Tag: queensland

2021 AFLW Preview: Gold Coast Suns

GOLD COAST achieved a finals berth in its inaugural AFL Women’s campaign, exceeding expectations and setting a promising base for its second go-around at the elite level. With a new set of co-captains and a bumper draft crop, the Suns will be hoping to shine just as bright in 2021 and again feature in the postseason.

2020 RECAP

A one-point loss in a two-goal game served as Gold Coast’s AFL Women’s introduction and the Suns did not have to wait long for their maiden win as they trumped fellow newcomer, Richmond in Round 2. The competition’s first Q-Clash resulted in a thrilling draw at Metricon Stadium, with fans and pundits alike taking note of the side’s tenacity and youthful exuberance. Back-to-back losses pegged back Gold Coast’s momentum, but a second win against another expansion side in West Coast ensured the Suns would qualify for a surprise finals appearance. The undefeated Fremantle saw that the glory would be short-lived, trouncing the Queensland side by 70 points in the first postseason round.

NEW FACES

Former North Melbourne and St Kilda midfielder Alison Drennan was Gold Coast’s lone trade signing, promising to provide another strong body and some experience among the Suns’ engine room. The draft was where Gold Coast did most of its work, nabbing some strong local talent at bargain value and completing a haul of eight fresh faces.

Annise Bradfield was the first Queenslander called out on the night and looms as another midfielder who could crack the starting lineup straight away. The Suns nabbed Maddison Levi at pick 50, a steal at that range with Brisbane out of draft calculations. The tall forward should add some strength to her new side’s front half alongside Sarah Perkins, who was snapped up at pick 23 and slotted straight into the leadership group.

Levi was one of six Suns selected after pick 50, with four of them local talents and two coming from other states. Janet Baird, an NT native should deliver even more firepower to the forward half and some dash elsewhere, while Elizabeth Kearney comes in from the VFLW system.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

A surprise pick-up at the draft, no less at pick 23, was Perkins. The journeywoman key forward is the perfect addition for Gold Coast’s young side; both in terms of the role she fills and the character she brings. A former premiership player and All-Australian with Adelaide, Perkins is fresh off three appearances for Melbourne as a top-up player last year and gets a lifeline at her third club. She is well known already, but could well prove a key figure in this emerging Suns side which has previously lacked potency.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

Defence. The Suns may have lost four games last season and the last one came by 70 points, but they laid claim to the fifth-best defensive record in terms of points conceded overall. Structure from the back half is the first base good teams build in the modern game, and Gold Coast seems to have made great strides in that department early on. Youthful exuberance is another reason the Suns can go far, with their never-say-die attitude allowing them to bring it to highly fancied teams on any given day.

QUESTION MARK

Attack. Only the bottom two teams managed to score less points than the Suns in 2020, with a season-high total of 34 not exactly making for formidable reading. The Suns were also kept to just one goal twice during their maiden campaign and while they have bolstered the front half at the draft, have plenty of work to do to become a potent attacking unit.

FINAL WORD

The Suns are an exciting young side with plenty of scope to match their achievement of finals qualification in year one. There may be some downs with the ups, but this Queensland side has already shown great spirit and should only be better for the raft of inclusions they have made. Expect the Suns to ruffle some feathers and create upsets against good teams caught lacking.

Image Credit: Gold Coast Suns/AFL Photos

In Contention | Outsider AFL Draft prospects to consider: NSW/ACT, NT, QLD

COME the end of a year like no other, there is likely to be a greater amount of hard luck stories and near misses than ever before, especially after the recent cuts to AFL list sizes. But for all that doom and gloom, the 2020 AFL Draft intake is also poised to provide some of the best stories of positivity as elite level hopefuls rise from the adversity this year has put forward.

In Draft Central’s newest series, we take a look at some of the draft prospects who remain in contention to fulfil their draft dreams despite missing out on invites to their respective states’ draft combines. These combine lists are often the best indicators of clubs’ interest in players, with at least four nominations required for those who were not selected in the two national Under 17 showcase games last year. Talent from the Allied states and territories (NSW/ACT, Northern Territory, Tasmania, and Queensland) on the precipice are next to go under the microscope, and there are plenty around the mark after exciting seasons around the nation.

Below are pocket profiles of some players to watch, which will also feature in our upcoming annual AFL Draft guide.

>> 2020 AFL Draft Pool
>> AFL Draft Whispers: 2020 Edition
>> Power Rankings: November Update

NSW/ACT:

Will Chandler
Murray Bushrangers | Medium Forward
13/12/2001 | 183cm | 79kg

A 2019 state combine invitee, Chandler plied his trade with the Murray Bushrangers but hails from just over the NSW border. He is an exciting forward who can leap high and possesses a smooth left-sided kicking action.

Jack Driscoll
GWS Academy | Key Defender/Ruck
8/04/2002 | 201cm | 88kg

Driscoll is a versatile tall who obviously thrives aerially, but has the point of difference in being able to rotate between key defensive and ruck posts. There is plenty of upside to the GWS Academy member, but he is not yet the finished product.

Sam Gaden
Sydney Academy | Key Position Utility
7/03/2001 | 196cm | 92kg

Gaden is a well-built key position prospect who can impact at either end of the ground or even in the ruck with his strength and smarts. He impressed last year and as an over-ager in 2020 during the Academy Series.

Harry Grant
GWS Academy | Small Midfielder/Forward
3/07/2001 | 172cm | 78kg

He may be small, but packs a punch. Grant showed some impressive form as a nuggety inside midfielder during this year’s Academy Series after missing out as a top-ager. He is a zippy, hard-working midfielder who will likely translate better as a forward.

Godfrey Okerenyang
GWS Academy | Medium Utility
8/09/2002 | 184cm | 80kg

One of the most outstanding pure athletes available in this year’s crop, Okerenyang lit up combine testing this year with his speed and explosiveness. He is still a very raw footballer but has obvious upside and has represented NSW/ACT at Under 16 level.

Kye Pfrengle
Sydney Academy | Defender/Utility
20/11/2002 | 191cm | 82kg

A high-flying type who possesses great versatility and athleticism, Pfrengle brings plenty of x-factor whenever he enters the play. He will be working on turning those glimpses into consistent form as he develops.

Pierce Roseby
Sydney Academy | Inside Midfielder
4/01/2002 | 180cm | 79kg

Roseby has proven to be a reliable inside midfielder with great tenacity and leadership qualities over his time with the Swans Academy. He is a solid ball winner at ground level with clean hands and the ability to run hard all day.

Marco Rossmann
Sydney Academy | Forward/Midfielder
12/04/2002 | 182cm | 79kg

A prospect which Sydney fans have been keeping a particularly close eye on, Rossmann is a classy midfielder who can win his own ball while also posing a threat inside attacking 50 with great smarts and agility.

Marc Sheather
Sydney Academy | Medium Utility
11/06/2002 | 185cm | 84kg

Another strong Swans Academy candidate, Sheather is a true utility in the sense that he can play both small and tall up either end, while also developing as a midfielder. He already cuts a strong figure and has handy athletic traits.

NORTHERN TERRITORY:

Tyrrell Lui
Palmerston | Defender/Utility
2/06/2002 | 187cm

Lui has plied his trade in all sorts of roles but seems to have settled recently as a tall, rebounding defender. He had the tough job of marking Joel Jeffrey in this year’s NT Under 18 All-Stars game and held his own. Currently playing for Palmerston in the NTFL.

Brandon Rusca
Southern Districts | Outside Midfielder/Small Forward
11/05/2001 | 180cm

Another NT prospect who is currently playing senior football in the NTFL, Rusca also ran out for Gold Coast in this year’s Academy Series and is tied to the Suns through the Darwin zone. He likes to take the game on with speed on the outside.

QUEENSLAND:

Riley Buckland
Palm Beach Currumbin | Outside Midfielder/Forward
9/04/2001 | 182cm

A 19-year-old prospect who has shown promising glimpses in 2020, Buckland stands out with his speed and willingness to move the ball on in the forward half. He played into some good form late in the QAFL season for Palm Beach Currumbin.

Shatner Cashen-Harris
Wilston Grange | Outside Midfielder
18/06/2002 | 180cm | 69kg

Cashen-Harris is a prospect who certainly caught the eye this season, running out for the most part with Wilston Grange in the QAFL. He also represented the Lions Academy in 2020, impressing with his explosive speed and smothering defensive pressure.

Nathan Colenso
Morningside | Forward/Midfielder
6/11/2001 | 186cm | 80kg

Colenso came into 2020 with big wraps after taking out last year’s QAFL Rising Star award. He ended up a premiership player with Morningside while also turning out for the Suns Academy, garnering attention with his big frame and strong defensive game up forward.

Josh Gore
Broadbeach | Small Forward
29/05/2001 | 178cm | 77kg

An incredibly natural small forward, Gore was one of a few unlucky Northern Academy prospects to miss out on being drafted last year. He bounced back with a terrific senior QAFL season with Broadbeach while also showing his smarts inside 50 with the Suns Academy.

Ryan Pickering
Gold Coast Academy | Key Position Utility
25/09/2002 | 200cm | 88kg

An athletic tall who can play on every line, Pickering obviously excels aerially at 200cm. He impressed this year during his time with Broadbeach and also for the Gold Coast Suns Academy, showing signs of his development.

Bailey Reeves
Gold Coast Academy | Balanced Midfielder
17/04/2002 | 184cm | 78kg

Reeves is a hard-working midfielder who can play both inside and out, as shown during his breakout Academy Series performances. He also enjoyed a solid QAFL season playing mostly on the wing, providing good grunt going both ways.

Top 10s: National Draft Combine testing – 20m sprint

AFL DRAFT combines have wrapped up around the nation, giving an insight into how each elite level hopeful stacks up athletically. For most prospects, it was a chance to showcase just how much they had improved since preseason, especially after a full season of football – albeit compromised. For the Victorians in action, they finally got to show their wares after a substantial amount of time away from the field, with a number of them registering results indicative of remarkably hard work in the meantime.

The 20-metre sprint is the test used to measure an athlete’s burst of speed, and often yields some of the most looked-at data from such testing events. Looking at the combined results from each state and region, the overall top 10 features six players who measure up at over 190cm, showcasing just how exciting some of these budding draftees are as prototypical, modern day athletes.

>> SCROLL to see the top 10 results

Six players who registered top 10 times are also already aligned to AFL clubs, headlined by Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (NGA) member and consensus number one prospect, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. Another NGA product, Reef McInnes (Collingwood) took full toll with a tailwind to notch a nation-wide fastest time of 2.78 seconds, remarkable considering his 193cm/86kg frame and the fact he is an inside midfielder. Standout Swans Academy member Braeden Campbell equalled Ugle-Hagan’s effort as both managed the equal-10th best time.

There also looms some real bolters in the pack, with the likes of Liam Kolar, Max Holmes, and Fraser Rosman all notching elite times of 2.90 seconds or better. Kolar and Rosman are athletic tall forwards who are quite raw but can compete aerially, while wingman Holmes is a national hurdles champion and the son of Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Lee Naylor. Essendon NGA hopeful Joshua Eyre was another surprise packet, dominating across the board and ranking eighth in this particular test.

Godfrey OkerenyangIsiah Winder, and Aiden Fyfe joined Campbell as the only non-Victorians to earn top 10 status, with West Australian Winder also the smallest player among them at 180cm. He is fresh off a season which saw him earn a senior berth at Peel Thunder, proving a classy user through midfield. Keen watchers may remember Okerenyang from the 2018 AFL Grand Final sprint, which he took out, while Fyfe is a wingman out of Gold Coast’s Academy.

Incredibly, none of the top 10 runners featured on the same list during preseason, though Campbell was among the best NSW/ACT sprinters at that time.

Top 10 times:

1. Reef McInnes (Oakleigh/Vic Metro) – 2.78 seconds
2. Max Holmes (Sandringham/Vic Metro) – 2.80
3. Godfrey Okerenyang (GWS Academy/Allies) – 2.86
4. Liam Kolar (Northern/Vic Metro) – 2.87
5. Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder/Western Australia) – 2.873
=6. Zavier Maher (Murray/Vic Country) – 2.89
=6. Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo/Vic Country) – 2.88
8. Joshua Eyre (Calder/Vic Metro) – 2.89
9. Aiden Fyfe (Gold Coast Academy/Allies) – 2.898
=10. Braeden Campbell (Sydney Academy/Allies) – 2.90
=10. Fraser Rosman (Sandringham/Vic Metro) – 2.90
=10. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh/Vic Country) – 2.90

Stay tuned for top 10 results from each of the remaining tests.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

Preseason testing:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

Featured Image: Jamarra Ugle-Hagan runs the 20-metre sprint | Credit: AFL Photos

Draft Central Power Rankings: November 2020

THE PENULTIMATE edition of Draft Central’s 2020 Power Rankings is in, as AFL Draft combines, All-Star fixtures, and state league finals from around the country have all now been wrapped up. Victorian talents finally got to show their wares, albeit only for combine tests, but gave a glimpse into how they have grown and developed without any on-field action this year. It sees a bunch of shuffles made, with a couple of big movers and sliders among our top 30, while two key defenders make their push for the top 10.

