Tag: sam berry

Draft Central Power Rankings: August 2020

BUDDING AFL Draft prospects from around the nation have stamped their claims over the last month with football returning across multiple states, making for a top-end list boasting plenty of movers and sliders. In Draft Central‘s second Power Rankings edition for 2020, we again stick to a list of 20 with only a few adjustments made to our initial July rankings. A certain West Australian key forward has pushed into the top 10, while a couple of South Australian midfielders have bolted in from the clouds to also warrant a spot each. All that, and more in our August 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.

July 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.

July Ranking: #2

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

We have 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 will juggle APS football and NAB League duties in 2020, while standing as a clear leadership candidate for Vic Metro come national carnival time.

July Ranking: #3

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

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#4 Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
14/04/2002 | 195cm | 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 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 of his position.

July Ranking: #5

Last Month: Grainger-Barras has picked up right from where he left off in 2019, slotting back into Swan Districts’ League side after making his senior debut last year. Across the first three rounds, he has averaged 9.3 disposals, 4.3 marks, and 2.3 tackles from half-back, with his most recent outing earning him best afield honours against Subiaco. The promising defender is so assured in the air and reads the game better than most, though can work on finding more of the ball to make even better use of his smarts and composure.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#5 Riley Thilthorpe
West Adelaide/South Australia | Ruck/Key Position Forward
7/07/2002 | 200cm | 99kg

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 200cm 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 are most 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.

July Ranking: #4

Last Month: Another key position player who is thriving at senior level, Thilthorpe has become a consistent figure up forward for West Adelaide’s League side. He has booted four goals across his six games thus far, finding the big sticks in half of his outings. The area Thilthorpe has impressed most in is his marking, having shown a terrific forward 50 presence and the ability to use his reach to take the ball at its highest point. He is difficult to stop when doing so, and doubles his threat with good ground level efforts. Yet to take a game by the scruff of its neck, though that may prove difficult as the Bloods sit at 1-4-1.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus

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

While he has again been squeezed out to number six, Campbell is a player likely to 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’s scrapping and a shortened NAB League competition, 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.

July Ranking: #6

Last Month: Like many of the Swans Academy prospects, Campbell has been plying his trade in the AFL Sydney Premier Division, running out for the Pennant Hill Demons over the last three weeks. He booted six goals in his first two appearances and was named in the best both times.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#7 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 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.

July Ranking: #7

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

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#8 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 is 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 is also set to be a prime candidate to lead Vic Metro should the national carnival swing around, lauded for his professionalism and the example he sets via training standards.

July Ranking: #8

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

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

#9 Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 196cm | 85kg

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, expect McDonald to better showcase his game-winning ability from forward of centre – something which earned him All-Australian honours as an Under 16s player.

July Ranking: #20

Last Month: McDonald is the big riser this month having put his name in lights at WAFL League level. The 196cm key position forward put on a show in his senior debut with 16 disposals, four marks, and three goals, before going one-better in Round 2 to boot four majors from 15 disposals and seven marks. His marking strength both on the lead and one-on-one has been exceptional, as has his finishing. After a bye in Round 3, expect McDonald to continue to rise.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus

#10 Alex Davies
Gold Coast SUNS/Allies | Inside Midfielder
18/03/2002 | 191cm | 85kg

A second Northern Academy prospect and first Queenslander on the list, Davies is one of the more highly touted big-bodied midfielders of his cohort. Standing at 191cm 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 should prove a key figure among the Allies squad in 2020.

July Ranking: #9

Last Month: Davies has managed to squeeze a QAFL game into his schedule, appearing for the Broadbeach Cats a fortnight ago and booting a goal in their 57-point win over Mt Gravatt.

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

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

Just slipping outside the top 10 due to McDonald’s rise is another inside midfielder and a second NGA product tied to 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.

July Ranking: #10

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

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

#12 Lachlan Jones
WWT Eagles/South Australia | General Defender
9/04/2002 | 185cm | 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 for both of the Eagles’ opening two fixtures in the grade. 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.

