Tag: pick one

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: Club AFL Draft previews (Part 4)

OVER the past few weeks, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the next edition, special guest Tom Cheesman again joined Chief Editor Peter Williams and AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro as they continue to break down how this year’s draft may pan out for each club.

The clubs featured in part four are Adelaide, Essendon, and Greater Western Sydney (GWS), all of whom loom as the three biggest players in this year’s first round. The Crows lay claim to pick one and have narrowed their options down to four; bid on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, or take one of Logan McDonald, Riley Thilthorpe, and Elijah Hollands. With Pick 9 and the first two second round selections also under their belt, this years wooden spooners comfortably hold the highest total draft points value of any side. There also looms the factor of their academy products in Tariek Newchurch and James Borlase, who they will hope can get to the club as rookies.

Then there is Essendon, who could become the first team to boast three top 10 picks since the expansion era, depending on how the pointy end plays out. The Bombers’ early hand will likely attract some live trade interest, but a great opportunity to bring in multiple elite talents presents itself. Essendon could also place bids on a couple of academy talents, with Port Adelaide NGA hopeful Lachlan Jones in that range and Collingwood NGA member Reef McInnes tempting the Bombers, who are crying out for a big-bodied inside midfielder. Like Adelaide, Essendon also has a couple of academy members of interest in Cody Brand and Josh Eyre.

GWS is the other club with a massively influential hand, largely thanks to the Jeremy Cameron trade. The Giants now lay claim to four first round picks and five within the top 30, providing a terrific opportunity to hit live trading hard or simply work with the strong haul they already have. There are a good number of options available in the teens for GWS, of which could bolster their midfield and key defensive needs in the long term. It is also a good range for sliders to come into play and the Giants may well end up as the team which shapes the late-first round to early-second round action.

Below are the picks held by each club, as of December 3.

Adelaide: 1, 9, 22, 23, 40, 80 
Essendon:
6, 7, 8, 44, 77, 85, 87
GWS: 
10, 13, 15, 20, 26, 74, 88

To listen to the discussion in full, click here.

>> DOWNLOAD 2020 AFL Draft Guide
>> AFL Draft Whispers: 2020
>> Power Rankings: November Update

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: An early top 10 look

OVER the past few weeks, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the next edition, Chief Editor Peter Williams again sat down with AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro, this time to take an early look at how the top 10 may pan out at this year’s AFL Draft.

As is the nature of the rumour mill around this time of year, the likely direction of the pointy end has already changed since recording, with clubs within the top five showing greater interest in specific players and shaping the later picks. There is also the factor of potential live trading, which could see the likes of Essendon and Collingwood push to enter the top five and shake up the order even further. Nonetheless, we had a crack at drafting the top 10 as we saw fit, following the draft order as of November 18.

To listen to the discussion in full, click here.

Below is the top 10 selected in the podcast, and an adjusted version made after our 2020 AFL Draft whispers piece.

Podcast Top 10:

1. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan – Western Bulldogs (Adelaide bid matched)
2. Logan McDonald – Adelaide
3. Elijah Hollands – North Melbourne
4. Denver Grainger-Barras – Sydney
5. Riley Thilthorpe – Hawthorn
6. Will Phillips – Gold Coast Suns
7. Braeden Campbell – Sydney (Essendon bid matched)
8. Lachlan Jones – Port Adelaide (Essendon bid matched)
9. Zach Reid – Essendon
10. Archie Perkins – Essendon

Updates:

Among the changes we would already make, Adelaide may well opt to maintain the number one pick status and take a player they actually have access to – ie. not Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. That makes Logan McDonald the number one, and North Melbourne or Sydney the team to place a bid on Ugle-Hagan. The Bulldogs would undoubtedly match, leaving North to likely take Elijah Hollands, while Sydney may have eyes on Will Phillips or Denver Grainger-Barras. Gold Coast is said to be eying an inside midfielder so if Phillips is off the board, Tanner Bruhn comes into consideration. Essendon’s consecutive picks, which may not be held on to, could yield academy bids for the likes of Braeden Campbell and Lachlan Jones, as well as Reef McInnes if the Bombers are really keen on that inside midfielder. Given Collingwood would perhaps think twice about matching a top 10 pick for McInnes, Archie Perkins could be the Bombers’ man, with Riley Thilthorpe a chance to slide and Zach Reid another tall in the mix. The likes of Heath Chapman, Oliver Henry, and Nikolas Cox are others in the top 10 frame as it stands.