There are no completely fresh faces from the list compiled in our October edition, as the top five shapes up quite consistently to see most of the movement made between ranks 10 and 20. Nearly a third of the 30 players featured in our analysis are already tied to AFL clubs, only further confirming the tag this year’s crop holds as the most compromised ever. All that, and more in Draft Central’s November Power Rankings update.

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

>> 2020 Draft Profiles

#1 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 195cm | 90kg

Western Bulldogs fans may not entirely enjoy seeing Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, Ugle-Hagan perched atop the tree given the hefty price that comes with it, but should be buoyed by their club having first dibs on such a remarkable talent. The 195cm key position forward has been compared to champion goalkicker Lance Franklin for his athleticism and left-foot kick, but he plays a little differently. Ugle-Hagan’s pace off the lead and sticky hands overhead set him apart, while elite scores in each of the combine testing events make him an irresistible prospect alone. He has long been the consensus number one choice, having delivered on the hype as he moved to the Oakleigh region via a scholarship with Scotch College.

October Ranking: #1

Last Month: Ugle-Hagan was able to showcase his athleticism at the Vic Metro Draft Combine, registering terrific results across the board. He again ran a sub-three-second 20-metre sprint and weighed in six kilos heavier than in preseason, hinting at his development in strength which will be important as he enters the AFL system as a tall forward. He remains the consensus number one, despite seeing no on-field action in 2020.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#2 Elijah Hollands
Murray Bushrangers/Vic County | Forward/Midfielder
25/04/2002 | 188cm | 80kg

Hollands’ placing in these rankings initially proved one of the hardest to call, especially given he sat out the entire 2020 season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). At this point though, he has done more than enough to warrant top five status at the least, and finds a place in second spot once again. While his knack for producing game-defining periods has most significantly been achieved forward of centre, Hollands has the size and skill to warrant his goal of earning more midfield minutes. With clean hands, athleticism, and a booming boot which often finds the goals, Hollands is all you could ever want from a high-ceiling prospect. Not playing shouldn’t hurt his value too much, especially given the fate of his fellow Victorians, but it would have been nice to see him get an uninterrupted crack at NAB League level having finished his schooling at Caulfield Grammar.

October Ranking: #2

Last Month: Hollands earned an invite to the Draft Combine but while he is said to be recovering well from his ACL injury sustained during preseason, was not quite ready to participate. He should be ready to go early next year and holds his spot at number two, as he has done all year.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#3 Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 196cm | 86kg

A dominant key position forward with terrific endurance is McDonald, who adds to the strong tall and West Australian representation on this list. The high-marking spearhead ran out for his state thrice during last year’s Under 18 National Championships, averaging a goal per game and impressing with his ability to clunk marks leading up the ground. He has terrific hands on the lead and usually has no trouble finding the big sticks, while his high-level endurance confirms his status as a true, modern-day centre half-forward. Having grown and filled out to a more conventional key position size, McDonald has showcased his game-winning ability from forward of centre in 2020 – something which earned him All-Australian honours as an Under 16s player. He booted 21 goals in nine WAFL League games this year, an outstanding return.

October Ranking: #3

Last Month: After helping Perth to its first WAFL League finals series in over 20 years, McDonald also performed well at the Western Australia Draft Combine; registering a time of 3.029 seconds over 20 metres, and 6:33 over 2km to showcase his speed-endurance mix. He also booted multiple goals in the first WA Under 18 All-Stars game, but missed the second with calf soreness.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus | Player Focus

#4 Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
14/04/2002 | 194cm | 78kg

Another tall among the top five, and a versatile one at that. While Grainger-Barras is definitely most comfortable and renowned as a key position defender, the Swan Districts hopeful’s versatility lies in the varying roles he play inside defensive 50. Credit to his athleticism and slender frame, he is able to keep up with medium types at ground level, while also showing form as a lockdown type on the opposition’s best big forward, or as an intercept marking outlet. Grainger-Barras is a cool head in possession too, boasting a sound kick for his size and composure beyond his years. That same level-headedness and footballing IQ makes him a sound reader of the play from the back, and the leading option in his position.

October Ranking: #4

Last Month: Grainger-Barras was another to impress at the WA Draft Combine with terrific results in the vertical jumps, speed, and agility tests. He also performed on-field in both WA Under 18 All-Star showcases, assuming his usual key defensive post and intercepting well before being thrown forward to boot a couple of goals in game two. He remains quite lean, but is super athletic and a lock for top five status.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus | Player Focus

#5 Will Phillips
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
22/05/2002 | 180cm | 80kg

We all marvelled at how well Oakleigh graduates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson have adapted to life in the AFL, and Phillips could be the next Charger in line to do just that having leant on the pair during his bottom-aged campaign. Like Rowell, Phillips is a 180cm prospect who consistently finds plenty of the ball and possesses great leadership qualities. He is a well-balanced midfielder too, having plied his trade at times on the outside for Oakleigh en route to premiership glory. Phillips seems to thrive on the inside though, with his hardness and ability to weave through traffic making him an invaluable stoppage asset. The Caulfield Grammar student was set to juggle APS football and NAB League duties in 2020, while standing as a clear leadership candidate for Vic Metro come national carnival time – all before the pandemic hit.

October Ranking: #5

Last Month: Rounding out a rather settled top five, Phillips cut quite a powerful figure at the Vic Metro Draft Combine. He registered a 2.91-second 20-metre sprint time, while also faring well in the 2km time trial (6:38), which is shown in his toe away from congestion, and ability to run all day. Phillips firms as arguably the best pure midfielder in the draft.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

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

In a welcome change from last year’s crop, key position prospects will be in abundance at the top end. Thilthorpe is one of them, an athletic ruck/forward who possesses enormous running capacity and can dominate the airways. In his ruck duties, the 201cm West Adelaide product plays more like a fourth midfielder, able to follow up at ground level and cover the ground like a small. He has been utilised in a more forward-oriented role for the Bloods at SANFL League level though, with his goalkicking attributes and diverse skillset already making him a handful for senior players with more mature bodies. Ask any of the South Australian Under 18s who they were most looking forward to playing alongside in 2020, and Thilthorpe was almost always among them. Jot the name down, he should be among those you are most looking forward to watching, too.

October Ranking: #6

Last Month: The South Australian big man has not been able to finish off his year as he would have liked, sidelined since Round 9 of the 14-game SANFL season, while also deemed unable to participate in his state’s Draft Combine and Under 18 All-Stars clash. Groin niggles have been the cause of his injury concerns of late, with that durability factor looming as a potential dampener to his top five hopes. It hasn’t set him any further down our list though, as he is still one of the more versatile key position options.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus

#7 Tanner Bruhn
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
27/05/2002 | 183cm | 74kg

Class with a capital ‘C’ is what Bruhn has been described as, despite his limited on-field opportunities over the last two years. The Geelong Falcons midfielder burst onto the scene as Vic Country’s Under 16 MVP in 2018, but injuries have cruelled him since; having initially required knee surgery after a 2019 preseason incident, and undergone a follow-up procedure that would have had him in doubt to feature early this year. He still managed to add two NAB League outings to his resume towards the end of last season, showcasing his terrific stoppage craft with clean hands and wonderful movement around the ball. Should he eventually enjoy an extended run and put his best form on display at the next level, Bruhn could well prove to be the premier midfielder of this year’s bunch.

October Ranking: #8

Last Month: Bruhn seems to have achieved a clean run since his preseason setback, looking strong at the Vic Country Draft Combine with a solid 2km time of 6:40. He also fared well in the vertical jumps, which is not particularly a key feature of his game, but rather showcases the athleticism he is capable of producing with a full bill of health. He moves up a spot and can hopefully build some more consistency going forward.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#8 Braeden Campbell
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Balanced Midfielder/Forward
4/02/2002 | 181cm | 75kg

While he has again been squeezed out to number eight, Campbell is a player with the potential to end up a top five player out of this year’s crop. Uncertainty lingered over how much exposure NSW/ACT athletes would be able to gain in 2020 given the NEAFL and NAB League scrappings, but one must only watch last year’s Under 17 Futures All-Star showcase to be reminded of Campbell’s talent. He was best-afield in that game, with electrifying speed, hardness at the ball, and a booming left-foot kick catching the eye of all who bore witness. The Swans Academy product is also apt in the short range as well, and has the invaluable ability to impact games in multiple positions. Whether it be on the inside, outside, or forward of centre, Campbell is a match-winner and should cost the Swans a pretty penny in terms of draft points.

October Ranking: #7

Last Month: Campbell’s Pennant Hills Demons were knocked out in week one of the AFL Sydney Premier Division, with the Swans Academy youngster booting a goal in that particular game. He finished with nine from six games overall, while twice being named among the Demons’ best. At the NSW/ACT Draft Combine, Campbell again showcased his high-level speed and agility, but registered a 2km time of over seven minutes.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus

#9 Lachlan Jones
WWT Eagles/South Australia | General Defender
9/04/2002 | 186cm | 89kg

Yet another NGA prospect, Jones is tied to Port Adelaide and features quite highly on this list as he pushes for top 10 honours. His big frame has seen him adjust well to the rigours of SANFL League football, running out against mature bodies in all bar one of the Eagles’ fixtures this year. As a general defender, Jones possesses obvious hardness at the ball and can compete both aerially and at ground level, remaining relevant going both ways too. His skills are also a big asset, able to spear passes to high percentage options while also breaking games open with his long-range efforts. Jones may well be one to push further up the list as he progresses in 2020, with some solid traits which point to a quick transition into the next level.

October Ranking: #9

Last Month: Jones became a SANFL League premiership player in October, finding his groove come finals time to average 16.7 disposals and 4.3 marks in the postseason. He also capped off an outstanding 16-game season by winning mark of the year, but was managed as the SA Draft Combine and Under 18 All-Stars fixture came around. His on-field performances proved plenty though, showcasing his wares as a potential top 10 talent.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus Round 3 Round 8

#10 Zach Reid
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Key Position Defender/Utility
2/03/2002 | 202cm | 83kg

A versatile tall who could push for top 10 status come draft time, Reid returned a consistent output during his bottom-age season as a key member of Gippsland’s spine. He was tried up either end and through the ruck across 15 NAB League outings, but looked most comfortable down back and should find a home there at the next level. At 202cm, Reid is filling out nicely and can utilise that added strength to compete better one-on-one against big key forwards. He is a terrific judge of the ball in flight and positions intelligently, not just relying on his height to compete aerially. Reid is also both a sound handler and user of the ball for his size, providing a cool head in rebounding transitions. He managed to run out for Leongatha’s Under 18s in July before the season was called off, proving a rare appearance for a Victorian prospect.

October Ranking: #14

Last Month: Reid strengthened his standing as a potential top 10’er at the Vic Country Draft Combine, faring typically well in the vertical jumps with feats of 82cm off either foot. He also registered a 2km time of 6:39, showcasing outstanding mobility and endurance for a player of his size.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#11 Heath Chapman
West Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
31/01/2002 | 192cm | 81kg

A player who has risen steeply into top 15 calculations, Chapman is a key position defender with many points of difference. Having cut his teeth in the role during his bottom-age year, the 192cm prospect has been able to roll off as a third tall down back for West Perth in 2020, utilising his shrewd reading of the play and athleticism to provide a dominant intercept marking prowess. His ability to open up the play in transition with long, rebounding kicks is Chapman’s other key strength, making him a versatile defensive outlet who finds plenty of the ball. Given his size and athletic attributes, that third tall prototype seems his most likely avenue to the elite level, though he is just as capable competing as a more traditional key position player.

October Ranking: #16

Last Month: Chapman put in a couple of solid showings in the Western Australia Under 18 All-Star matches, taking up his usual post at centre half-back. While he is an attacking threat from his own half, Chapman was also forced to show his defensive wares in game two as he matched up on Denver Grainger-Barras, who had swung forward. At the WA combine, Chapman achieved an outstanding 2km time of 6:20, which translates to his repeat running and chain possessions in rebounding forays. He makes another move up to #11.

>> Draft Watch

#12 Alex Davies
Gold Coast SUNS/Allies | Inside Midfielder
18/03/2002 | 192cm | 85kg

A second Northern Academy prospect and the first Queenslander on this list, Davies is one of the more highly touted big-bodied midfielders of his cohort. Standing at 192cm and filling out to 85kg, the SUNS Academy hopeful boasts the ideal size to not only dominate his junior competitors, but more importantly make an immediate impact at the next level. He has been his state’s prime ball winner for some time and thrives on racking up high contested numbers, but has also displayed terrific poise in traffic to add releasing handballs to his thumping kicks away from the stoppages. He ran out for four of Gold Coast’s NAB League outings as a bottom-ager, and looked set to prove a lynchpin among the Allies squad in 2020.

