photos