AFL Draft Whispers: 2020 Edition

WITH this year’s AFL Draft less than a month away, the rumour mill has been in full swing as supporters turn their attention from trade period, to draft period. There is some early general consensus already, mostly pertaining to where prospects are ranked, but not necessarily where they may end up come draft time. In our November 2020 edition of AFL Draft Whispers, Draft Central takes a look at some of the key factors which may shape the top 10, as well as some of the queries pertaining to academy and father-son bids among the most compromised intake in history.

With pick one, Adelaide has selected…

Starting at the top, it is thought by many that the race for pick one honours has been narrowed down to two players. Given Adelaide boasts the first selection, local talent Riley Thilthorpe has been put forward as a safe choice, though Logan McDonald is marginally considered the better talent. Both are key forwards with senior state league experience this year who the Crows will be able to form their rebuild around. The ‘go home factor’ is a slight some Crows fans may have against McDonald, who is from Western Australia, though a local bias has hardly presented at the Crows previously and the 18-year-old seems to have no qualms about shifting interstate.

The other factor in this discussion is Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, the consensus best prospect in this year’s pool who is tied to the Western Bulldogs. Adelaide could keep the Dogs accountable by bidding with pick one, but may seek to market their ties to the top selection by simply taking a player they can actually access. Elijah Hollands is another in contention, a midfielder with plenty of x-factor who is coming off a long-term knee injury and actually supports the Crows.

‘The fantastic five’

It is well known that along with McDonald and Thilthorpe, three other top-end prospects have formed a breakaway group which clubs are jostling to gain access to. Aside from Ugle-Hagan, who will find his way to the Western Bulldogs regardless of where a bid is placed, Hollands, Will Phillips, and Denver Grainger-Barras are the players who join the two aforementioned key forwards in this exclusive group.

Hollands, who suffered a serious knee injury during preseason, was touted as a potential challenger to the number one spot, and looks likely to be North Melbourne’s favoured pick. He is a tall midfielder/forward with serious game-winning attributes which include athleticism and scoreboard impact. Sydney’s top five pick is likely to come down to one of Phillips or Grainger-Barras, with interest in an inside midfielder growing, rather than the taller options. That of course brings Phillips to the fore, a 180cm ball winner who cut his teeth alongside Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson in Oakleigh’s 2019 premiership side.

What will Gold Coast look for with pick five?

The Suns were one of the big improvers in 2020, thanks in no small part to their top-end draftees who managed to make an immediate impact at senior level. With pick five, they have the chance to bring in another talent who may do the same next year. It seems the Queensland-based outfit will look to prioritise another midfielder, and Phillips would be the obvious choice as arguably the best pure ball winner available. Though, with growing talk that he may already be taken by the time Gold Coast gets on the clock, Geelong Falcons product Tanner Bruhn could be their man. He was Vic Country’s Under 16 MVP in 2018 and despite repeat injury setbacks, has shown his class through midfield when fully fit. Gold Coast is also able to pre-list Academy member Alex Davies, a tall clearance winner, but may look towards balance in acquiring the hard-running, 183cm Bruhn.

Will Essendon trade into the top two?

Though the Bombers have done well to secure the services of Peter Wright at little cost, the key forward slot remains an area which depth is desperately needed. Essendon currently holds picks 7-9 and could become the first team since the expansion era to utilise three top 10 picks in one draft. It would make for a hell of a story, though Adrian Dodoro will inevitably look to squeeze even greater value out of that significant hand.