October Ranking: #12

Last Month: The SUNS Academy prospect has been out of action since injuring his elbow in early-August, seeing him miss the Academy Series, Broadbeach’s run to the Senior QAFL Grand Final, and also sit out the Queensland Draft Combine. It will not stop him from proving Queensland’s best talent this year, en route to being pre-listed by Gold Coast.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#13 Nikolas Cox
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Key Position Utility
15/01/2002 | 200cm | 87kg

A 200cm player who can run, kick on both sides, and play just about anywhere? It sounds too good to be true, but that is exactly what Cox brings to the table as his region’s most outstanding draft candidate. Cox cut his teeth as a tall wingman and key position swingman in 2019, juggling his time between school football, 10 NAB League outings, and a berth in the Under 18 Vic Metro squad as a bottom-ager. In 2020, the Northern Knights co-captain was set to develop as a centre-half back, with his athleticism and versatility in the role lending to the fact he has an enormous ceiling. He was also set to be a prime candidate to lead Vic Metro this year, lauded for his professionalism and the example he sets via training standards.

October Ranking: #11

Last Month: Cox remains a player with enormous upside despite not featuring on-field in 2020. He was a feature at the Vic Metro Draft Combine, notching a sub-three-second 20-metre sprint, while also completing the 2km time trial in 6:03. That rare athletic base for a player of his size sees him stick within our top 15, even as he shuffles down a couple of spots.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#14 Nathan O’Driscoll 
Perth/Western Australia | Balanced Midfielder
17/05/2002 | 187cm | 78kg

One of Western Australia’s leading prospects is O’Driscoll, a hard-at-it inside midfielder who can also double as a damaging half-back or wingman. The 187cm Perth Demons product was a standout at Colts level last year, while also breaking through for three outings in the Black Ducks’ Under 18 National Championships campaign as a bottom-ager. Having learnt off the likes of former Perth teammate and Brisbane draftee, Deven Robertson, O’Driscoll is primed to become a permanent midfield fixture having already proven his ball winning capabilities. His penetrating boot and speed-endurance mix make him a prospect with many desirable traits, not to mention his older sister, Emma is already plying her trade at AFLW level for Fremantle.

October Ranking: #10

Last Month: A shoulder injury kept O’Driscoll from running out in the WA Under 18 All-Star fixtures after previously managing a handful of senior games for Perth in the WAFL. In between, the 18-year-old midfielder returned some outstanding results across the board at the WA Draft Combine; namely a 6:23 2km time, and 2.931 seconds over 20 metres. He falls a touch as others rise, with his range still contentious among draft watchers.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus

#15 Kaine Baldwin
Glenelg/South Australia | Key Position Forward
30/05/2002 | 193cm | 90kg

The news of Baldwin’s second ACL tear in as many years – albeit partial this time – was shattering. It meant the promising 193cm forward missed out on yet another season of football after earning All Australian honours at Under 16s level in 2018, and a crack at the SANFL Reserves grade as a bottom-ager. In our eyes, he remains a first round prospect on talent alone, and looked poised to really crack on in 2020 after his initial recovery. He was a handy preseason testing performer, with good returns in the vertical jumps and yo-yo test conveying Baldwin’s ability to crash packs and clunk big contested marks, while also harnessing that aerial dominance in his work up the ground.

October Ranking: #15

Last Month: Baldwin has been inactive all year after partially tearing his ACL on the eve of the 2020 season, but was sighted helping out at the SA Draft Combine despite not participating. He keeps his spot at #15, though that will likely be far from indicative of his final draft range given the severe injury concerns.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

A brother-of who could eventually feature at the top end of this year’s rankings is Henry, the younger sibling of Geelong Cats defender, Jack. The Geelong Falcons product has top 10 potential, able to play up either end of the ground and pull down big marks. While he looks most comfortable up forward as a high-flying third tall type, Henry is just as capable down back where his aerial prowess translates to intercept value. At 188cm, he plays above his size through sheer athleticism and reading of the play, with the potential to also move up onto a wing. If Victorian prospects had been allowed back onto the park in 2020, Henry would likely have been one to rise quite steeply given his enormous upside and versatility.

October Ranking: #17

Last Month: Despite not being able to prove himself on-field, Henry is a player who is being talked up right among the top 10 conversation. Given these are Power Rankings, and not a Phantom Draft, he remains just outside that range for now on what he produced last season. He performed solidly across the board at the Vic Country Draft Combine, getting a nice tick for his already evident athleticism and upside.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#17 Archie Perkins
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
26/03/2002 | 188cm | 79kg

Perkins has all the makings of a special talent. Having caught the eye as a forward and outside midfielder in 2019, the Sandringham Dragons standout was poised to spend more time on the inside as a top-ager, with just the right size and some incredible athletic attributes to aid his transition. Perkins boasts a monster vertical leap, covers 20 metres in less than three seconds, and is brilliantly agile, making for an ideal athletic base. His finishing touch is an area he can refine, but the 188cm prospect is no stranger to finding the goals and can be a real game changer when required. Damage and impact are key traits which often prove hard to measure, but Perkins ranks highly in both departments.

October Ranking: #18

Last Month: Another being talked up near the top 10 range, a lack of football in 2020 has Perkins perched around the 15-mark in our estimation. He could really be anything at the next level though, so don’t be surprised to see him rise in stocks as draft time approaches. Another incredible athlete, Perkins registered ridiculous scores in the vertical leaps (over 90cm off both feet), 20-metre sprint (2.93 seconds), and 2km time trial (6:23) to only confirm his status as one of the most promising talents available in the first round.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#18 Reef McInnes
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
12/12/2002 | 193cm | 86kg

Sliding down the order due to others’ rises is another inside midfielder and a second NGA product from both the Scotch College and Oakleigh Chargers systems. Attached to Collingwood, McInnes is set to be yet another in the production line of academy and father-son prospects made available to the Magpies, and looms as a first round candidate. While he was pushed out to the forward line in Oakleigh’s stacked premiership side, McInnes is a bull on the inside who can dominate at stoppages. He is hardly the typical slow, strength-dependant type either, able to lean on his agility and awareness to effectively extract from midfield. The versatility he was made to learn as a bottom-ager adds another string to his bow, with goals a valuable part of his game in 2019.

October Ranking: #13

Last Month: Arguably a harsh slider on this list, McInnes still very much ranks highly in our eyes. He is a first prospect on pure talent, but will more likely attract a bid within the second round. He has done all he could to prove his worth this year despite not playing any football, showcasing his power at the Vic Metro Draft Combine with a 20m sprint time of 2.78 seconds. No, that is not a typo. He cut a pretty lean figure at said event too, and looks to have kept in good shape despite a 2km time trial result of 7:10.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#19 Caleb Poulter
WWT Eagles/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
12/10/2002 | 192cm | 79kg

One of this year’s brightest bolters, Poulter has rocketed up draft boards after an eye-catching start to his top-age season. The big-bodied midfielder brings a serious presence through midfield, able to win plenty of the ball himself while also hunting the opposition with tackling pressure. Add to his midfield craft the ability to take big marks overhead, hit the scoreboard with his penetrating left boot, and utilise his terrific athletic base, and you have a prospect who can wreak absolute havoc at his best. With some senior football also under his belt in 2020, Poulter has stood up and been noticed quickly. It has been a steep rise since his Under 16 carnival in South Australian colours last year.

October Ranking: #19

Last Month: It was a tough call not to push Poulter even higher up the board after his outstanding display in the SA Under 18 All-Stars clash. Fresh off averaging 21 touches in the Eagles’ SANFL Under 18 finals series, the tall midfielder was so classy in midfield with wonderfully clean hands and disposal. Going back a bit further, he also performed well in each test at his state’s Draft Combine and is surely knocking on the door of first round status.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch

#20 Errol Gulden
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Small Forward/Midfielder
18/07/2002 | 175cm | 75kg

Seemingly joined at the hip with fellow Swans Academy gun Braeden Campbell throughout their journey to the big time, Gulden has long been a highly-touted prospect. The small utility broke through to claim the Division 2 MVP award at the 2018 Under 16 National Championships, racking up mountains of the ball and kicking bags of goals. Since, he has carried such form into his outings with the Swans Academy, while also playing senior footy in the AFL Sydney Premier Division, and representing the Allies Under 18s last year. The crafty mover is small, but holds his own and is as naturally talented a prospect as there is this year.

October Ranking: #29

Last Month: Gulden is clearly the biggest riser this month after making the most of his time on-field in Sydney’s Premier Division competition. The diminutive midfielder showcased all his craftiness to help UNSW Bulldogs into a Grand Final and was named among the best players in the decider. Having snared 16 goals in his eight senior games, Gulden also came runner-up in the league’s best and fairest count, proving he can match it with more mature bodies. He ticks a lot of boxes and was able to showcase his endurance with a 2km time of 6:32 at the NSW/ACT Draft Combine. Swans fans and recruiters will be sweating on where a bid for Gulden comes, as he continues to push towards top 20 status.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#21 Tom Powell
Sturt/South Australia | Midfielder
2/03/2002 | 183cm | 74kg

There are few more consistent ball winners than Powell, who has put an interrupted bottom-age season behind him to emerge as arguably Sturt’s most promising draft prospect. The Double Blues standout simply finds the ball at will, able to get his side going on the front foot from midfield with clever positioning, movement, and extraction. He may be a touch handball happy, but is an elite exponent of that tool and is beginning to mix in his kicking to have an even greater impact on games. At his best, Powell is nothing short of dominant, though goals and a greater run-and-carry game would make him a complete midfielder – akin to Lachie Neale‘s development.

October Ranking: #21

Last Month: While unable to help steer Sturt to premiership glory in the SANFL Under 18s, Powell still finished the season as the competition’s most prolific ball winner. He lead the disposal and clearance stakes, averaging over 34 and nine in the respective categories to stamp his claim as one of this year’s premier midfielders. He put in a solid shift for a well-beaten side in the SA Under 18 All-Stars game, but did not test at the Draft Combine as he navigated finals time.

>> Feature (April) (September)
>> Draft Watch

#22 Finlay Macrae
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
13/03/2002 | 186cm | 78kg

You may recognise the name and yes, Finlay is the half-brother of Western Bulldogs midfielder, Jack. They are quite clearly cut from the same cloth, with the younger Macrae possessing a similar ball winning appetite and class on the ball to his established older sibling. The 186cm Charger also boasts a terrific balance in his traits, able to impact the play moving forward with sound decision making and precise execution via foot, on top of his obvious exploits in extraction. While he is not overly quick, Macrae’s evasiveness comes through agility and awareness, which would have been on full show as he prepared to feature prominently for Oakleigh, Xavier College, and Vic Metro in 2020.

October Ranking: #22

Last Month: Macrae holds his spot and could well push even higher considering how close this kind of range is. While he is another Victorian who was robbed of a top-age season, the classy Oakleigh product has grown nicely to 186cm/78kg and put in an outstanding 2km time of 6:17 at the Vic Metro Draft Combine. That side of the game is what he does well as a consistent ball winner, compared to the ultra-explosive components.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#23 Jack Carroll
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder/Defender
20/12/2002 | 187cm | 76kg

One who has bolted into first round contention, Carroll has plenty of suitors in said range. Coming into his top-age season, the West Australian was pegged as a classy outside midfielder or half-back who moved well and used the ball efficiently by foot. But after nearly a full season of WAFL Colts football through midfield, the 187cm prospect has also shown his worth inside the engine room. Carroll measures up at a good height and while he may be a touch light, is not afraid to win his own ball before using his high-level agility and poise to weave through traffic and effectively dispose of the ball. A versatile talent with good upside, Carroll is destined to rise even further.

October Ranking: #23

Last Month: Carroll had his season cut short by a broken wrist in mid-September, meaning he missed out on the WA Under 18 All-Stars games and East Fremantle’s brief WAFL Colts finals stint. It did not stop him from testing at his state’s Draft Combine though, posting terrific results in each test but not completing the 2km time trial. It is enough to hold the #23 spot, though he is another with plenty of potential to rise.

>> Draft Watch

#24 Brayden Cook
South Adelaide/South Australia | Wing/Forward
18/07/2002 | 189cm | 82kg

Search for the 2020 AFL Draft bolter, and Cook’s name is likely the one you’ll find top of any list. The South Adelaide prospects has come from the clouds to not only put himself within draft contention, but right up into top 25 calculations. Plying his trade either up on a wing or inside forward 50, Cook is a game-winner who is capable of kicking bags of goals and taking eye-catching marks. His size allows him to not just rely on his vertical leap, but also out-work his opponents one-on-one, with his terrific goal sense often helping finish the job. Having put his name on the map, the wingman/forward can now look forward to featuring among his state’s All-Star showcase.

October Ranking: #24

Last Month: Cook did not quite finish the season as he would have liked, kept scoreless for the first time in 2020 as his side bowed out of the SANFL Under 18 finals. His previous body of work still stands up though, having led the league for goals and contested marks across a dozen outings. He could well be a top 20 talent given the profound impact he brings and the steep rise he has enjoyed this year. Cook performed solidly at the SA Draft Combine, but was managed and missed out on the Under 18 All-Stars match.