July Ranking: #17

Last Month: Another SANFL League representative, Jones’ form has been enough to warrant a decent rise up our board. The solidly-built defender has cemented his spot at senior level, running out in all six of WWT’s fixtures thus far. While he has returned a few down games of under 10 disposals, Jones’ best is first round quality and indicative of a readymade player. Port fans and staff alike may want to downplay his value, but he looms as a prospect just outside of the top 10 range.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus

#13 Nathan O’Driscoll 
Perth/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder/Defender
17/05/2002 | 187cm | 76kg

One of Western Australia’s leading prospect’s 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 haven 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.

July Ranking: #13

Last Month: O’Driscoll has been plying his trade at WAFL Colts level, featuring in Rounds 1 and 2 before a bye most recently. He has been named as the Demons’ starting centre half-forward, but after a steady opening performance, looks to have returned to his usual form through midfield with 25 disposals, six marks, and five tackles in Round 2. Enough to hold his spot.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#14 Kaine Baldwin
Glenelg/South Australia | Key Position Forward
30/05/2002 | 193cm | 92kg

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.

July Ranking: #11

Last Month: Inactive due to long-term knee injury.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#15 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.

July Ranking: #12

Last Month: While the competition has now been suspended, Reid managed to fit in three outings for Leongatha in the Gippsland League. He was named among the best for his two goals in the Parrots’ Round 2 win over Moe, and looks to be shuffling around to a few different positions as he has done previously. Hardly a slide, others in more competitive interstate leagues have just gone ahead of him.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#16 Zane Trew
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
26/04/2002 | 186cm | 78kg

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.

July Ranking: #16

Last Month: The Swan Districts midfielder has already matched his games tally from 2019, but had his most recent WAFL Colts outing cut short through injury. The bye comes at a good time for Trew as he works to wear off his concussion, but he has otherwise fared well in the junior competition. Across Rounds 1 and 2, Trew averaged 28 disposals, three marks, and five tackles in displays consistent enough to see him hold down the number 16 ranking.

>> Draft Diary 1 | 2
>> Marquee Matchup

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

Another brother-of who should 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. Should he finally be allowed back onto the park in 2020, expect Henry to be one who could rise quite steeply given his enormous upside and versatility.

July Ranking: NR

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

>> Feature
>> Marquee Matchup

#18 Tom Powell
Sturt/South Australia | Midfielder
2/03/2002 | 180cm | 73kg

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.

July Ranking: NR

Last Month: As by far the most prolific Under 18s ball winner in South Australia, and potentially the entire country, Powell is proving impossible to ignore at this stage. He leads the competition for total disposals, clearances, and inside 50s after six rounds, averaging 37.2, 9.2, and 6.8 in those respective categories. Having also added goals to his arsenal most recently, Powell continues to add strings to his bow. Gaining much-deserved recognition after an injury-riddled 2019 campaign.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch

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

Perhaps a slightly speculative choice of ranking at this stage, but 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 is 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.

July Ranking: #18

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

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

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

You may recognise the name and yes, Finlay is the 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 should be on full show as he prepares to feature prominently for Oakleigh, Xavier College, and Vic Metro in 2020.

July Ranking: #14

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

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

IN THE MIX:

Off the bat, Caleb Poulter and Heath Chapman are essentially number 21 and 22 on our list, making them the hardest to leave out of the top 20. Both have enjoyed impactful starts to their respective seasons; with Poulter a midfielder who packs presence in the SANFL Under 18s, and Chapman an intercept defender who has roamed further afield in the WAFL Colts. They are both terrific sizes, and have a range of weapons at their disposal.

Bailey Laurie and Brandon Walker are the two who slid out of the 20 from July’s rankings. It has been no real fault of their own, with the inactive Laurie a victim of others’ rises, while Walker has made a solid start to his WAFL Colts campaign but is ultimately just squeezed out.