With a wealth of high-level talls available at the pointy end of the draft, the Bombers may look to package a combination of their current top 10 picks to move up the order and gain access to one of those elite key position forwards. For example, North Melbourne may be a team of interest as they are in need of as much fresh talent as possible. Thus, the Roos could send pick two to Essendon in exchange for two of those top 10’ers in order to maximise their hand. It will unlikely be that simple, but that kind of thinking is perhaps what Essendon will have to do to obtain the likes of McDonald or Thilthorpe, who could become pillar key forwards in future.

Will Thilthorpe slide to Adelaide’s pick nine?

Plenty of talk has surrounded the proposed two-horse race pertaining Adelaide’s pick one (see above), but what happens to Thilthorpe should the Crows favour McDonald? Depending on the final order of the top 10, the South Australian may end up as this year’s slider despite being considered a top five or six talent. Essendon could be a potential suitor, though are said to have eyes on a certain other prospect in moving up the board, while the likes of North Melbourne, Sydney, and Gold Coast may look towards the midfielders available. Thus, Thilthorpe could slowly slip back to the Crows at pick nine, which would be a massive result for last year’s bottom side. A long shot, yes, but possible.

Will clubs take all of their Academy/father-son talents available?

In short, no. With cuts to list sizes, it just is not feasible for many clubs with rich academy cohorts to take every talent available to them this year. We saw with Brisbane in 2019 that if another club is interested in their homegrown products and the price is too high, they simply will not match the bid.

That may be the case for Brisbane once again, while Adelaide is another team of interest this year. The Crows have access to Tariek Newchurch and James Borlase through the NGA system, while Luke Edwards is a potential father-son choice. The latter is said to be weighing up whether to nominate for the open draft, and Adelaide’s current top-ended draft hand suggests it is only considering taking two of the three players.

Fremantle will look to secure NGA talents Joel Western and Brandon Walker. After the Dockers’ pick 12, they only have picks 32, 55, and a couple in triple figures to match any potential bids, so might get a little busy before their picks are locked in. Otherwise, they may prioritise one over the other. Collingwood is in a tricky spot too, with Reef McInnes attracting some added attention after his draft combine exploits. The bid will have to be fair on the Magpies’ end, and ideally after their current picks 14 and 16.

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Adelaide Crows

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

Adelaide is first up, the team which finished last in 2020 and thus holds the power of wielding pick one in the draft. An inspired final month meant Crows fans were left with something to cheer about in the three-win campaign, and holding the competition’s ace card will only add to their excitement. It is the first number one pick Adelaide will use in its history and with many list needs to cover amidst a heavy rebuild, there is plenty of pressure on Crows staff to nail every move and selection. As it stands, they boast the highest total draft value index points of any club at 6832 – over 1300 more than the next-best club.

CURRENT PICKS*: 1, 9, 22, 23, 40, 56, 66, 80
* – denotes as of November 19

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

ELIGIBLE ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PLAYERS:

James Borlase (NGA), Luke Edwards (father-son), Tariek Newchurch (NGA)

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

LIST NEEDS:

Ball-winning midfielder
Key forward depth
Ruck depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

It seems the race for pick one is down to two options; Logan McDonald and Riley Thilthorpe. Debate has raged over whether the Crows will opt to select McDonald, a West Australian key forward who bolted into top three contention this year, or to eliminate any threat of the ‘go home factor’ by snapping up local forward/ruck, Thilthorpe.

While nothing from McDonald suggests he would be unhappy to shift interstate, the argument for Thilthorpe goes that he is far less likely to move elsewhere in future and can prove a safe pillar for the Crows’ to form their rebuild around. While McDonald is arguably considered the better talent, this is the kind of thinking which may impact Adelaide’s choice.