>> Draft Watch

#25 Zane Trew
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
26/04/2002 | 185cm | 80kg

Trew is one of many top-end prospects who had to battle injury throughout their bottom-age seasons, but proved primed to bounce back well in 2020. Hailing from the talent-stacked Swan Districts program, Trew is a classy inside midfielder who can rack up plenty of ball in style, backed by his 40-disposal effort in last year’s WAFL Colts competition. While he was limited to just three outings and missed Under 18 selection for WA, the 185cm prospect should not be forgotten in top 25 discussions. Trew is a handball-happy extractor, able to flick out releasing touches to his runners, but he is just as effective by foot with clean skills at short range and penetration when required. He was a lock for the WA engine room this season in representative games and returned a good output when fully fit.

October Ranking: #20

Last Month: Trew was frustrated once again this year by some injury niggles, the latest of which (soreness) kept him from running out for game two of the WA Under 18 All Stars fixtures. He had his moments through midfield in game one without dominating, perhaps the product of his side being soundly beaten. Trew did manage to showcase some of his power at the Draft Combine though, registering a sub-three-second 20-metre sprint and vertical leaps of over 80cm off either side.

>> Draft Watch
>> Draft Diary 1 | 2
>> Marquee Matchup

#26 Joel Jeffrey
NT Thunder/Gold Coast SUNS/Allies | Key Position Utility
12/03/2002 | 192cm | 80kg

The sole representative from the Northern Territory in our top 30, Jeffrey is arguably the region’s most promising draft prospect this year. Having grown to 192cm, Jeffrey is a true swingman who can dominate aerially up either end. His reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and his sticky hands do the rest of the work as he pulls down big marks. The son of NT legend Russell Jeffrey, Joel comes from good pedigree and is terrifically athletic for his size; boasting speed to burn, a sizeable leap, and clean hands at ground level. Having gained senior football experience with Wanderers in the NTFL, Jeffrey was set to move to Queensland this year given his ties to the Gold Coast SUNS via their access to the Darwin zone. The move was ultimately put on hold due to the current pandemic, but Jeffrey looks certain to end up in the Sunshine State come season’s end.

October Ranking: #25

Last Month: Jeffrey has not had much to do over the last month having already participated in Queensland’s Academy Series and Draft Combine. He showed glimpses of his athleticism during the fitness testing, running a 3.020-second 20-metre sprint but still requiring some work on his endurance base. He has great potential and versatility, with his ranking hardly relevant to the draft as Gold Coast will pre-list him without cost – a massive get for the SUNS.

>> Draft Watch

#27 Bailey Laurie
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
24/03/2002 | 179cm | 78kg

Another member of Oakleigh’s talent-rich 2019 premiership side, Laurie also features highly in our estimations. The small forward/midfielder is a livewire, and can take games away from the opposition quickly as a high-impact player. His forward running and wonderful agility make for some highlight-reel snippets, consisting of line-breaking bursts and baulks which make his opponents look silly. The Caulfield Grammar student is a great character and a teammate who others love to play alongside, adding a different element to his on-field prowess.

October Ranking: #27

Last Month: Laurie holds his spot at #27 and is a player who could well have lit up the field in 2020. Ultimately, we were unable to see what he could do after a promising 2019 NAB League finals series, but the Victorian showed his wares at the Vic Metro Draft Combine with improved results in the 20-metre sprint (3.06 seconds) and 2km time trial (6:24).

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#28 Brandon Walker
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Half-Back
17/10/2002 | 183cm | 75kg

Introducing one of the smoothest movers of the potential 2020 AFL draft cohort, who is tied to Fremantle’s NGA. Dockers fans will be desperate to downplay Walker’s potential, with elite speed, agility, and vertical leaps combined with clean skills to make up the East Fremantle prospect’s game. He looks a damaging outlet off half-back with his line-breaking ability and precision via foot, while also providing solid defensive cover credit to eye-catching aerial feats and reading of the play. Walker can also move through midfield, adding another string to his bow as he develops. His twin brother, Chris joins him at East Fremantle and in the Dockers Academy.

October Ranking: #26

Last Month: Walker was unable to build on his fantastic WAFL Colts season after sustaining a fractured foot in late-September. It meant he did not test at the WA Draft Combine, nor compete in the Under 18 All-Stars showcases, perhaps allowing Dockers fans to breathe a sigh of relief as the talents of their NGA product have been kept a touch under wraps.

>> Draft Watch

#29 Eddie Ford
Western Jets/Vic Metro | Medium Forward/Midfielder
21/06/2002 | 189cm | 83kg

If you’re after one of the best Under 18s highlight packages among this year’s crop, then look no further than Western’s Ford. The Jets’ leading prospect is capable of taking high marks, booting long goals, and bursting forward to break the lines with his explosive athleticism and speed. Having cut his teeth as a medium forward, the 189cm Victorian has recently requested tape of Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe as he looks to sharpen his midfield craft. He certainly has the size and athletic profile to make the transition, and would have done so with some time on the park as a top-ager. You may remember his Under 17 Futures All-Stars performance from last year, which is what he can produce at his best. Consistency will be key.

October Ranking: #28

Last Month: Ford has grown a few centimetres since preseason and seems to be filling out nicely, coming in at 189cm and 83kg at the Vic Metro Draft Combine. The leading Western Jets product also showed off his athleticism at the event, notching a 94cm running vertical jump and 20-metre time of 2.95 seconds. We know how that translates to his form up forward, but it remains to be seen whether he can consistently provide the same excitement through midfield.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#30 Joel Western
Claremont/Western Australia | Small Midfielder/Forward
12/10/2002 | 172cm | 68kg

Fremantle’s NGA talent program has proven one of the more successful producers of AFL-level players since its inception, and Western is one of a few highly touted prospects set to take the next step in 2020. The Claremont captain took his side to a second consecutive WAFL Colts Grand Final after last year’s premiership triumph, overcoming some early injury concerns to run out an outstanding season. The small midfielder is all-class through the engine room, able to zip out of traffic and deliver the ball forward with freakish skill. As will be expected at the elite level, Western is also capable of playing up forward and even across half-back, making him a player with plenty of upside for Dockers fans to look forward to.

October Ranking: #30

Last Month: Western was best afield in game one of the WA Under 18 All-Stars, before dislocating his finger in game two and thus bringing an end to his year. The crafty small was also managed as his peers performed at the Draft Combine on account of having to lead Claremont to a second-straight WAFL Colts Grand Final appearance. He has done all he could on-field, and awaits a matched bid from Fremantle to stay at home base come draft time.

>> Draft Watch

IN THE MIX:

The recent All-Star fixtures and combines served as a nice refresher as to some of the names who may have flown under the radar this year. Despite not testing, Hawthorn NGA product and Eastern Ranges captain Connor Downie is a player close to the top 30 mark, as is diminutive midfielder Jake Bowey. Fellow Victorians Sam Berry and Conor Stone may also be considered in the second or third rounds, along with underrated midfielder Zavier Maher.

There are a few rucks who may also push their case, with Kalin Lane a late bloomer coming off an outstanding WAFL Colts campaign, while fellow West Australian Shannon Neale is a terrific athlete who also doubles as a key forward. Victorians Henry Walsh (the brother of Sam) and Max Heath are also worth mentions as they continue to develop, though do not have the same recent form to show having not been able to play in 2020.

South Australians who remain close include the likes of Zac Dumesny, Corey Durdin, and Luke Edwards, all of whom have long been highly-touted prospects. Adelaide NGA product Tariek Newchruch is coming off a promising All-Stars showing, as is NT native Brodie Lake, who holds ties to Gold Coast as part of its Darwin zone. Blake Coleman is another aligned to a club, arguably Brisbane’s best academy graduate this year.

Draft Central Power Rankings: October 2020

COMBINES, All-Star showcases, and state league finals have brought new life to the 2020 AFL Draft scene, as budding prospects around the nation look to prove their worth ahead of that one day in (likely) early-December. Victorian talents remain in the unknown, but feature aplenty in our list which has undergone a series of minor shuffles. In Draft Central’s latest Power Rankings, the form guide has shot out to 30 names; compared to 25 in our September analysis, and 20 in both August and July.

Among the fresh faces, a South Australian bolter enters the top 25, while two Fremantle Next-Generation Academy (NGA) prospects make their way onto the board alongside a highly-touted Sydney Swans Academy gun. All that, and more in our October Power Rankings update.

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

#1 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 194cm | 84kg

Western Bulldogs fans may not entirely enjoy seeing Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, Ugle-Hagan perched atop the tree given the hefty price that comes with it, but should be buoyed by their club having first dibs on such a remarkable talent. The 194cm key position forward has been compared to champion goalkicker Lance Franklin for his athleticism and left-foot kick, but he plays a little differently. Ugle-Hagan’s pace off the lead and sticky hands overhead set him apart, while elite scores in each of the preseason testing events make him an irresistible prospect alone. He is the consensus number one choice at this point, having delivered on the hype as he moved to the Oakleigh region via a scholarship with Scotch College.

September Ranking: #1

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#2 Elijah Hollands
Murray Bushrangers/Vic County | Forward/Midfielder
25/04/2002 | 188cm | 80kg

Hollands’ placing in these rankings will inevitably prove one of the hardest to call throughout the year, given he is set to sit out the entire 2020 season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). At this point though, he has done more than enough to warrant top five status at the least, and finds a place in second spot once again. While his knack for producing game-defining periods has most significantly been achieved forward of centre, Hollands has the size and skill to warrant his goal of earning more midfield minutes. With clean hands, athleticism, and a booming boot which often finds the goals, Hollands is all you could ever want from a high-ceiling prospect. Not playing shouldn’t hurt his value too much, but it would have been nice to see him get an uninterrupted crack at NAB League level having finished his schooling at Caulfield Grammar.

September Ranking: #2

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League, and recovery from long-term knee injury.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#3 Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 196cm | 86kg

A dominant key position forward with terrific endurance is McDonald, who adds to the strong tall and West Australian representation on this list. The high-marking spearhead ran out for his state thrice during last year’s Under 18 National Championships, averaging a goal per game and impressing with his ability to clunk marks leading up the ground. He has terrific hands on the lead and usually has no trouble finding the big sticks, while his high-level endurance confirms his status as a true, modern-day centre half-forward. Having grown and filled out to a more conventional key position size, McDonald has showcased his game-winning ability from forward of centre in 2020 – something which earned him All-Australian honours as an Under 16s player.

September Ranking: #3

Last Month: McDonald showed off his endurance at last week’s West Australian combine, scoring third in the 2km time trial. On-field, the key forward capped off his season by helping Perth qualify for the WAFL League finals for the first time in over 20 years, but was kept goalless in the Demons’ week one loss. He booted one major the week before, and managed three against Swan Districts before Denver Grainger-Barras was switched onto him.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus | Player Focus

#4 Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
14/04/2002 | 194cm | 78kg

Another tall amongst the top five, and a versatile one at that. While he is definitely most comfortable and renowned as a key position defender, the Swan Districts hopeful’s versatility lies in the varying roles he play inside defensive 50. Credit to his athleticism and slender frame, he is able to keep up with medium types at ground level, while also showing form as a lockdown type on the opposition’s best big forward, or as an intercept marking outlet. Grainger-Barras is a cool head in possession too, boasting a sound kick for his size and composure beyond his years. That same level-headedness and footballing IQ makes him a sound reader of the play from the back, and the leading option in his position.

September Ranking: #4

Last Month: Grainger-Barras was another to showcase his high-level athleticism at the West Australian combine; scoring third in the running vertical jump (left), fifth in the 20-metre sprint, and second in the agility test. After a terrific outing against Logan McDonald’s Perth, the prolific defender rounded out his season with just six disposals and two marks as Swan Districts failed to make finals.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus | Player Focus

#5 Will Phillips
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
22/05/2002 | 179cm | 78kg

We all marvelled at how well Oakleigh graduates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson have adapted to life in the AFL, and Phillips could be the next Charger in line to do just that having leant on the pair during his bottom-aged campaign. Like Rowell, Phillips is a sub-180cm prospect who consistently finds plenty of the ball and possesses great leadership qualities. He is a well-balanced midfielder too, having plied his trade at times on the outside for Oakleigh en route to premiership glory. Phillips seems to thrive on the inside though, with his hardness and ability to weave through traffic making him an invaluable stoppage asset. The Caulfield Grammar student was set to juggle APS football and NAB League duties in 2020, while standing as a clear leadership candidate for Vic Metro come national carnival time – all before the pandemic hit.

September Ranking: #5

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

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

In a welcome change from last year’s crop, key position prospects will be in abundance at the top end. Thilthorpe is one of them, an athletic ruck/forward who possesses enormous running capacity and can dominate the airways. In his ruck duties, the 201cm West Adelaide product plays more like a fourth midfielder, able to follow up at ground level and cover the ground like a small. He has been utilised in a more forward-oriented role for the Bloods at SANFL League level though, with his goalkicking attributes and diverse skillset already making him a handful for senior players with more mature bodies. Ask any of the South Australian Under 18s who they have most been looking forward to playing alongside in 2020, and Thilthorpe is among them. Jot the name down, he should be among those you are most looking forward to watching, too.

