Tag: preseason fitness testing

Analysis | The importance of fitness testing in modern football recruiting

THERE has been plenty of debate when talking about potential AFL prospects pertaining to the differences between judging ‘athletes’ against ‘pure footballers’. There is an argument that fitness testing should be taken with a grain of salt and that the eye test is most important, but when it comes to players being drafted – especially in the first round – prospects are often at the pointy end in at least one fitness test.

For anyone still unfamiliar with the main fitness tests conducted during preseason and at the AFL Draft Combine, they are as follows:

  • Agility Test
  • 20m Sprint
  • Standing and Running Vertical Leap
  • Yo-Yo Test
  • 2km Time Trial

Last year’s number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan excelled in the 20m sprint and vertical leap tests, with his on-field speed off the mark and jump at the ball highlighting just why he excelled at those tests. The combine, if anything, gives reassurance that those traits are indeed elite and will help try and separate talents like Ugle-Hagan from any other key forwards in that year’s crop. Athleticism is very important in modern football, with players quicker and bigger than what most talented youngsters are used to at the development levels. One club which has seemingly identified this in modern times is the fast-rising Essendon Football Club.

Since 2014, Essendon seems to have had a clear strategy with the types of players they have looked at with their high picks. Below is a list of the Bombers’ top 40 selections since 2014 and which tests those players excelled at. In a lot of cases, they were top 10 in those tests at the end-of-year combine.

2014:

Pick 17 – Jayden Laverde
(Didn’t test but athleticism was a highlight of his game)

Pick 20 – Kyle Langford
Agility

2015:

Pick 5 – Darcy Parish
Average in most tests

Pick 6 – Aaron Francis
(Didn’t test but like Laverde, athleticism was a highlight in games)

Pick 29 – Alex Morgan (Since delisted)
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 30 – Mason Redman
3km time trial

2016:

Pick 1 – Andrew McGrath
Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 20 – Jordan Ridley
20m Sprint

2017:

Nil

2018:

Pick 38 – Irving Mosquito
Vertical Leap

2019:

Pick 30 – Harrison Jones
Vertical Leap, Yo-Yo, 20m Sprint

Pick 38 – Nick Bryan
Vertical Leap, 20m Sprint

2020:

Pick 8 – Nik Cox
20m Sprint, 2km TT

Pick 9 – Archie Perkins
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

Pick 10 – Zach Reid
Vertical Leap

Pick 39 – Josh Eyre
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

There is one big outlier here and that’s one of this year’s Brownlow contenders in Darcy Parish, who was only average in test results during his draft year. This could be seen as the biggest clue as to why athletic testing shouldn’t be so important, but it can also be argued that one of the main reasons for Parish’s form is due to improving his running capacity to an elite level.

Even their most recent mid-season selection, Sam Durham tested well for vertical leap and endurance, so its no surprise at least in Essendon’s case that athletic traits are a huge influence in whether the player gets taken. The current favourite for the Rising Star, Nik Cox has taken the competition by storm with his mix of athleticism and height, with that height another factor in the early Essendon selections. It was a matter of time before Cox got his nomination for the Rising Star award and in retrospect, we should have all seen his selection by Essendon coming considering all the traits he possesses are key indicators in the Bombers’ recent draft strategy.

Using this history, we can even try to narrow down the possible field of players that Essendon will look at with its first round pick in 2021. A trio of Sandringham Dragons instantly come to mind with Campbell Chesser, Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan. All three players tested well for the 20m sprint and vertical leap during preseason, highlighting their power and athleticism. With all measuring at over 185cm, they even fill a midfield need for the Bombers. They have another prospect right under their noses in Josh Goater who made his Essendon VFL debut not long ago and is an athletic beast. His speed and leap tests were all elite and at 190cm, he would be another Essendon style selection.

The modern footballer is taller, faster and can run all day, and it is getting harder and harder for pure footballers to make it at the top level. If young, pure footballers can start to develop athleticism in their game, even if it’s an elite endurance base, that’s at least a start in the right direction.