If it were up to us, McDonald is the Crows’ man. They may also consider placing a bid on Western Bulldogs NGA product Jamarra Ugle-Hagan to keep the ‘Dogs accountable, as they would not think twice in matching for the athletic forward who is the consensus best talent in this year’s crop. Elijah Hollands looms as another option, the only midfielder of the bunch and one who could prove a perfect fit for Adelaide’s engine room with his size, x-factor, and ability to rotate forward.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

The Crows are likely to put pick one under lock and key, but have great potential for flexibility with their later picks. Pick nine could be split into two first rounders in order to maximise the amount of top-end talent brought in, perhaps even packaged up with one of their early second rounders. It may also be used to improve their hand in next year’s first round, as the 2021 intake looks like being a strong one.

Covering potential bids for all three eligible players in Borlase, Newchurch, and Edwards may be tough, so there could be work to do to ensure those bases are covered. Although, it seems more likely that only two of the three will land at Adelaide, especially with Edwards seemingly considering his options in the open draft. The Crows should be one of the busier clubs in terms of pick swaps both in the lead up to draft day, and as it goes live.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Who will the Crows take with pick one?

Will they bid on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan first?

Do they trade or split pick nine?

Do they trade into next year’s first round?

Will they take all three of Newchurch, Borlase, and Edwards?

Where will the bids come in for those three players?

Featured Image: (Retrieved from) Perth FC

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: The best AFL Draft hands

OVER the past few weeks, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the next edition, Chief Editor Peter Williams again sat down with AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro, this time to discuss which clubs hold the best hands heading into the 2020 AFL Draft.

While the indicative draft order is set to undergo a raft of changes in the build up to draft day (December 9), the discussion highlighted three teams which were head and shoulders above the rest of the competition in terms of their pick hauls as of the end of trade period. Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney (GWS), and Essendon were the sides in question, though the positions of all 18 teams also came under the microscope; touching on pure draft value index points, flexibility and potential to trade, and likely academy or father-son selections.

To listen to the discussion in full, click here.

Below is a recap of what makes the three aforementioned clubs’ draft hands so strong:
(All picks are as of November 18)

Adelaide
Picks: 1, 9, 22, 23, 40, 56, 66, 80

Having finished bottom, the Crows have all the power with pick one for the first in their history and will likely use it to gain one of Logan McDonald or Riley Thilthorpe. Afterwards is where it gets interesting, as Adelaide could opt to split pick nine or use it to get into next year’s top 10 as the 2021 crop looks a strong one. The Crows also have three prospects already tied to them in Tariek Newchurch (NGA), James Borlase (NGA), and Luke Edwards (father-son). As it stands, Newchurch is likely to attract the first bid and one for Borlase will hopefully come after their current pick 40. The Crows could be left with a tricky decision as to whether they match for Edwards, who is also flirting with nominating for the open draft. Either way, Adelaide must nail this intake and lay a strong marker for its rebuild.

GWS
Picks: 10, 13, 15, 20, 29, 52, 74, 88

An exodus of sorts sees the Giants hold five picks within the top 30, four of which land among the first round. While the loss of Jeremy Cameron will be felt immediately, GWS has the opportunity to stock up with high-quality long-term options and avoid another steep drop off after finishing 10th in 2020. Alternatively, the Giants could use their picks in the teens to try and enter next year’s first round, or even sneak further into this year’s top 10 should a likely suitor wish to split their picks. Josh Green, the brother of Tom looks set to be the Giants’ sole academy selection this year but holds a value which will be relatively straightforward to match with one of their late picks, if necessary. GWS could be one of the busier clubs in the lead up to draft day and has plenty of potential to extract from its current hand.