Walker’s fellow Fremantle Next Generation Academy member, Joel Western has enjoyed a terrific start to the year to come into contention, but missed last weekend’s action through injury. Isiah Winder is another on the rise having earned his WAFL League debut for Peel Thunder, so keep an eye out for his name in future. Midfielder/half-back Jack Carroll is also in form, along with left-field ruck hopeful, Kalin Lane, but both are still just outside this kind of range.

The likes of Corey Durdin and Zac Dumesny linger around the top 30 for some given their SANFL League form, while Tariek Newchurch could be a first round smokey, but can work on becoming a more consistent threat. He and Jamison Murphy have been prominent for North Adelaide, while Bailey Chamberlain and Mani Liddy are hard to ignore at SANFL Under 18s level. Potential Adelaide father-son Luke Edwards also earned a SANFL Reserves call-up this month.

Down in Tasmania, Jackson Callow and Oliver Davis have made promising starts to their TSL campaigns. Of those who are around the mark, but cannot currently stake their claims due to a lack of top-level competition are Connor Downie, Eddie Ford, Jake Bowey, Sam Berry, and ruck bolter Max Heath. NT Thunder utility Joel Jeffrey has top 25 potential, as does Sydney Academy prospect Errol Gulden.

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Draft Central Power Rankings: July 2020

THROUGH pandemics and great uncertainty, draft hopefuls and fans alike have been assured that the 2020 AFL Draft will go ahead in some capacity, albeit at a later date. As budding elite-level players across the country return to action, it is time to let the cat out of the bag with our first, monthly Power Rankings list for the year. In this edition, we have compiled who we deem to be the top 20 draft eligible prospects and a bunch more to look out for based off under-age form, testing results, and preseason movement.

Note, the list is ordered purely on our opinion and each players’ ability, not on 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.

>> 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 here. 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.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

We have 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 will juggle APS football and NAB League duties in 2020, while standing as a clear leadership candidate for Vic Metro come national carnival time.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#4 Riley Thilthorpe
West Adelaide/South Australia | Ruck/Key Position Forward
7/07/2002 | 200cm | 99kg

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 200cm 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 are most 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.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch

#5 Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
14/04/2002 | 195cm | 78kg

Grainger-Barras rounds out the top five; another tall, 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 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 of his position.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

While he has been squeezed out to number six at this point, Campbell is a player likely to 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’s scrapping and a shortened NAB League competition, 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.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#7 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 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.

>> Q&A

#8 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 is 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 is also set to be a prime candidate to lead Vic Metro should the national carnival swing around, lauded for his professionalism and the example he sets via training standards.

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

#9 Alex Davies
Gold Coast SUNS/Allies | Inside Midfielder
18/03/2002 | 191cm | 85kg

A second Northern Academy prospect and first Queenslander on the list, Davies is one of the more highly touted big-bodied midfielders of his cohort. Standing at 191cm 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 should prove a key figure among the Allies squad in 2020.

>> Q&A
>> Marquee Matchup

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

Rounding out the top 10 is another inside midfielder and a second NGA product tied to 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.

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

#11 Kaine Baldwin
Glenelg/South Australia | Key Position Forward
30/05/2002 | 193cm | 92kg

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.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#12 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.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#13 Nathan O’Driscoll 
Perth/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder/Defender
17/05/2002 | 187cm | 76kg

One of Western Australia’s leading prospect’s 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 haven 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 is already plying her trade at AFLW level for Fremantle.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

You may recognise the name and yes, Finlay is the 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 should be on full show as he prepares to feature prominently for Oakleigh, Xavier College, and Vic Metro in 2020.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#15 Brandon Walker
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Defender/Midfielder
17/10/2002 | 184cm | 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 Fremantle Academy.

>> Draft Watch

#16 Zane Trew
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
26/04/2002 | 186cm | 78kg

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.