Height used to be a detractor for clubs but now with the likes of Caleb Daniel, Kysaiah Pickett, Brent Daniels and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, that is no longer the same obstacle for potential draftees as it used to be – though you also need to have that speed and class. If you are small and have the athletic traits and determination to make it as an AFL player, then you will be on the right track. If you are tall and have those traits, your chances of making an AFL list are even higher.

Fitness testing is an important tool, not just for clubs and recruiters, but also for up and coming players – especially those at the very early level. I’m hopeful coaches of junior football are able to set up some of these tests to help young players find their best traits, enhance them and embrace them. Understandably, it takes time, money and effort on their part and not every junior club or parent has that available. Programs such as Rookie Me, the official fitness testing partner of the AFL, allow junior athletes to experience professional environments at an early age, proving another handy head-start for budding footballers.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

Preseason testing analysis: Which State is the most agile?

THE current sporting hiatus serves as somewhat of an extended preseason for the nation’s brightest AFL Draft prospects, who will be itching to get back on the field. Aside from a few scratch matches on the eve of Round 1, much of the 2020 class has had little in the way of competition thus far.

But preseason testing always serves to get the competitive juices flowing, with players from each region and academy coming together to test where they rate athletically. Rookie Me hosted the preseason testing in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, while the AFL completed testing in Western Australia and NSW/ACT.

In our next analysis of the results from those days around the country, we take a look at the agility test scores and try to answer the question of ‘Which State is the most agile?’. We have compiled the top 10 scores from each State, an overall top 10, and averages from around the nation to help answer the question. Stay tuned for results across each test in the near future.

>> SCROLL DOWN FOR THE OVERALL TOP 10

STATE TOP 10’s

New South Wales:

1. Jordan Endemann (Sydney Swans Academy) – 8.23 seconds
=2. Cooper Wilson (Sydney Swans Academy) – 8.26
=2. Oscar Davis (Sydney Swans Academy) – 8.26
4. Harry Grant (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 8.306
5. Matthew McKenzie (Sydney Swans Academy) – 8.36
6. Fraser Kelly (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 8.367
7. Thomas Longmire (Sydney Swans Academy) – 8.41
8. Harrison Grintell (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 8.414
9. Marco Rossmann (Sydney Swans Academy) – 8.43
10. Kai Watts (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 8.441

Top 10 Average: 8.347 seconds (6th)

The Swans Academy again makes up most of the NSW top 10, with six talents making up the list – including the entire top three. Jordan Endemann again showcased his athleticism with the quickest time, while top-aged academy standout Marco Rossmann also snuck into the rankings. Harry Grant was GWS’ niftiest mover, clocking up a 8.306-second effort, with 2019 Under-16 State MVP Kai Watts rounding out the list. NSW was one of just two states not to boast a time under eight seconds.

Queensland:

1. Tahj Abberley (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 7.84 seconds
=2. Darcy Prest (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 7.86
=2. Caleb Hammond (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 7.86
4. Riley Buckland (Gold Coast SUNS Academy) – 7.97
5. Kirk McGrory (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 8.18
6. Billy Evers (Gold Coast SUNS Academy) – 8.19
7. Damon Eastwell (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 8.22
8. Will Tasker (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 8.23
9. Lochlan Harrop (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 8.24
10. Shaye Walsh (Gold Coast SUNS Academy) – 8.25

Top 10 Average: 8.084 seconds (2nd)

It was hardly a surprise to see Tahj Abberley again not only feature among the elite ranks for Queensland, but to also claim top spot for his scintillating 7.84-second run. A number of players also made their second and third features on top 10 lists with fantastic times, as the Lions’ academy made up for 70 per cent of the top 10, including the entire podium. The Queenslanders’ elites were the second-quickest on average.