Essendon
Picks: 6, 7, 8, 44, 77, 85, 87

The third of three clubs to currently hold a total points value of over 5000, Essendon may also become the first club since the expansion era to take three top 10 picks into the draft. What the Bombers decide to do with those picks is anyone’s guess given the flexibility afforded to them, and that there looms a few long-term list needs which require attendance. It seems as if they will opt to part ways with at least one of their top 10 selections, again either keen on next year’s crop or to expand their options in the first round. Another interesting scenario would be to package a couple of those picks to move into the top five, with Logan McDonald a prospect of particular interest. The Bombers also look set to bring in a couple of promising NGA talls in Cody Brand and Josh Eyre, with the latter potentially attracting a bid before the their current round three selection. There is likely enough cover for Eyre later on, though Essendon may also opt to bolster that late hand for any advanced bids.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

Past Episodes:

Best readymade prospects
Best players under 175cm
Best midfielders over 190cm
Logan McDonald vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Best academy and father-son hauls
Brayden Cook vs. Conor Stone
Key defenders kicking comparison
Offence from defence
Denver Grainger-Barras vs. Heath Chapman
The top non-aligned midfielders

Who are the contenders for the number one pick?

WE’RE a month into the season and yet we are no closer to having a clear best player in the 2017 draft pool. This time last year Andrew McGrath wasn’t on the radar as a possible number one draft pick, however with a thinner draft pool this year it would be unlikely to see someone bolt as high as McGrath did.

Here are 10 players who could contend for the number one selection.

Connor Ballenden
Brisbane Lions Academy/Allies
Key Position Forward
199cm | 95kg

Brisbane Lions Academy member Connor Ballenden has had a slow start to season 2017. He jumped onto the scene with an outstanding trial game against Vic Country at Ikon Park in 2016, where he clunked nine marks and booted two goals. The AFL Academy member hasn’t hit the scoreboard as much as he would’ve hoped this season and was even thrown back into defence in his latest hit out against VFL opposition on Saturday against the Northern Blues. The tall forward is a strong mark overhead and has a great set shot routine. Whilst he is tied to the Lions Academy and eligible to be selected after a matching a bid in November’s draft – he’s unlikely to be the number one pick, but he certainly has some traits that would no doubt mean clubs have him in their top handful of players.

Noah Balta
?Calder Cannons/Vic Metro
Key Position Utility
194cm | 90kg

More of a speculative pick after Noah Balta finished 2016 off well for the Calder Cannons. Balta’s athletic traits are what will draw clubs to him, as a utility that can play in any position. So far this season Balta has rucked and played up forward for the Cannons – but his moving patterns up forward have made him look a bit out of whack. For the AFL Academy he played in defence and a move to centre half back might be good for Balta to find a permanent position this season. He possesses a rare combo of elite speed and agility for a tall player and is one that could challenge for the number one selection with strong performances.

Jarrod Brander
Bendigo Pioneers/Allies
Key Position Utility
195cm | 90kg

Key Position player Jarrod Brander is one of the clear early favourites for the number one pick. He can play at either end and reads the flight of the ball as well as anyone in the draft pool. With the AFL removing him from the GWS Giants zone, he is open to be selected by any club. He’ll likely spend his time mixed between forward and back at Geelong Grammar, GWS Academy and Allies. Went goalless in his only game for the GWS Academy so far, but impressed with some good marks. He moves well for a tall and is a clean kick of the football. Spent both AFL Academy games playing mostly in defence and he may be one outstanding game (forward or back) away from strengthening his ties to the number one selection.

Adam Cerra
?Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro
Balanced Midfielder
186cm | 85kg

In 2016 – the AFL Academy missed out on Pick 1 Andrew McGrath, Pick 2 Tim Taranto and Pick 3 Hugh McCluggage was a late addition to the program. Adam Cerra missed most of 2016 with a meniscus injury to his knee and missed the AFL Academy intake. His start to the season has been outstanding for the Eastern Ranges with 26, 26 and 29 disposals in the opening three games. He wins the ball on the inside averaging half of these contested, along with averaging seven clearances per game. A clean kick on his right foot and he covers the ground well. In Friday’s Vic Metro trial, Cerra had 29 disposals at 86 per cent as one of the best players on the day. If he continues his form in the Under 18 Championships for Vic Metro, he may emerge as a top five candidate if he isn’t already.