>> Draft Diary 1 | 2
>> Marquee Matchup

#17 Lachlan Jones
WWT Eagles/South Australia | General Defender
9/04/2002 | 185cm | 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 for both of the Eagles’ opening two fixtures in the grade. 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.

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

Perhaps a slightly speculative choice of ranking at this stage, but 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 is 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.

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

#19 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. He should make the step-up for Oakleigh once again having impressed late last year, while also cracking the Vic Metro line-up.

>> Feature
>> Marquee Matchup

#20 Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 196cm | 85kg

Rounding out the top 20 is McDonald, who adds to the strong key position and West Australian representation among the top-end of his cohort. The high-marking key forward represented 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, expect McDonald to better showcase his game-winning ability from forward of centre – something which earned him All Australian honours as an Under 16s player.

>> Draft Watch

IN THE MIX:

While narrowing down an initial list for the year is always difficult, it has proven especially so with the evenness of this year’s talent pool making for a real bottle-neck around the 15-30 range. Established names from all around the country could come into contention, with the likes of South Australian pair Corey Durdin and Luke Edwards currently featuring around the top 30, while fellow Croweater Zac Dumesny has impressed at League level, as have Caleb Poulter, Tom Powell, Bailey Chamberlain, and Jamison Murphy as Under 18s.

While the academy representation is heavy among the list as it is, those with keen eyes may query Errol Gulden‘s absence, while other prospects with ties to AFL clubs like Tariek Newchurch and Connor Downie were also unlucky to miss the cut. There are a few game-winners who could push their way in, as Eddie Ford and Oliver Henry neared contention, while fellow Victorians Jake Bowey and Sam Berry could also push a case based on bottom-age output. Speaking of, Tasmanian standouts Jackson Callow and Oliver Davis were considered, while Sandringham ruck Max Heath looms as a bolter.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 13 – Chargers, Cannons win big

SIX different venues played host to the NAB League’s Round 13 fixtures in 2019, with a couple of big upsets kicking off the action, while Oakleigh and Calder came out big winners in their clashes against Country opponents. Some big names returned to the competition as the National Championships came to an end, and school football completed its bye rounds.

Western pulled off the weekend’s first upset victory, holding off a surge from Sandringham and its returning catalogue of big names to claim a nine-point win come the final siren. After Sandringham snuck ahead at half time, the Jets broke the game open with eight goals to one in a defining third term at Downer Oval. The Dragons would keep Western goalless in the last, but failed to make up the difference in time.

The small/tall pairing of Lucas Failli and Aaron Clarke split a combined 6.4 evenly for Western, while Richmond draftee Hugo Ralphsmith led a trio of three Dragons to boot two majors each. Fellow draftees Ryan Byrnes (28 disposals, one goal), Finn Maginness (24, one), and Louis Butler (23) were other high-end Dragons to perform, while Carlton rookie Josh Honey was among Western’s best with 18 touches.

Northern ensured the unlikely victories would roll on early in Round 13, trumping Gippsland by 43 points on the road. Akin to Western’s effort, the Knights battled hard in the first half but only led by two points at the main break, only to boot eight goals to one in a dominant second half display to take the four points back home to Preston.

The versatile Knights forward trio of Josh D’Intinosante (four goals), Ryan Sturgess, and Sunny Brazier (both three) dealt most of the damage as the contest skewed to one side, while Carlton’s Sam Philp (24 disposals, one) goal finished behind only Adam Carafa (28 disposals) in the ball winning stakes. Bottom-ager Sam Berry was Gippsland’s best in that department with 21 touches, while Saints draftee Leo Connolly had 18, and Philp’s Blues teammate Fraser Phillips, 13.

Murray could not quite keep the train going as it hosted the table-topping Eastern Ranges at Norm Minns Oval, falling four points short of its highly-fancied opposition. The Ranges managed to get out to a hot start, leading by 17 points despite wasting half of their 10 first term scoring shots. The lead was extended to 27 at half-time, but only worked to shift the Bushrangers into gear as they stormed home with a 6.6 second half to Eastern’s 3.0, as only wastefulness cost them in the end.