South Australia:

1. Lachlan Grubb (Central District) – 7.94 seconds
2. Connor Willsmore (Sturt) – 8.05
3. James Willis (North Adelaide) – 8.06
4. Nasiah Wanganeen (Glenelg) – 8.11
=5. Jordan Kasianowicz (WWT Eagles) – 8.16
=5. Connor Blackwell (West Adelaide) – 8.16
7. Luke Mitton (South Adelaide) – 8.20
8. Jacob Godden (WWT Eagles) – 8.24
=9. Antonio Zappia (Norwood) – 8.25
=9. Riley Hughes (Central District) – 8.25

Top 10 Average: 8.142 seconds (4th)

SA Academy Hub gun Lachlan Grubb utilised every bit of his athletics background to notch his state’s best time as the sole athlete to clock in at under eight seconds. He, and fellow Bulldog Riley Hughes bookended the 10, while the likes of Connor Willsmore and Luke Mitton made yet another appearance among the top ranks. The Croweaters were once again middle of the road overall through, coming in fourth when compared to other states’ best figures.

Tasmania:

1. Isaac Chugg (Launceston) – 8.04 seconds
2. Jayden Hinds (Launceston) – 8.14
3. Will Peppin (North Hobart) – 8.17
4. Kye Chilcott (Launceston) – 8.26
5. Oliver Davis (Clarence) – 8.29
=6. Sam Tilley (Lauderdale) – 8.31
=6. Sam Foley (Launceston) – 8.31
8. Jack Rand (Devonport) – 8.32
9. Patrick Walker (North Hobart) – 8.34
10. Darcy Gardner (Clarence) – 8.38

Top 10 Average: 8.256 seconds (5th)

Former athletics ace Isaac Chugg was yet again the standout for Tasmania with his outstanding time of 8.04 seconds, though he could not quite become the only Tasmanian to sneak in under eight seconds. Allies Academy Hub members Oliver Davis and Patrick Walker put in solid showings with their times of around the 8.30-second mark, while former Academy member Will Peppin featured on the podium.

Victoria:

1. Blake Reid (Geelong Falcons) – 7.76 seconds
2. Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong Falcons) –  7.79
3. Harrison White (Western Jets) – 7.83
4. Oliver Wiltshire (Geelong Falcons) – 7.90
=5. Harvey Gallagher (Bendigo Pioneers) – 7.92
=5. Sam Butler (GWV Rebels) – 7.92
7. Bailey Laurie (Oakleigh Chargers) – 7.97
8. Harrison Keeling (Eastern Ranges) – 7.98
=9. 7.99 x3

Top 10 Average: 7.905 seconds (1st)

The quickest top 10 on average across the nation was Victoria, which was the sole state to have every time clock in at under eight seconds. Geelong Falcons products stood out among the massive talent pool, featuring thrice in the top four, with Blake Reid and Charlie Lazzaro managing the best two times. Oakleigh midfield/forward jet Bailey Laurie also ran well, coming in seventh as one of two National Academy members on the list.

Western Australia:

1. Ty Sears (Swan Districts) – 7.92 seconds
2. Jayden Peak (East Perth) – 8.02
=3. Seth Roberts (Claremont) – 8.08
=3. Zac Sanderson (Perth) – 8.08
5. Bailey Jenkin (Swan Districts) – 8.14
6. Saverio Marafioti (West Perth) – 8.18
=7. Denver Grainger-Barras (Swan Districts) – 8.19
=7. Zach Fleiner (West Perth) – 8.19
=7. Rohan Scurria (West Perth) – 8.19
10. Lyle Sibasado (Swan Districts) – 8.22

Top 10 Average: 8.121 seconds (3rd)

One of the top states in terms of their elite runners was again Western Australia, despite only having one athlete run the test in less than eight seconds. Ty Sears was that player, topping the list as one of four Swan Districts products to feature. Top WA draft hopeful Denver Grainger-Barras was one of three players to manage a time of 8.19 seconds, impressive for a key defender.