September Ranking: #6

Last Month: The West Adelaide bigman has battled through injury trouble over the last month, unable to get back on the park at SANFL League level despite being named. A niggling groin injury also kept him from testing at the South Australian combine.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus

#7 Braeden Campbell
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Balanced Midfielder/Forward
4/02/2002 | 181cm | 72kg

While he has again been squeezed out to number seven, Campbell is a player who could potentially sit among the top five come season’s end. Uncertainty lingers over how much exposure NSW/ACT athletes will be able to gain in 2020 given the NEAFL and NAB League scrappings, but one must only watch last year’s Under 17 Futures All-Star showcase to be reminded of Campbell’s talent. He was best-afield in that game, with electrifying speed, hardness at the ball, and a booming left-foot kick catching the eye of all who bore witness. The Swans Academy product is also apt in the short range as well, and has the invaluable ability to impact games in multiple positions. Whether it be on the inside, outside, or forward of centre, Campbell is a match-winner and should cost the Swans a pretty penny in terms of draft points.

September Ranking: #7

Last Month: The exciting Swans Academy prospect booted a goal in each of his three AFL Sydney Premier Division outings for Pennant Hills in September. The Demons won two of those games, but lost most recently in their lone finals dig against St George. The NSW/ACT combine on October 25 will be Campbell’s next point of call.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus

#8 Tanner Bruhn
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
27/05/2002 | 182cm | 73kg

Class with a capital ‘C’ is what Bruhn has been described as, despite his limited on-field opportunities of late. The Geelong Falcons midfielder burst onto the scene as Vic Country’s Under 16 MVP in 2018, but injuries have cruelled him since; having initially required knee surgery after a 2019 preseason incident, and undergone a follow-up procedure that would have had him in doubt to feature early this year. He still managed to add two NAB League outings to his resume towards the end of last season, showcasing his terrific stoppage craft with clean hands and wonderful movement around the ball. Should he eventually enjoy an extended run and put his best form on display, Bruhn could well push to be the premier midfielder of this year’s bunch.

September Ranking: #8

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#9 Lachlan Jones
WWT Eagles/South Australia | General Defender
9/04/2002 | 186cm | 89kg

Yet another NGA prospect, Jones is tied to Port Adelaide and features quite highly on this list. His big frame has seen him adjust well to the rigours of SANFL League football, running out against mature bodies in nearly all of the Eagles’ fixtures thus far. As a general defender, Jones possesses obvious hardness at the ball and can compete both aerially and at ground level, remaining relevant going both ways too. His skills are also a big asset, able to spear passes to high percentage options while also breaking games open with his long-range efforts. Jones may well be one to push further up the list as he progresses in 2020, with some solid traits which point to a quick transition into the next level.

September Ranking: #10

Last Month: Jones is another to have missed some football over the past month, but thankfully not much. An ankle injury kept him from testing at the recent South Australian combine, and also saw him miss Round 14 in the SANFL. After some hit-and-miss form, the big-bodied defender returned in week one of the finals with 19 disposals and 11 rebound 50s as his Eagles went down to North Adelaide.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus Round 3 | Round 8

#10 Nathan O’Driscoll 
Perth/Western Australia | Midfielder/Defender
17/05/2002 | 187cm | 78kg

One of Western Australia’s leading prospects is O’Driscoll, a hard-at-it inside midfielder who can also double as a damaging half-back or wingman. The 187cm Perth Demons product was a standout at Colts level last year, while also breaking through for three outings in the Black Ducks’ Under 18 National Championships campaign as a bottom-ager. Having learnt off the likes of former Perth teammate and Brisbane draftee, Deven Robertson, O’Driscoll is primed to become a permanent midfield fixture having already proven his ball winning capabilities. His penetrating boot and speed-endurance mix make him a prospect with many desirable traits, not to mention his older sister, Emma is already plying her trade at AFLW level for Fremantle.

September Ranking: #11

Last Month: O’Driscoll finished off his top-age campaign as a regular fixture in Perth’s League midfield. While a disposal average of 11 over his last three games does not jump off the page, O’Driscoll looked composed on the ball and was able to impact defensively as well. He runs all day, and proved as much my finishing second in WA’s 2km time trial. He also came runner-up in the 20-metre sprint, while taking out the agility test. He boasts an impressive speed-endurance mix through midfield.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus

#11 Nikolas Cox
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Key Position Defender/Utility
15/01/2002 | 199cm | 82kg

A 199cm player who can run, kick on both sides, and play just about anywhere? It sounds too good to be true, but that is exactly what Cox brings to the table as his region’s most outstanding draft candidate. Cox cut his teeth as a tall wingman and key position swingman in 2019, juggling his time between school football, 10 NAB League outings, and a berth in the Under 18 Vic Metro squad as a bottom-ager. In 2020, the Northern Knights co-captain was set to develop as a centre-half back, with his athleticism and versatility in the role lending to the fact he has an enormous ceiling. He was also set to be a prime candidate to lead Vic Metro this year, lauded for his professionalism and the example he sets via training standards.

September Ranking: #9

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and AGSV Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#12 Alex Davies
Gold Coast SUNS/Allies | Inside Midfielder
18/03/2002 | 192cm | 85kg

A second Northern Academy prospect and the first Queenslander on this list, Davies is one of the more highly touted big-bodied midfielders of his cohort. Standing at 192cm and filling out to 85kg, the SUNS Academy hopeful boasts the ideal size to not only dominate his junior competitors, but more importantly make an immediate impact at the next level. He has been his state’s prime ball winner for some time and thrives on racking up high contested numbers, but has also displayed terrific poise in traffic and adds releasing handballs to his thumping kicks away from the stoppages. He ran out for four of Gold Coast’s NAB League outings as a bottom-ager, and looked set to prove lynchpin among the Allies squad in 2020.

September Ranking: #12

Last Month: Davies has been inactive due to an elbow injury sustained in August, missing out on Broadbeach’s run to the QAFL Seniors Grand Final.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#13 Reef McInnes
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
12/12/2002 | 192cm | 84kg

Sitting outside the top 10 due to others’ rises is another inside midfielder and a second NGA product from both the Scotch College and Oakleigh Chargers systems. Attached to Collingwood, McInnes is set to be yet another in the production line of academy and father-son prospects made available to the Magpies, and looms as a first round candidate. While he was pushed out to the forward line in Oakleigh’s stacked premiership side, McInnes is a bull on the inside who can dominate at stoppages. He is hardly the typical slow, strength-dependant type either, able to lean on his agility and awareness to effectively extract from midfield. The versatility he was made to learn as a bottom-ager adds another string to his bow, with goals a valuable part of his game in 2019.

September Ranking: #13

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#14 Zach Reid
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Key Position Defender/Utility
2/03/2002 | 202cm | 82kg

A versatile tall who could push for top 10 status, Reid returned a consistent output during his bottom-age season as a key member of Gippsland’s spine. He was tried up either end and through the ruck across 15 NAB League outings, but looked most comfortable down back and should find a home there once again in 2020. At 202cm, Reid is filling out nicely and can utilise that added strength to compete better one-on-one against big key forwards. He is a terrific judge of the ball in flight and positions intelligently, not just relying on his height to compete aerially. Reid is also both a sound handler and user of the ball for his size, providing a cool head in rebounding transitions.

September Ranking: #15

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and Gippsland Football League.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#15 Kaine Baldwin
Glenelg/South Australia | Key Position Forward
30/05/2002 | 193cm | 90kg

The news of Baldwin’s second ACL tear in as many years – albeit partial this time – was shattering. It means the promising 193cm forward will miss out on yet another season of football after earning All Australian honours at Under 16s level in 2018, and a crack at the SANFL Reserves grade as a bottom-ager. In our eyes, he remains a first round prospect on talent alone, and looked poised to really crack on in 2020 after his initial recovery. He was a handy preseason testing performer, with good returns in the vertical jumps and yo-yo test conveying Baldwin’s ability to crash packs and clunk big contested marks, while also harnessing that aerial dominance in his work up the ground.

September Ranking: #14

Last Month: Inactive due to recovery from long-term knee injury. Earned a National Combine invite for September 30 but did not participate.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#16 Heath Chapman
West Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
31/01/2002 | 192cm | 81kg

A player who has risen into top 20 calculations, Chapman is a key position defender with many points of difference. Having cut his teeth in the role during his bottom-age year, the 193cm prospect has been able to roll off as a third tall down back for West Perth in 2020, utilising his shrewd reading of the play and athleticism to provide dominant intercept marking prowess. His ability to open up the play in transition with long, rebounding kicks is Chapman’s other key strength, making him a versatile defensive outlet who finds plenty of the ball. Given his size and athletic attributes, that third tall prototype seems his most likely avenue to the elite level, though he is just as capable competing as a more traditional key position player.

September Ranking: #16

Last Month: Chapman earned a League call-up in Round 8, but saw his senior stint prove one-and-done after 11 disposals against Claremont. He made a terrific return to the Colts level with 24 disposals and eight marks against eventual premier Subiaco, before managing 16 disposals and six marks amid tough conditions as the Falcons went down to East Fremantle in a preliminary final. He was an impressive performer at the combine too, faring well in the 2km time trial.

>> Draft Watch

#17 Oliver Henry
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Medium Utility
29/07/2002 | 187cm | 77kg

A brother-of who could eventually feature at the top end of this year’s rankings is Henry, the younger sibling of Geelong Cats defender, Jack. The Geelong Falcons product has top 10 potential, able to play up either end of the ground and pull down big marks. While he looks most comfortable up forward as a high-flying third tall type, Henry is just as capable down back where his aerial prowess translates to intercept value. At 187cm, he plays above his size through sheer athleticism and reading of the play, with the potential to also move up onto a wing. If Victorian prospects had been allowed back onto the park in 2020, Henry would likely have been one to rise quite steeply given his enormous upside and versatility.

September Ranking: #17

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League, local, and school football.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#18 Archie Perkins
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
26/03/2002 | 186cm | 77kg

Perkins has all the makings of a special talent. Having caught the eye as a forward and outside midfielder in 2019, the Sandringham Dragons standout was poised to spend more time on the inside as a top-ager, with just the right size and some incredible athletic attributes to aid his transition. Perkins boasts a monster vertical leap, covers 20 metres in less than three seconds, and is brilliantly agile, making for an ideal athletic base. His finishing touch is an area he can refine, but the 186cm prospect is no stranger to finding the goals and can be a real game changer when required. Damage or impact is a key trait which is often hard to measure, but Perkins ranks highly in that department.

September Ranking: #20

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#19 Caleb Poulter
WWT Eagles/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
12/10/2002 | 192cm | 79kg

One of this year’s brightest bolters, Poulter has rocketed up draft boards after an eye-catching start to his top-age season. The big-bodied midfielder brings a serious presence through midfield, able to win plenty of the ball himself while also hunting the opposition with tackling pressure. Add to his midfield craft the ability to take big marks overhead, hit the scoreboard with his penetrating left boot, and utilise his terrific athletic base, and you have a prospect who can wreak absolute havoc at his best. With some senior football also under his belt in 2020, Poulter has stood up and been noticed quickly. It has been a steep rise since his Under 16 carnival in South Australian colours last year.

September Ranking: #23

Last Month: Poulter’s stocks have risen not only on the back of a Reserves call-up and some solid form, but also due to his outstanding combine results. The tall midfielder came fourth in South Australia’s 20-metre sprint, second in the running vertical jump (right), and fifth in the 2km time trial. On-field, he managed four Reserves outings before returning to the Under 18s with a bang, booting two goals from 18 disposals. He also managed 20 touches in the Eagles’ finals win over South Adelaide, most recently. Poulter has spent a bit of time on a wing, and boasts great versatility in the sense that he can also roam forward or impact on the inside.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch

#20 Zane Trew
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
26/04/2002 | 185cm | 80kg

Trew is one of many top-end prospects who have had to battle injury throughout their bottom-age seasons, but he looks primed to bounce back well in 2020. Hailing from the talent-stacked Swan Districts program, Trew is a classy inside midfielder who can rack up plenty of ball in style, backed by his 40-disposal effort in last year’s WAFL Colts competition. While he was limited to just three outings and missed Under 18 selection for WA, the 186cm prospect should not be forgotten in first round discussions. Trew is a handball-happy extractor, able to flick out releasing touches to his runners, but he is just as effective by foot with clean skills at short range and penetration when required. Should be a lock for the WA engine room this season with representative games ahead.

September Ranking: #19

Last Month: Despite Swan Districts’ inability to make finals, Trew finished his WAFL Colts campaign on a high. The inside midfielder was seemingly teased with a senior call-up, but instead racked up 22 and 32 disposals in his final two Colts appearances. He also laid a combined 19 tackles in those games, and took part in the West Australian draft combine. Trew achieved a much more consistent run this season, despite some slight injury troubles.

>> Draft Watch
>> Draft Diary 1 | 2
>> Marquee Matchup

#21 Tom Powell
Sturt/South Australia | Midfielder
2/03/2002 | 183cm | 74kg

There are few more consistent ball winners than Powell, who has put an interrupted bottom-age season behind him to emerge as arguably Sturt’s most promising draft prospect. The Double Blues standout simply finds the ball at will, able to get his side going on the front foot from midfield with clever positioning, movement, and extraction. He may be a touch handball happy, but is an elite exponent of that tool and is beginning to mix in his kicking to have an even greater impact on games. At his best, Powell is nothing short of dominant, though goals and a greater run-and-carry game would make him a complete midfielder – think Lachie Neale‘s development.