Luke Davies-Uniacke
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country
Inside Midfielder
187cm | 85kg

Injuries have held Luke Davies-Uniacke back – but hopefully Saturday’s AFL Academy game is the kickstarter of a big season. After collecting 30 disposals and nine clearances in Round 1 of the TAC Cup, a foot injury kept him out for three weeks before returning with 22 disposals, six clearances and five marks against Northern Blues VFL team as one of his teams best players. The 188cm strong inside midfielder is built like a bull and isn’t afraid of contact, winning the ball in the contested situations. He performed well for Vic Country in their final game at Simonds Stadium last year and performances like that will continue to push his name into the top handful.

Darcy Fogarty
Glenelg/South Australia
Utility
192cm | 88kg

Arguably the best interstate contender for the number one pick. Darcy Fogarty was close to selection in the Under 18 All Australian team last year after a strong performance up forward for South Australia in the Under 18 Championships. Fogarty is strongly built and can play through the midfield using his strong frame. What has been impressive has been his games in defence at centre half back in the first half of the SANFL Under 18 trial and the AFL Academy games. Whilst his long term goal will be more midfield minutes, it will be interesting to see where he plays for Glenelg and for South Australia. The South Australian prospect was the named the Ben Mitchell medallist for the 2016/17 NAB AFL Academy intake as the player who best represents the program’s values.

Joel Garner
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro
Balanced Midfielder
183cm | 81kg

Speedy Vic Metro midfielder Joel Garner plays well on both the inside & the outside, using the ball well off his left boot. The Eastern Ranges prospect started the season well at TAC Cup level, continuing to hit targets on the run when streaming inside 50. His handballing in close is another another strength and he is able to clear the ball from a stoppage with ease. He had two quiet AFL Academy games, collecting nine disposals against the Northern Blues at 100 per cent efficiency. Running forward he possesses a great amount of X-Factor and is hard to miss in his bright yellow boots.

Lochie O’Brien
Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country
Outside Midfielder
184cm | 75kg

If there is one word that sums up Lochie O’Brien – it’s classy. The Bendigo Pioneers midfielder is one of the better uses of the ball in the 2017 draft pool. The left footer has a clean kick and a good burst of speed from the stoppages which can separate him from opponents. He impressed last year for Vic Country as a bottom-ager playing on the wing, a position that allows for him to be a receiver on the outside where he can clear the ball via a pinpoint left foot pass. Plays in a mould similar to Nick Dal Santo. Last year he was superb in the NAB AFL Under 17 All Stars game at Punt Road on Grand Final day, gathering 20 disposals and kicking two goals. A good decision maker that is someone you want to have the ball is their hands.

Cameron Rayner
Western Jets/Vic Metro
Medium Forward/Inside Midfielder
187cm | 88kg

Cameron Rayner’s two outstanding AFL Academy games is what continues to throw the ‘Robbie Gray styled’ player into the number one pick conversation. Rayner had 23 disposals and three goals in the first game at the MCG, before he backed it up with a strong first half against the Northern Blues finishing with 12 disposals, four marks and three tackles. His power and explosiveness going forward gives him a difference to the other players in the draft. His contested marking overhead is another strength, along with his leap which means he can play as a third tall up forward or even has been deployed playing out of the goal square at TAC Cup and AGS school football level. What may hold him back is his endurance – running an 11.10 beep test at TAC Cup testing earlier this season and it will be an area that will need to be addressed if he is to be selected as a top selection.