OVERALL TOP 10

1. Blake Reid (Geelong Falcons) – 7.76 seconds
2. Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong Falcons) –  7.79
3. Harrison White (Western Jets) – 7.83
4. Tahj Abberley (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 7.84
=5. Darcy Prest (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 7.86
=5. Caleb Hammond (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 7.86
7. Oliver Wiltshire (Geelong Falcons) – 7.90
=8. Harvey Gallagher (Bendigo Pioneers) – 7.92
=8. Sam Butler (GWV Rebels) – 7.92
=8. Ty Sears (Swan Districts) – 7.92

An absolutely rapid top 10 was dominated by Victorians, who made up for each podium place and over half of the list overall. Reid and Lazzaro were joined by Harrison White in the top three, with Queenslander Abberley the best non-Victorian runner, followed by two of his fellow Brisbane Academy teammates. Sears made it three states represented, sneaking into the 10 as the lone West Australian.

STATE AGAINST STATE:

1. Queensland – 8.55
2. Victoria – 8.56
3. Tasmania – 8.69
4. South Australia – 8.76
5. NSW/ACT – 8.82
6. Western Australia – 8.89

While Victoria may have dominated the top 10, having the largest talent pool brought its overall average down – albeit only to second place. Queensland proved the best state for sideways movement, edging into top spot while Tasmania filled out the podium. In a change from the yo-yo and 20m sprint results, Western Australia and NSW/ACT were the worst ranked states, even despite the former boasting a very good top 10.

Marquee Matchups: Sam Berry vs. Zavier Maher

DESPITE remaining in the unknown of football’s temporary absence, Draft Central is set to ramp up its draft analysis with another new prospect-focussed series, Marquee Matchups. We take a look at some of the high-end head-to-head battles which look likely to take place should the class of 2020 take the field, comparing pairs of draft hopefuls to help preview who may come out on top.

This edition features a pair of prospects who have ironically been teammates at representative level over the last two years, with Sam Berry and Zavier Maher both part of Vic Country’s Under 16 and 17 setups. Pending the resumption of all sport, the two were set to team up once again in Vic Country’s Under 18 side given they are both part of the Academy hub, but would eventually face-off in the NAB League and APS school football competitions.

Gippsland’s Berry is a hard-working, hard-nosed midfielder who can accumulate big numbers on the inside. The 180cm jet is solidly built and impressed with his two-way running across 10 NAB League outings in 2019, while also turning out for Melbourne Grammar in between his Power outings. Having honed his craft alongside the likes of Caleb Serong and Sam Flanders within his region, Berry is primed to take over the reigns as a leader in his top-age season.

His counterpart, Maher also boasts an impressive resume having run out six times for Murray in 2019 after making a return from injury through school football with Caulfield Grammar. The powerful 184cm Bushranger also took on the opportunity to train with Richmond in the off-season alongside Caulfield and Murray teammate, Elijah Hollands. Coming off his first ever full pre-season, Maher looked set to really excel through the engine room at all levels with some serious talent surrounding him.

PLAYER PAGES

Sam Berry
Melbourne Grammar/Gippsland Power/Vic Country

DOB: February 12, 2002

Height: 180.6cm
Weight: 81.4kg

Position: Midfielder

Zavier Maher
Caulfield Grammar/Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country

DOB: May 5, 2002

Height: 184.2cm
Weight: 82.6kg

Position: Midfielder

FITNESS TESTING PROFILES

VERTICAL JUMP

Berry – 65cm
Maher – 71cm

RUNNING VERTICAL JUMP (R/L)

Berry – 80/89cm
Maher – 73cm/80cm

SPEED (20m)

Berry – 3.19 seconds
Maher – 2.96 seconds

AGILITY

Berry – 8.24 seconds
Maher – N/A

ENDURANCE (Yo-yo)

Berry – 21.7
Maher – N/A

Note: Maher did not partake in the agility or endurance tests due to injury

The pair returned some seriously impressive results in the athletic stakes, posting elite numbers in a range of tests. While Maher edged Berry in the standing vertical jump, the Gippsland product managed to pip his counterpart of both feet in the running jumps. Maher’s excellent sub-three second 20m sprint time really sets him apart from Berry, showcasing his real burst of power in shorter movements. Berry excels over time and with repeat effort, putting in an elite endurance score of 21.7 – his personal best – on the Yo-yo test. A hip niggle prevented Maher from completing the final two tests, although Berry’s scores are hard to beat in any case.