September Ranking: #18

Last Month: Calf tightness restricted Powell in light of the recent South Australian combine, and he seemed to carry the same niggle into his latest game. The midfielder returned a rare performance of under 20 disposals in Sturt’s semi final loss to Norwood, but averaged 31.7 disposals and 8.3 clearances across his other three September appearances. It will take something big to keep him down for a second week, as he looks to help the Double Blues qualify for an Under 18s Grand Final.

>> Feature (April) | (September)
>> Draft Watch

#22 Finlay Macrae
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
13/03/2002 | 184cm | 75kg

You may recognise the name and yes, Finlay is the half-brother of Western Bulldogs midfielder, Jack. They are quite clearly cut from the same cloth, with the younger Macrae possessing a similar ball winning appetite and class on the ball to his established older sibling. The 184cm Charger also boasts a terrific balance in his traits, able to impact the play moving forward with sound decision making and precise execution via foot, on top of his obvious exploits in extraction. While he is not overly quick, Macrae’s evasiveness comes through agility and awareness, which would have been on full show as he prepared to feature prominently for Oakleigh, Xavier College, and Vic Metro in 2020.

September Ranking: #21

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#23 Jack Carroll
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder/Defender
20/12/2002 | 187cm | 76kg

A fresh face to last month’s expanded list, Carroll has plenty of first round suitors. Coming into his top-age season, Carroll was pegged as a classy outside midfielder or half-back who moved well and used the ball efficiently by foot. But after nearly a full season of WAFL Colts football through midfield, the 187cm prospect has also shown his worth inside the engine room. Carroll measures up at a good height and while he may be a touch light around the contest, he uses his high-level agility and poise to weave through traffic before effectively disposing of the ball. A versatile talent with good upside, Carroll is destined to rise even further.

September Ranking: #22

Last Month: Carroll’s season ended after he suffered a broken wrist in Round 8 of the WAFL Colts, having run out the game against Subiaco to collect 18 disposals. He still managed to test at the West Australian combine, achieving second place in the standing vertical jump, and fifth in the running jumps off either foot. He faces a race against time to play in the upcoming All-Star fixtures.

>> Draft Watch

#24 Brayden Cook
South Adelaide/South Australia | Wing/Forward
18/07/2002 | 189cm | 82kg

Search for the 2020 AFL Draft bolter, and Cook’s name is likely the one you’ll find top of any list. The South Adelaide prospects has come from the clouds to not only put himself within draft contention, but right up into top 25 calculations. Plying his trade either up on a wing or inside forward 50, Cook is a game-winner who is capable of kicking bags of goals and taking eye-catching marks. His size allows him to not just rely on his vertical leap, but also out-work his opponents one-on-one, with his terrific goal sense often helping finish the job. Having put his name on the map, the wingman/forward can now look forward to featuring among his state’s All-Star showcase.

September Ranking: NR

Last Month: Cook enhanced his draft stocks with some handy combine results; coming fifth in the 20-metre sprint, fourth in the standing vertical jump, and fifth again in the running vertical jump (right). Most recently, he was kept goalless as South Adelaide bowed out of the Under 18s finals race, though Cook has proven his worth with a bag of five goals this month, and two majors in every other effort.

>> Draft Watch

#25 Joel Jeffrey
NT Thunder/Allies | Utility
12/03/2002 | 192cm | 80kg

The sole representative from the Northern Territory in our top 25, Jeffrey is arguably the region’s most promising draft prospect this year. Having grown to 192cm, Jeffrey is a true swingman who can dominate aerially up either end. His reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and his sticky hands do the rest of the work as he pulls down big marks. The son of NT legend Russell Jeffrey, Joel comes from good pedigree and is terrifically athletic for his size; boasting speed to burn, a sizeable leap, and clean hands at ground level. Having gained senior football experience with Wanderers in the NTFL, Jeffrey was set to move to Queensland this year given his ties to the Gold Coast SUNS via their access to the Darwin zone. The move was ultimately put on hold due to the current pandemic, but Jeffrey looks likely to end up in the Sunshine State come season’s end.

September Ranking: #25

Last Month: The NT native took part in the recent Queensland combine, while also starring in the NT All-Stars game with three goals. He was utilised as a lead-up forward in that outing, the position he is said to prefer, although he is arguably just as good as an interceptor down back.

>> Draft Watch

#26 Brandon Walker
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Half-Back
17/10/2002 | 183cm | 75kg

Introducing one of the smoothest movers of the potential 2020 AFL draft cohort, who is tied to Fremantle’s NGA. Dockers fans will be desperate to downplay Walker’s potential, with elite speed, agility, and vertical leaps combined with clean skills to make up the East Fremantle prospect’s game. He looks a damaging outlet off half-back with his line-breaking ability and precision via foot, while also providing solid defensive cover credit to eye-catching aerial feats and reading of the play. Walker can also move through midfield, adding another string to his bow as he develops. His twin brother, Chris joins him at East Fremantle and in the Dockers Academy.

September Ranking: #24

Last Month: A sore foot post WAFL Colts finals football kept Walker from performing at the WA combine, though he has shown some handy form on-field. The defender averaged 18 disposals over his last four games, and managed 15 in East Fremantle’s preliminary final loss to Subiaco. He has been named at centre half-back most weeks, but loves to break the lines and deliver forward. He’ll be a half-back at the next level.

>> Draft Watch

#27 Bailey Laurie
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
24/03/2002 | 178cm | 76kg

Another member of Oakleigh’s talent-rich 2019 premiership side, Laurie also features highly in our estimations. The small forward/midfielder is a livewire, and can take games away from the opposition quickly as a high-impact player. His forward running and wonderful agility make for some highlight-reel snippets, consisting of line-breaking bursts and baulks which make his opponents look silly. The Caulfield Grammar student is a great character and a teammate who others love to play alongside, adding a different element to his on-field prowess.

September Ranking: NR

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#28 Eddie Ford
Western Jets/Vic Metro | Medium Forward/Midfielder
21/06/2002 | 186cm | 80kg

If you’re after one of the best Under 18s highlight packages among this year’s crop, then look no further than Western’s Ford. The Jets’ leading prospect is capable of taking high marks, booting long goals, and bursting forward to break the lines with his explosive athleticism and speed. Having cut his teeth as a medium forward, the 186cm Victorian has recently requested tape of Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe as he looks to sharpen his midfield craft. He certainly has the size and athletic profile to make the transition, and would have done so with some time on the park as a top-ager. You may remember his Under 17 Futures All-Stars performance from last year, which is what he can produce at his best. Consistency will be key.

September Ranking: NR

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#29 Errol Gulden
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Small Forward/Midfielder
18/07/2002 | 172cm | 68kg

Seemingly joined at the hip with fellow Swans Academy gun Braeden Campbell throughout their journey to the bigtime, Gulden has long been a highly-touted prospect. The small utility broke through to claim the Division 2 MVP award at the 2018 Under 16 National Championships, racking up mountains of the ball and kicking bags of goals. Since, he has carried such form into his outings with the Swans Academy, while also playing senior footy in the AFL Sydney Premier Division, and representing the Allies Under 18s last year. The crafty mover is small, but holds his own and is as naturally talent a prospect as there is this year.

September Ranking: NR

Last Month: Gulden’s month began brightly with two goals, and second-best afield honours as his AFL Sydney Premier Division side beat the Inner West Magpies. He returned against the North Shore Bombers but was held goalless, with a Grand Final appearance against Sydney University and the NSW/ACT combine his next points of call.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#30 Joel Western
Claremont/Western Australia | Small Midfielder/Forward
12/10/2002 | 172cm | 68kg

Fremantle’s NGA talent program has proven one of the more successful producers of AFL-level players since its inception, and Western is one of a few highly touted prospects set to take the next step in 2020. The Claremont captain took his side to a second consecutive WAFL Colts Grand Final after last year’s premiership triumph, overcoming some early injury concerns to run out an outstanding season. The small midfielder is all-class through the engine room, able to zip out of traffic and deliver the ball forward with freakish skill. As will be expected at the elite level, Western is also capable of playing up forward and even across half-back, making him a player with plenty of upside for Dockers fans to look forward to.

September Ranking: NR

Last Month: Claremont’s Colts Grand Final commitments saw Western become unavailable for the WA combine, though it mattered little given his on-field performance. Playing predominantly through midfield, Western raised his stocks with a consistent end to the year, averaging 23 disposals across his last three games. He stands up in big games and can find the goals, making for a couple more handy points of difference.

>> Draft Watch

IN THE MIX:

The recent combines and finals football has brought out the best in a lot of players, who may be flirting with top 30-40 contention. Adelaide NGA hopeful James Borlase was recently best afield for Prince Alfred College in the SA All Schools Cup Grand Final, while Port father-son prospect Taj Schofield lit up the South Australian combine. Zac Dumesny made a solid return from injury in the SANFL Under 18s, as did Luke Edwards in the Reserves. The likes of Corey Durdin and Luke Pedlar remain sidelined, however.

Over in WA, Isiah Winder was another to test well in his state’s combine, while Subiaco’s Lachlan Vanirsen and Claremont’s Jack Avery have shot into draft contention on the back of fantastic finals series. Vanirsen took out the Jack Clarke Medal and was also named best afield in the WAFL Colts Grand Final, which the Lions won.

Brodie Lake‘s impressive All-Stars outing and combine results will have Gold Coast fans smiling, as the NT native falls under their Darwin zoning. Brisbane Academy members Blake Coleman and Saxon Crozier recently helped Morningside upset Broadbeach in the QAFL Seniors Grand Final, while Tasmanian Jackson Callow was in a rich vein of form before being injured.

Victorians Connor Downie, Jake Bowey, Max Heath, and Cody Brand are among those also around the mark.

Out to impress: QAFL Seniors Grand Final preview – Broadbeach vs. Morningside

AFTER nine regular season rounds and two enthralling weeks of finals, it all comes down to this. Undefeated minor premier, Broadbeach meets Morningside (2nd, 7-1) in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Grand Final on Saturday afternoon, and there is plenty of young talent primed to impact on the big stage.

In a new-look QAFL preview, Draft Central again narrows its focus to the young guns in action across the two best sides in the competition, including a bunch of Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast SUNS Academy products. We take a look at who shone when the sides previously met in 2020, while also touching on the strengths of some budding AFL Draft prospects in action.

2020 QAFL Grand Final

Broadbeach vs. Morningside
Saturday, September 26 | 2:30pm
Leyshon Park, Yeronga

Previous meeting…

Round 9 – Broadbeach 13.16 (94) def. Morningside 6.8 (44)

GOALS:

Broadbeach: C. Nutting 3, C. Cameron 3, J. Moncrieff 2, J. Fisher 2, R. Gilmore, B. Chadwick, B. Reeves
Morningside: L. Edwards 2, M. Hammelmann, S. Crozier, E. Mallan, B. Coleman

BEST:

Broadbeach: K. Boakye, E. Reeves, M. Lower, C. Cameron, B. Lowe, S. Mills
Morningside: W. Pendlebury, E. Mallan, L. Russ, R. William, B. Kethro, H. Joyce

It took until the final home-and-away round for the season’s two undefeated outfits to meet, with Broadbeach the side which would stand clear after a statement-making 50-point victory. The Cats’ range of scoring options ensure they pulled away strongly in the second half, overcoming some early woes in front of goal to put Morningside to the sword. Usual suspect and former Gold Coast forward Connor Nutting booted three goals in the winning effort, with fellow SUNS Academy graduate Ryan Gilmore and Bailey Reeves also hitting the scoreboard. For the Panthers, who showed plenty of room for improvement, current Brisbane Academy prospects Saxon Crozier and Blake Coleman also found the big sticks, but 24-year-old leading goalkicker Matt Hammelmann was kept to just one major in a big tick for Broadbeach’s defence.

The finals journey…

After both earning a week’s rest as the top two ranked teams, the preliminary finals proved a relatively straightforward stage for either side. Broadbeach scrapped to beat Sherwood, who employed some defensive tactics, to the tune of 43 points to book its spot in the decider. It should prove a handy tune-up for the Cats as their defence held up well, though the finishing up forward could do with some sharpening. Meanwhile, Morningside held off a pesky Palm Beach Currumbin (PBC) to advance via a 19-point victory. Crozier, Coleman, and Hammelmann were all again among the goals, but Victorian recruit Matthew McGannon was named best afield for his efforts through midfield. The Panthers will need another big effort from their forwards this coming Saturday.

Ones to watch…

A race against time will determine whether leading Queensland draft prospect Alex Davies returns to action for Broadbeach. The big-bodied inside midfielder has only managed one outing for the Cats in 2020, and is recovering from an elbow injury which saw him miss the Academy Series. It could be a risk to play him ahead of next month’s draft combine, but he would add clean extraction skills in what is usually the most hotly contested game of the season.