Jaidyn Stephenson
?Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro
Medium Forward
189cm | 76kg

Despite standing at just 189cm, Stephenson has the ability to play as a tall marking option inside 50. His big wingspan sees him pluck the ball from above his opponents reach making him a dangerous player. Up forward he converts his chances after jumping onto the scene as an Under 16 in the TAC Cup Finals series in 2015 for the Eastern Ranges. He has pushed further up the ground at times, but he plays his best inside 50. Long term where he fits in at AFL level may be a question, but his marking ability makes him one of the best forwards in the draft. He moves well, with a great endurance base to match his superb closing speed.

2013 Draft Profile: Matt Scharenberg

Matt Scharenberg (Glenelg)
Height: 190 cm
Weight: 89 kg
Position: Utility
Player comparison: Brendon Goddard/Ben Reid
Strengths: Decision making, overhead marking, positioning, versatility
Weaknesses: Unknown in terms of tagging, not elite in any one category

Matt Scharenberg is one of the most interesting prospects in a number of years. If players were selected by ability and not needs, Scharenberg probably wouldn’t be number one. He’s not got the elite foot skills of a James Aish or Josh Kelly, the huge frame of a Tom Boyd or the elite athleticism of a Billy Hartung. What Scharenberg does offer is a unique skill set that has seen him shoot up the rankings.

In a draft year where most players are under six foot, Scharenberg, along with Marcus Bontempelli, are the exceptions to the rule. Before the Under 18s Championships, Scharenberg was rated as a first round pick, potentially as high as five. An impressive Championships saw him rally into contention for the number one selection by Greater Western Sydney.

With GWS announcing the number one pick is on the table, one can only assume that a club trading for it will select Eastern Ranges Tom Boyd rather than Scharenberg. If this occurs I can see Scharenberg slipping as low as fifth potentially due to the teams following the Giants’ selection electing to go for other players. Likewise, if GWS could get a top five pick with a player in exchange for their first pick, they could very well still end up with Scharenberg.

Matt Scharenberg’s greatest assest is his versatility in the Brendon Goddard mould where he can play back, forward or across the midfield. During the Under 18s Championships, Scharenberg primarily played off half back while spending time in the middle. His 190cm frame gives him an advantage over what otherwise is a much smaller draft crop this year.

Scharenberg is strong overhead, reads the play well and positions himself accordingly. He plays that loose man or offensive half back role very well. Unfortunately like Sam Colquhoun last year, clubs weren’t able to see how Scharenberg deals with a tag and if he potentially becomes like a Grant Birchall or Heath Shaw who have struggled in the past while having a defensive forward on them. One would imagine that if he was struggling to find the ball, he would be pushed into the midfield or down forward, showcasing his fantastic versatility.

In terms of style while down back, Matt Scharenberg reminds me of Ben Reid because he has a reasonably long, penetrating kick compared to other draftees and while his kicking isn’t elite, it is more than sound. Scharenberg also has good athleticism and strength without being elite which is why he is such as interesting selection. Scharenberg is considered a player that doesn’t have that ‘elite’ feature of his game like everyone else, however he would score well across the board. It’s hard to judge whether positioning or reading the play can be called ‘elite’ but those characteristics would be his greatest assets.

GWS coach Kevin Sheedy said last month that the Giants should target a midfielder in the mould of a Josh Kennedy – a tall, strong player that can become quite versatile. Of those players competing for the number one selection, one can only come to the conclusion that Scharenberg is that player. It wouldn’t be a shock given GWS already have an array of silky midfielders and gut runners so the other players in contention for the pick are not ahead of Scharenberg on the needs chart.

If Scharenberg lands himself at GWS, he will probably see a fair amount of game time in 2014 given his size and is more ready than most youngsters coming through the system. With Leon Cameron coaching next season, it would be expected that Scharenberg could start as that half back creator who rebounds the opposition attack and then moves up into the midfield to find plenty of the ball.

While the likes of James Aish and Tom Boyd will be considered at the first pick, the Giants should go for Scharenberg if they are keen to gain a unique skill set and someone who can provide something different as well as much needed versatility.