ON-FIELD PROFILES

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATISTICS

Berry:

10 games
17.7 disposals (53% contested)
2.7 marks
6.5 tackles
7.3 clearances
3.8 inside 50s
1.3 rebound 50s
0.6 goals (6)

Maher:

6 games
10.5 disposals (58% contested)
2.0 marks
3.0 tackles
3.2 clearances
2.8 inside 50s
0.6 rebound 50s
0.3 goals (2)

The stats show that Berry had a slightly greater output in his bottom-age season at NAB League level, proving consistent over a greater number of games. Some of that may come down to the strength of Gippsland’s side in comparison to Murray in 2019, although you still have to find the ball yourself as Berry so often did.

Berry’s exceptional numbers in tackling and clearances showcase his work-rate going both ways at the stoppages, with a contested ball rate of over 50 per cent also ideal for an inside midfield type. Maher actually slightly exceeds him in that area with 58 per cent of his possessions contested, but it is the only key stat which he beats Berry in.

The spread of either players’ numbers suggest their strengths lie in very similar areas, making for an even match-up should the two go head-to-head.

BEST GAME

Berry:

2019 NAB League Rd 12 vs. Geelong

20 disposals (16 kicks)
18 tackles
9 clearances
2 inside 50s
2 rebound 50s
3 goals

Maher:

2019 NAB League Rd 13 vs. Eastern

15 disposals (10 kicks)
3 marks
4 tackles
5 clearances
7 inside 50s
1 goal

Either players’ true strengths truly come to the fore when taking a glance at their best NAB League outings in 2019. Berry’s 18 tackles and nine clearances against Geelong are a testament to his endurance and desire at the contest, while Maher’s five clearances and seven inside 50s against Eastern are credit to his metres gained style and penetrating kick.

The two games are also true to form for both players’ overall stats, with Berry’s output greater overall in most areas, but Maher still having a profound impact on the game with his damaging disposal. It is worth noting that Berry’s performance was extra-impressive given he also booted three goals. This was a game where Gippsland came back from 27 points down at three-quarter time to win, and consecutive final term goals from Berry played a major part in that.

STRENGTHS

Berry:

Endurance
Two-way work rate
Contested ball
Accumulation

Maher:

Explosive speed
Metres gained
Kick penetration
Vertical leap

The areas which set either player apart have already been delved into, and there are subtle differences between the two which make them unique. While they are both a similar size, powerful, and apt in the contested stakes, the way they go about it is very different.

Maher uses his power and explosive speed to break away from congestion and rack up meters, while Berry uses his strength and agility to break free, while also staying in the hunt going the other way. Berry’s impact is felt over time, and he is always a presence credit to his endurance base, while Maher has those bursts of energy where he can break the lines and set his side on the front foot.

IMPROVEMENTS

Berry:

Speed

Maher:

Short field kicking
Durability

Like all draft hopefuls, these two prospects have a few areas which they are looking to fine-tune. Berry’s speed stands out as one, with his 20m sprint time not indicative of his power in the short term. At pre-season testing, Berry said his repeat speed and ability to chain up for handball receives as the ball enters the outside are what he is working on.

One of Maher’s improvements is something that is slightly out of control, with durability there on account of his injuries as a bottom-ager. But with a full pre-season under his belt, he looks on track to rectify that. Maher is also working on the fundamentals; being clean with the ground balls for his inside game, while also honing his short field kicking.

Leadership is an added aspect Maher is hoping to develop, and he has already taken fellow Murray prospect Josh Rachele under his wing at Caulfield Grammar.

KEY SCOUTING NOTES

Berry:

Berry was his team’s standout player with his grunt work in the middle setting the tone for the day.

His work rate with and without the ball was impressive and that carried on for the four quarters.

He would also hit the scoreboard with his goal coming from reading the play to mark 40 metres out and slot the nice goal.