Conversely, another current SUNS Academy player in Aiden Fyfe promises to break the game open for Broadbeach, with his sharp ball use by foot and outside run making for valuable assets when the Cats are in need of a spark. Set to be stationed either off half-back or on the wing, Fyfe looms as a good counter to some of Morningside’s runners. Namely, Saxon Crozier‘s capacity to penetrate on the outer will be a key to much of the Panthers’ success, along with Blake Coleman‘s creativity in attack. Both make up two of the leading Lions Academy prospects for 2020, and have adjusted well to senior football.

Staying with the midfield battle, Broadbeach’s Bailey Reeves has a good mix of ball-winning traits both inside and out, and should battle well against the likes of Toby Triffett and Matthew McGannon, two of Morningside’s prime movers. Up forward, livewire small Josh Gore will look to go big having turned heads in his over-age year. The SUNS Academy graduate should keep a Panthers defence which boasts Nathan Colenso busy alongside the likes of Connor Nutting and Ryan Gilmore. Both Gore and Nutting have booted 17 goals this season.

Tip: Broadbeach by 15

Featured Image: Broadbeach young guns Alex Davies and Josh Gore celebrate after a goal | Source: Russell Freeman Photography

Out to impress: QAFL Seniors weekend preview – Semi Finals

AFTER nine regular season rounds and a bumper elimination weekend, semi-finals time has arrived in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL). Week two of the postseason sees the top couple of sides return from a week off; as undefeated minor premier, Broadbeach hosts Sherwood (4th, 4-4), while Morningside (2nd, 7-1) takes on Palm Beach Currumbin (3rd, 6-2).

In a new-look QAFL preview, Draft Central again narrows its focus to the young guns who will look to make a splash on the big stage this weekend. Get to know the prominent Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast SUNS Academy players set to take the field, as well as the other young prospects who have impressed over the course of the season.

Semi Final 1:

Broadbeach vs. Sherwood
Saturday, September 19 | 2:30pm
Subaru Oval, Broadbeach

Sherwood will hope an upset is brewing when it travels to face undefeated minor premier, Broadbeach on Saturday. While the Cats were able to put their feet up in a well-earned bye week, the Magpies toiled for a five-point win in their knockout clash with Maroochydore. The competitive nature of the game should bode well for the underdogs, who could jump the highly-fancied hosts out the gates. Conversely, it could see Broadbeach come in the much fresher side.

The Cats’ bench is littered with young talent, headlined by prolific goalkicking small, Josh Gore. The crafty forward booted four majors in the Round 4 meeting between these two sides in 2020, so will again look to make a splash. Fellow Gold Coast SUNS Academy members Aiden Fyfe and Bailey Reeves join Gore on the five-man interchange, both top-aged prospects. Fyfe is a terrific user of the ball on the outer, while Reeves can play both sides of midfield and find plenty of the pill. 20-year-old SUNS Academy graduates Connor Nutting and Ryan Gilmore have both been named up forward for Broadbeach. Meanwhile, leading Queensland prospect Alex Davis remains on the sidelines with an elbow injury.

Over-age Brisbane Lions Academy gun Bruce Reville again takes his spot up on the wing for Sherwood, looking to provide plenty of drive going forward. Look for him to potentially rotate through the front six, or even into the centre bounces should the Magpies require a spark. Raw 20-year-old tall Samson Ryan will ply his trade in the ruck, with the ultra-athletic Jack Briskey set to provide some key position support from the bench. Fellow Lions Academy top-ager Connor Bulley has been named as an emergency for Sherwood.

Semi Final 2:

Morningside vs. Palm Beach Currumbin
Saturday, September 19 | 2:30pm
Jack Esplen Oval, Morningside

Palm Beach Currumbin (PBC) will be tasked with completing a 52-point turnaround against Morningside since the two sides’ previous clash in Round 8, as they meet again at the semi-final stage. The Lions enjoyed a 50-plus point win of their own to advance to this stage, having finished just one game shy of the Panthers in third. Last week’s hitout puts PBC in winning form, but is hardly the competitive finals outing they may have sought before this clash.

A couple of leading Brisbane Lions Academy prospects – Blake Coleman and Saxon Crozier – again take their place in the Panthers’ side. Coleman will look to rotate forward off the bench, providing clean hands and speed at all levels. Crozier will ply his trade off half-back with a booming kick and outside run in his arsenal. Another academy product, Toby Triffett comes in on the bench alongside Coleman, while Nathan Colenso has been named at full back, and 20-year-old Gippsland Power graduate Matthew McGannon roams through midfield.

Exciting smalls Ethan Hunt and Liam O’Brien will look to provide plenty of drive for PBC on the outside, having both fit in on the Lions’ interchange alongside 19-year-old Ashton Crossley. Top-age Gold Coast Academy prospect Jack Johnston comes in at centre half-back and will have his hands full, while Riley Buckland is another to keep an eye on with his run and attack in the forward half. Former Northern Knight Jamison Shea, who averages over two goals per game, should also make an impact in the front six.

Featured Image: Blake Coleman hunts the ball for Morningside | Source: RF Photography

Out to impress: QAFL Seniors weekend preview – Elimination Finals

AFTER nine regular season rounds, finals time has arrived in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL), with the top six sides set to battle it out for premiership glory. Week one provides a pair of elimination finals, as Sherwood (4th, 4-4) hosts Maroochydore (5th, 4-4), while Palm Beach Currumbin (3rd, 6-2) takes on Mt Gravatt (6th, 3-5). Undefeated minor premier Broadbeach and second-placed Morningside (7-1) await in the semi finals stage, and have both earned a week off.

In a new-look QAFL preview, Draft Central narrows its focus to the young guns who will look to make a splash on the big stage this weekend. Get to know the prominent Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast SUNS Academy players set to take the field, as well as the other young prospects who have impressed over the course of the season.

Elimination Final 1:

Sherwood vs. Maroochydore
Saturday, September 12 | 2:00pm
McCarthy Homes Oval

Two sides with identical records will do battle as Sherwood takes on Maroochydore in the first elimination final, set to play out at McCarthy Homes Oval. The clash serves as somewhat of a reverse fixture to the clubs’ Round 6 meeting, which the ‘Roos won by 31 points on home turf. Despite that result, it’s the Magpies who hold a superior ladder position on account of their percentage buffer.

Bruce Reville is a name which jumps off the hosts’ team sheet, named at half-forward. An over-aged Brisbane Lions Academy member, Reville ran out in this year’s Academy Series in between his five outings for Sherwood. Listed at 185cm, Reville is a smooth moving and versatile prospect who can play both sides of midfield, and find the goals while stationed up forward. He proved as much with two goals against Labrador last week and his run-and-carry could serve to open up the contested nature of finals football.

Fellow Lions Academy products Jack Briskey and Connor Bulley have both been named as emergencies for the Magpies, while former academy ruckman Samson Ryan has been tasked with the ruck duties. Briskey, a promising athlete with raw potential, faces a fight to squeeze back into the side despite recently earning a National Combine invite.

Potentially a matchup for Reville on Maroochydore’s side is Carter Michael, one of the leading Lions AFL Draft prospects in 2020. The 187cm left-footer moves well and while he may start on the wing, can also move to half-back or into the midfield. Another couple of academy products will line up for the ‘Roos, with 19-year-old bigman Max McDonald named on the bench, while top-ager Ben Thomas slots in at half-back for just his third game at the level in 2020.

This game promises to be a cracker, with both sides evenly matched across the park and some young talent primed to make an impact. With even more prospects waiting in the wings for a late change, all of the aforementioned players could prove game-changers for either side.

Elimination Final 2:

Palm Beach Currumbin vs. Mt Gravatt
Saturday, September 12 | 2:00pm
Salk Oval

Palm Beach Currumbin (PBC) will fancy its chances of advancing into week two of finals, but can take nothing for granted as Mt Gravatt comes to town. The Lions are the top-ranked side in action this week, and come up against the only finalist with a negative record. The Vultures will be up against it, especially given they went down to PBC by 48 points just last week.

18-year-old Liam O’Brien is among the young Lions to be taking the field, named alongside former Suns Academy midfielder Ashton Crossley on the bench. O’Brien is a state Under 16 representative who can craft on the outside, while Crossley provides a big body on the inside. The Lions have also named Riley Buckland, a promising 19-year-old who has played into some great late-season form and retains his senior spot. Ethan Hunt was not so lucky, listed as an emergency after seven top flight appearances.

Diminutive, but tough Lions Academy bottom-agers Lochlan Harrop and Sam Winterbottom are both set to line up for Mt Gravatt, named in the midfield and forwardline respectively. Harrop should bring some good hardness and versatility to the fore, while Winterbottom is a classy small who could wreak havoc inside 50. Others around the academy traps to be named include Ethan Kerr (interchange) and Zac Young (half-forward). While the deck is stacked against Mt Gravatt, the Vultures’ young talent should benefit from the finals experience, and give it a red-hot crack against good opposition. The Lions’ experience depth bode well for them after a solid regular season. They’ll be raring to go.

Featured Image: PBC’s Ashton Crossley gets a kick away | Credit: Jerad Williams/Gold Coast Bulletin

QAFL Seniors Player Focus: Rhys Nicholls (Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies)

IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at a prospect who stood out recently in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Seniors. This week, we put Gold Coast SUNS Academy prospect Rhys Nicholls under the microscope, as he returned to senior action for the Labrador Tigers in their 50-point home loss to Palm Beach Currumbin (PBC) on Saturday.

>> Scouting Notes: Academy Series – Round 1
>> Wrap: Academy Series – Round 2

PLAYER PAGE

Rhys Nicholls
Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies

DOB: September 30, 2002
Height: 187cm
Weight: 77kg

Position: Half-back/wing

PLAYER FOCUS

Q1:

Stationed on the wing he occupied for most of the game, Nicholls made a promising start to proceedings. While he began on the outside, the 17-year-old got involved at the contest as soon as each centre bounce went down, attacking every scrimmage on the move and reading the direction of play well. He had a couple of nice moments carving through traffic, as he used his clean hands and agility to weave out of trouble and dish out to runners.

While his first term was overall his best, Nicholls was found wanting in a couple of minor moments. The first was for pace against fellow SUNS Academy product Riley Buckland, who beat him to a loose ball and burned him off to pump the ball inside 50. The second instance came after a nice bit of composure to gather and dispose inside defensive 50, before receiving the ball back and delivering a daisy-cutter with his exit kick. Still, Nicholls was getting to good spots and having an impact on the game with his carry and class.

Q2:

Nicholls’ anticipation really came to the fore in the early stages of term two, as he continued to attack contests at speed. Running in from the wing once again, Nicholls bolted off the line and wasn’t afraid to throw his bodyweight around at the coalface. He became particularly adept at reading which direction the play was heading, and running to the right spots to either sweep up the ground ball, or receive on the move and generate some forward momentum.

The extra string to his bow came in the form of aerial impact, which he has been known for when patrolling the half-back line. Nicholls used his smarts to read where PBC would look to kick the ball next and hit the packs with courage to create spillages. He would follow up that work with ground ball gets as well, doubling his impact on the play.

Nicholls’ game seemed to go south in the latter stages of the second term though, as he went a little far with his physicality; driving his opponent into the ground for a free kick against, before seeming to rub in the contact to his downed adversary with a bit of forearm action, to put it nicely. After a short scuffle, he was sent to the bench for the remainder of the period.

Q3:

If he hadn’t already showed his lack of fear in competing against more mature bodies, Nicholls really did so after the main break. His work on the outer consisted of breaking to the open side when Labrador began to transition into attack, but it was Nicholls’ hardness at the contest which better summed up his third term. His strength and presence around the ball was obvious, laying solid bumps to force stoppages, and generally throwing his weight around. It did uncover a slight tendency though, as Nicholls would often seek to bump and hurt his opponent, rather than tackling.

His ability to track back and mop up ground balls in defence remained amid the chaos, with some good aerial efforts proving fruitless, but showing good determination and sound reading of the game. Nicholls may have been sucked in on a couple of occasions later in the term, as he twice caught 2018 Queensland Under 16 teammate, Liam O’Brien solidly and copped some attention from PBC opponents.

Q4:

After a promising start to the game, Nicholls’ final term was arguably his quietest. It may have hardly been his fault though, with a late move forward proving a touch untimely as PBC began to kick away up the other end. Still, Nicholls continued to roam the outer and proved strong over the ball when his number was called. He leapt for aerial balls until the end, but seemed a touch frustrated as he just missed out on a few marks to taller or better positioned opponents. Nicholls can be damaging with his combination of intercept marking and sharp kicking, but with the latter of those weapons put away for most of the match, his willingness at the contest and reading of the play were what stood out most.

>> MORE SUNS ACADEMY CONTENT

Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020
>> 2020 Allies Under 18s Squad Prediction

Featured Image: RF Photography

Scouting notes: Northern Academy Series – Round 1

THE 2020 Northern Academy Series got underway over the weekend, with prospects from the Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns, GWS Giants, and Sydney Swans talent programs all looking to impress. State derbies kicked off proceedings, and made for a couple of hard-fought battles.