His clearance work was great but it was also his skill with ball in hand that stood out, and despite looking like the type to just win the hard ball and bomb it, he actually took the time to hit his targets on both feet.

Maher:

Maher combined well with fellow midfielder Sam Berry to not only win plenty of the ball but also offer something a little different with his ability to get forward and take the game on.

The Murray product covered plenty of ground and played a good mix to win his own ball but also work hard to get around the ground on the outside, which showed with his seven marks, three rebound 50s and seven inside 50s.

The inside 50s especially late in the game stood out where he often hit his targets and lowered the eyes.

ACCOLADES

Berry:

2018 Vic Country Under 16 representative
2019 Vic Country Under 17 representative

Maher:

2018 Vic Country Under 16 representative
2019 Vic Country Under 17 representative
2019 Under 17 Futures All Star representative

FINAL WORD

It is often difficult to place players like this pair on draft boards in comparison to one another given the different traits that they offer – while they are similar in so many ways, they set themselves apart in others. At this point in time, it is a case of placing a consistent, hard-working midfielder against one who perhaps catches the eye more, but in less-consistent bursts. Ceiling is often what analysts look to when comparing players and while Maher may have the edge in that area given his athletic base, Berry has greater runs on the board in terms of production. A truly interesting matchup, and one we hope to see if/when football returns.

Marquee Matchups: Jamarra Ugle-Hagan vs. Nikolas Cox

DESPITE remaining in the unknown of football’s temporary absence, Draft Central is set to ramp up its draft analysis with another new prospect-focussed series, Marquee Matchups. We take a look at some of the high-end head-to-head battles which look likely to take place should the class of 2020 take the field, comparing pairs of draft hopefuls to help preview who may come out on top.

The series’ first edition features two of the most promising key position players available in NAB Leaguers Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Nikolas Cox. A Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, Oakleigh’s Ugle-Hagan originally hails from Warrnambool, but boards at Scotch College in the Chargers’ region. While he has been utilised in defence while playing school football, the 18-year-old is more prominently known for his work as a high-marking key forward.

His potential foe, Cox is one of two Northern Knights products in this year’s Vic Metro Hub, and takes on the co-captaincy responsibility for his region in 2020. The 199cm utility has already won plaudits for his remarkable athletic traits and clean hands at all levels, with versatility another key string to his bow. Having played on a wing and as a key forward at times last year, Cox will look to secure a spot a centre half-back in his top-age season.

The pair’s similarly brilliant athleticism, aerial threat, and versatility make them an ideal match-up should they meet during the NAB League, national carnival, or beyond, while their raw talents more than account for the question of marquee status. With the contest teased as the respective talents went toe-to-toe in a preseason practice match, take a look at how the two compare statistically, athletically, and otherwise in our breakdown of their junior careers to date.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country), Key Forward
vs.
Nikolas Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro) Centre half-back/Utility

ATHLETIC PROFILES: 

Ugle-Hagan shone at the 2020 NAB League preseason testing day, returning elite numbers across every test to only elevate his claim as frontrunner to be taken first off the draft board. While it may seem like Cox lags in comparison, his jumping numbers were outstanding and endurance figures elite for a player who almost tips 200cm.

HEIGHT/WEIGHT:

Ugle-Hagan – 194.3cm/83.9kg
Cox – 199cm/82.1kg

SPEED (20m):

Ugle-Hagan – 2.95 seconds
Cox – 3.15 seconds

AGILITY:

Ugle-Hagan – 8.28 seconds
Cox – 8.78 seconds

ENDURANCE (Yo-yo):

Ugle-Hagan – 21.3
Cox – 21.1

VERTICAL JUMP:

Ugle-Hagan – 68cm
Cox – 52cm

RUNNING VERTICAL JUMP (R/L):

Ugle-Hagan – 84cm/93cm
Cox – 80cm/76cm

ON-FIELD PROFILES:

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATISTICS:

Ugle-Hagan – 9 games | 10 disposals (50 per cent contested) | 5.2 marks | 1.4 tackles | 1.7 inside 50s | 24 goals
Cox – 10 games | 12.5 disposals | 4.9 marks | 2 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 1 rebound 50 | 9 goals

BEST GAME:

Ugle-Hagan – Prelim. Final vs. Sandringham; 12 disposals (11 kicks) | 9 marks | 4.2
Cox – Rd 15 vs. Bendigo; 12 disposals (10 kicks) | 6 marks | 2 inside 50s | 4.1

The differences in either player’s game come through in the key base statistics, with Ugle-Hagan’s dominance inside 50 shining through, and Cox’s ability to impact around the ground also evident. During Oakleigh’s premiership-winning campaign, Ugle-Hagan was delivered silver service from a stacked midfield, and often proved too quick on the lead for his direct opponent. The spearheads’s clean hands and set shot routine would do the rest, hence the terrific marks and goals-per-game ratios.

On the other hand, Cox edged his opponent in the disposal stakes, while also earning a tick for his versatility in averaging at least one breach of either arc per game. That is a product of Cox playing on each line throughout the year, with his season-high haul of four goals a highlight in his time up forward. Just as capable in the air, Cox’s average of almost five marks is also handy, showcasing his own ability to dominate the airways around the ground.

STRENGTHS:

Ugle-Hagan – Athleticism, overhead marking, acceleration on lead, game-breaker
Cox – Athleticism, versatility, vertical leap, high ceiling

The pair’s strengths line up well, with athleticism being the pillar of their games. That aside, Ugle-Hagan’s weapons lie in his forward craft; finding separation on the lead with his pace, and clunking strong marks hitting up at the ball. His high-marking ability makes him a constant threat inside 50, with the potential to break games open in elite patches of form.

Cox’s versatility is a strong asset, able to play virtually anywhere credit to his freakish skills on either side of his body, one-touch abilities in the air and below his knees, and again, that athleticism at 199cm. With all those features combined, it means Cox could be anything at the next level, with his potential as vast as anyone in the draft pool. Cox’s attitude and leadership also make for solid additions to his resume.

IMPROVEMENTS:

Ugle-Hagan – Field kicking
Cox – Raw, strength

One of Ugle-Hagan’s main areas for improvement, and the only one listed here is his field kicking. While he often has little trouble finding the goals, he can be wayward at times and it only becomes more evident when he gathers the ball further afield.

A prime example would be in his Under-17 Futures All Star performance, where he leapt beautifully at the ball and intercepted well at half-back, but would often have a hard time finding targets up the ground. If he can refine that area, versatility could become another strength with ball retention important for playing in defence.

Cox’s areas for improvement largely come in his overall development, with his raw talent set to be honed in more specific areas this season. While being an everyman is always helpful to coaches, building the strength to become a true key position prospect will be key to finding a spot at the next level.

KEY SCOUTING NOTES:

Ugle-Hagan – 2018 Under 16 National Championships vs. South Australia

By: Michael Alvaro

“Ugle-Hagan was one who didn’t do a whole lot throughout the course of the game, but always caught the eye when he was in possession. A few twists, turns, strong contested marks and clean pick ups were enough to suggest we may see a few more highlights from him in the future.”

Cox – 2019 NAB League Round 13 vs. Gippsland

By: Craig Byrnes

“This kid has some exciting attributes. “It was no surprise to see the 197cm bottom-ager play for Vic Metro at the Championships, the talent is there for all to see. “He is almost freakishly clean for his size at ground and possesses a left foot that any 180cm footballer would be proud of… he moves with a bit style and is a player that everyone should be keeping tabs on over the next 18 months.”

ACCOLADES:

Ugle-Hagan – 2018 Vic Country Under 16 representative, 2019 Australian Under 17 representative, 2019 NAB League premiership player, 2019 Under 17 All Stars selection
Cox – 2019 Australian Under 17 representative, 2019 Vic Metro representative, 2020 Northern Knights co-captain

For more on these two budding stars, including words from the men themselves, follow the links below.

Ugle-Hagan – Draft Watch
Cox – Draft Watch | Q&A