In a willing contest under sunny conditions, the Gold Coast Suns Academy won by 53 points over their Sunshine State rivals. The Suns booted the first six goals of the game – five came with the breeze in the opening term – to run out comfortable winners.

The Sydney Swans Academy also ran out winners in their clash with the GWS Giants prospects, setting up the victory with a string of five unanswered goals which extended from the second term, onwards. Soggy conditions ensured hard work would be made for the 15-point triumph, with a good bit of niggle to go with the contested slog.

We took a look at some of the Academy members and how they performed, as well as a bunch of other names who impressed on the day.

Brisbane Lions vs. Gold Coast Suns

Brisbane:

By: Peter Williams

#12 Saxon Crozier

Played a mixture between the wing and getting back to help the defence, Crozier was neat with his ball use and always looking to create run for the Lions. After a quieter first term – though he had a good handball out of defence – he had an number of impressive plays in the second term. He sidestepped an opponent and got it quickly onto the right, and presented to his teammates around the field. His handballing release to teammates streaming down the ground opened up the play for Brisbane to begin to cut the deficit back.

#13 Blake Coleman

Not a high possession player, Coleman has high level footy smarts and clean hands that make him so difficult to stop. He is one of those players who might not get a touch for a half, then can win the game for his side with a couple of impactful plays. After a few silky moves in the first term, he combined well with Tahj Abberley down the ground to win it on the wing and keep paddling the ball in front of him. Somehow he managed to gain distance, shake off his pursuers and launch a goal from 50m having beaten three opponents in the clear goal of the day. His second major in the third term was more straightforward, floating in from the side to then hold his ground and clunk the grab 35m out. He nailed the set shot six and a half minutes into the term, and almost had another good mark in the final quarter but could not quite hold it. As he booted two of the Lions’ four goals, he did well to play his role in the forward half with great pressure.

#14 Carter Michael

Michael showed a great balance of offensive and defensive traits throughout the contest, playing off half-back and then pushing up the ground when required. His first foray in the match was a good early spoil, getting the body contact out of the way. Throughout the match, Michael ran hard to be an option through the middle, and often ran up to the kicker at a stop in play to receive the get and go, to add an extra number to the play and try and use his speed to drive the ball down the ground. He pumped the ball inside 50 on occasions, and was working hard to look for one-two opportunities for his teammates. He copped a knock in the defensive 50 back pocket, but bounced straight back up and was solid throughout the entire game. Showing nice hands out of congestion, Michael ran down the ground and teamed up with Abberley well in keeping the ball moving. He had a snap on goal of his own late in the final term, but the wind did not help him out and it went out on the full. His reaction in one passage of play saw him bolt down the middle and leave his opponents in his wake. He was a treat to watch on the day and a real highlight for the Lions.

#15 Tahj Abberley

One of the Lions’ best throughout the day, he just kept trying to create off half-back and push up the ground. He set up a goal to Coleman in the second term with his pace off half-back, and then teamed up well with Michael in the final term with the one-two handballs down the ground. He stayed involved in all four quarters, and even drifted forward at times to kick it deeper inside 50, having a clever snap from long range, but it drifted for a behind. He won plenty of the ball in all thirds of the ground, and when the heat was on early in the game, Abberley was one of the few who stood up and continued to try hard against the flow. He used the ball well and showed good hands in traffic throughout the contest, and definitely showed plenty of potential in the defeat.

Others:

In terms of others who caught the eye, Shatna Cashen-Harris was lively up forward, with clean hands and a silky side-step, always looking dangerous. In midfield, the combination of Sam Winterbottom and Daniel Lanthois tried hard with the latter kicking a clever goal in the second term, whilst Ben Thomas kicked the other major for the Lions. Over-ager Max McDonald was dominant in the ruck, whilst Noah McFadyen provided a contest up forward, and Kuot Thok was not afraid to crash and bash the packs in defence.

>> Lions Academy Content

Gold Coast:

By: Ed Pascoe

#13 Rhys Nicholls 

Nicholls did not have the most productive game but he was still able to show his skill and talent with some nice spin moves and classy movement from the back half. The clever left-footer looked very smooth whenever he got possession and like many of his teammates, always took the opportunity to move the ball forward as quickly and cleanly as possible. 

#14 Max Pescud 

Maybe the most unlucky Suns player not to be included in the AFL based academy, he has been a regular goal scorer in the QAFL and backed that up again. He kicked multiple goals while also unselfishly passing off more opportunities as he could have easily ended up with about five goals himself. A quick player who takes the game on, tackles, and marks with intent despite his light frame, he came undone a few times with his run but when he was up-and-running and taking bounces, he looked very sharp and even got some time through the midfield late in the game, winning a few clearances. 

#19 Josh Fahey 

Fahey played for NSW/ACT in last year’s Under 16 championships and now finds himself with the Gold Coast Suns, although he wont be tied to any academies for next year’s draft. That’ll come as a sigh of relief for all AFL clubs, as he put on a best on ground performance down back. Fahey wasn’t hard to miss with his blonde locks but he also wasn’t hard to miss for the Lions going inside 50 as they kicked it down his throat multiple times. Fahey cut off plenty of attacks, attacking the contest hard and cleanly. His left-foot kicking from defence was a real feature, both long and damaging, and he had a major influence on the result. Fahey looks to be a very promising prospect for the 2021 draft.  

#20 Aiden Fyfe 

Fyfe had the ball on a string on his favoured wing position, and would had to have been the leading possession winner on the ground as he was involved in every quarter as one of the most consistent players afield. Fyfe found the ball all over the ground, working hard defensively and offensively. He was one of many to kick a goal in the first quarter with a nice snap and he would set up countless others with his clean hands and composure when in possession. Fyfe rarely wasted his touches and often hit teammates in a better position than himself. Despite not being the quickest player out there, he was certainly one of the sharpest in both skill and mind with ball in hand. 

#22 Jack Johnston 

The captain of the side, Johnston was a rock in defence at centre half-back. He took some nice strong marks and was cool and composed across the back half. Johnston is a strong player already standing at 195cm and 95kg, using his frame well both overhead anover the ball, and his disposals were often very clean for a big man. 

Others:

A couple of over-agers who impressed were forwards, Josh Gore and Nathan Colenso. Both were able to hit the scoreboard multiple times and look damaging, with Colenso on the lead, and Gore mixing between the lead and in play. Both have been prominent goalkickers at QAFL level, and brought that same form into the game, with Gore’s clean hands and Colenso’s strength and tackling ability amongst the attributes that stood out for the respective forwards.

>> Suns Academy Content

GWS Giants vs. Sydney Swans

By: Michael Alvaro

GWS:

#1 Harry Grant

The diminutive over-ager was thrown right into the cut and thrust of midfield and hardly looked out of place. Grant hunted the ball from the first bounce, with his pace and tenacity at ground level making for a solid two-way contribution. If he wasn’t digging in to win his own ball at the stoppages, Grant was applying smothering defensive pressure to make life hard for opposition midfielders. It seemed the conditions suited his game well, and he would later move forward where he very nearly added a goal to his game with a sharp snap.

#26 Liam Delahunty

Another 19-year-old prospect to show promising glimpses of form, Delahunty was primed to make is mark on the NAB League and VFL in 2020. Instead, he took the opportunity this weekend to show his worth back with the Giants Academy, and had his moments throughout the game. Starting in defence, Delahunty took a nice contested mark to intercept a deep Sydney entry, while also looking to rebound aggressively by running his full measure and delivering by foot. He is somewhat of an in-between size at 192cm and 87kg, allowing him to compete both aerially and at ground level. He continued to take the game on from defensive 50, but was caught holding the ball as he looked to fend off an opponent in the third term. A move forward followed, and Delahunty capped off his performance with a tidy, quick finish for the final goal of the game.

#27 Josh Green

Green cuts a similar figure to his brother, Tom – albeit a touch taller and leaner – and was tried in an inside midfield role for the Giants early on. His 192cm frame allowed him to compete at the stoppages, while his ability to get up either end of the ground made him an influential player throughout the game. While he was a touch slow to truly build into the contest, Green began to show his best form after half time with some terrific overhead marking in tricky conditions. His clearance work built as well with the added confidence, and a later move behind the ball allowed Green to showcase his strong hands and intercept quality.

#42 Maximus Monaghan

One of a number of Giants to have rotated through midfield, Monaghan also showed some good signs while stationed both in defence and attack. The top-ager is strongly built and applied himself at the contest, showing good aggression and strength to break free and dispose of the ball via foot. He accumulated well through the engine room and was later sighted up either end of the ground where he was able to find his way to the ball.

Others:

On a day where the conditions made it tough to take a lot out of the game, there were a number of players to have provided little flashes of form. Bottom-age forward Sam Stening presented well up the ground early and was later rewarded with a goal for his run-down tackle on Max Geddes. The likes of Coopa Steele and Joel Dunstall dug in to find plenty of the ball, while Harrison Grintell looked lively up forward, and Sam Frost was among a few solid defenders. Under 16 NSW/ACT MVP Kai Watts booted a goal from his permenent forward position, while Jack Driscoll rotated back through the ruck.

>> Giants Academy Content

Sydney:

#2 Sam Gaden

Gaden proved a strong a flexible key position option for the Swans, starting forward and eventually plying his trade down back. The over-ager worked up the ground well in the early stages, presenting as a link into Sydney’s forward 50. He provided a goal assist to Jackson Barling in the second term with a hacked kick into the arc, and doubled his impact with some forward 50 ruck work. Having been moved down back in the second half, Gaden showcased his ability to intercept, sweeping well both in the air and at ground level.

#3 Kye Pfrengle

A player who needs only a few touches or moments to catch the eye is Pfrengle, who looked particularly lively in the first term with some incredible marking attempts. The top-age AFL Academy hub member certainly has a spring in his step, leaping high for the ball to intercept GWS’ long defensive rebounds. While he failed to hold onto most of his speckie attempts, Pfrengle was positioned well behind the ball to begin with, allowing him enact that intercept game. He would later be seen a touch deeper in defence, locking the ball in and taking the kick-outs, making handy contributions just when it seemed he was drifting out of the contest.

#7 Braeden Campbell

The leading Swans Academy prospect looked like tearing the game apart as he dominated the opening stages, showing terrific signs through midfield. While his speed and damaging kicking on the outside often garner the most praise, it was Campbell’s toughness and ability to adapt to the conditions which stood out most on this occasion. His clearance work was sound throughout the match, and despite coughing up a rare turnover by foot in the second term, he was able to find his range consistently. With some opposition attention incoming, Campbell was moved to half-back and also rotated off the wing, while pushing forward to slot a goal in the third term. He looked most dangerous with his burst away from the stoppages though, and hunted the ball well when on the inside.

>> Academy Series Player Focus

#15 Sam Thorne

Another over-ager to have made his mark on the game was Thorne, a small midfielder who thrived in the soggy conditions. He was a regular at the centre bounces and stoppages, accumulating the ball with ease at ground level and releasing well to his teammates on the move. Thorne’s ability to shark the ball off hands and get his legs pumping to burst away was noticeable, and it helped set the tone for Sydney from where it mattered most. He finished as one of the most prolific ball winners on the day, and kept his name in the hat as far as the Swans are concerned.

#22 Errol Gulden

Campbell’s partner-in-crime, Gulden was a consistent threat for Sydney and managed to find the ball at will while rotating from the wing, through the middle, and up forward. The 176cm mover relies more on agility and smarts rather than pure pace, so initially found it hard in the wet conditions to have his usual impact on the game despite constantly getting his hands on the ball.

Still, Gulden snared the opening goal after being tackled high inside 50, and used it as a catalyst to work more effectively at ground level. His work-rate forward of centre was outstanding, and he could be seen pushing inside 50 from the wing to snare his second major, hardly breaking stride as he gobbled up the loose ball and slotted it home on the fly. Gulden was arguably best afield in the second half, and is just so difficult to stop at full flight. It was good to see him get busy up forward too, as that high half-forward role looks most like being his starting position at the elite level.

#25 Jackson Barling

Barling is another Academy talent to have missed out last year, but seems to have taken it in his stride after an impressive performance. He was first sighted using the ball cleanly in the back half, staying composed to provide a refreshing point of difference in the largely-contested game. His biggest impact came upon his move to the forwardline though, where Barling would kick three goals. His first came on the back of a juggled mark inside 50, which was quickly followed by another strong grab and set shot conversion in the second term. Yet another big clunk helped deliver a third major in the final quarter, though he selfishly burned Thorne as he looked for a fourth. Still, Barling’s scoreboard impact helped turn the game significantly in Sydney’s favour, and his hardness at 183cm and 85kg was impressive as it should be for an over-ager.

Others:

The talent in the Swans Academy runs deep, and there were plenty of others to have pitched in across the day. Marc Sheather was hard at the ball through midfield, while fellow AFL Academy member Marco Rossmann showed some promising signs early in his role up forward. Oscar Bird was another solid contributor who got involved in Sydney’s forward surges.

>> Swans Academy Content