Ben Hickleton‘s season-best effort of four goals helped Eastern over the line, while Jimmy Boyer was one of two Bushrangers to notch three majors. Mitch Mellis put in a shift with two goals from 22 disposals, as he an Zak Pretty were beaten out only by Jye Chalcraft (29 disposals) in the ball winning stakes. In a rare instance, no 2019 draftees took the field in this fixture.

Saturday’s final fixture took the competition back to metropolitan territory, as Calder ran out comfortable 68-point winners against Dandenong at home. The Cannons shot out of the blocks with nine goals to two in the first half and despite being held well in the third term, prettied up the scoreboard with seven goals to nil in the final quarter to put an exclamation mark on the victory.

College punter Mason Fletcher booted four majors in this outing before his departure to the United States, joined by five Calder teammates as multiple goalkickers. Bottom-ager Ashton Williamson‘s three goals were a slight form of resistance for Dandenong, with Jack Toner another to stand up with 28 disposals. But it was Carlton draftee Sam Ramsay who led all comers on 32 touches, followed by bottom-age jet Jackson Cardillo (27, one goal).

Fast forward to Sunday, and Bendigo made its trip down to Tasmania worthwhile, downing the Devils by 29 points at Kingston Twins Oval. In a relatively low-scoring affair, the Pioneers were made to fight back from behind, booting six goals to Tasmania’s one in a one-sided second half effort. The win would also serve as redemption for Bendigo after going down to the Devils by two points in Round 7.

Exciting bottom-age Bendigo products Jack Ginnivan and Seamus Mitchell booted three goals each, while Jackson Callow was one of two multiple goalkickers for the home side. North Melbourne rookie Matt McGuinness had 10 more disposals than the next-best player afield, racking up 34 while Pioneers Sam Conforti and James Schischka had 24 each. Tasmanian academy pair Sam Collins and Oliver Davis also fared well with 19 touches apiece.

Oakleigh saw the round out with the biggest win of the lot, proving ruthlessly brilliant in front of goal to down and already lowly Geelong outfit by 87 points at Avalon Airport Oval. The Chargers led by over seven goals at the main break and never looked back, piling on a further 10 to Geelong’s three in the second half to finish with an incredible 20 goals and nine behinds en route to victory.

The forward partnership of Dylan Williams (five goals) and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (four) proved unstoppable, with the likes of Reef McInnes (29 disposals, two goals) and Trent Bianco (24, two) also finding the big sticks and plenty of the ball. In a stacked Oakleigh side, Will Phillips and Lochlan Jenkins were also prominent with 21 touches each. Bottom-ager Charlie Lazzaro (23 disposals) was among Geelong’s best alongside 2020 co-captain Cam Fleeton (19), while over-ager Charlie Sprague booted three majors.

2020 AFL Draft Positional Analysis: Inside Midfielders

STRONG, big-bodied, and tall inside midfielders have been in vogue for quite a while, but this year’s crop of engine room operators comes in varied shapes and sizes. Though they may not currently have the opportunity to show their worth on the field, exposed form and long preseasons for most allow for a window into how the current stocks stack up.

In ramping up our 2020 AFL Draft analysis, Draft Central continues its line-by-line positional breakdowns, moving on to the best inside midfielders. The following list features pocket profiles of top-age (2002-born) prospects who are part of their respective AFL Academy hubs, while also touching on some names who missed out last year, or may feature on another list.

Without further ado, get to know some of the premier midfielders who are eligible to be drafted in 2020.

Note: The list is ordered alphabetically, not by any form of ranking.

Sam Berry
Gippsland Power/Vic Country
180cm/81kg

Berry is one of the smaller inside midfielders in terms of height, but one who works incredibly hard and is not afraid to put his head over the ball. The 180cm Gippsland product slotted right into a talented Power engine room pre and post his school football commitments with Melbourne Grammar, proving a match winner on his day with terrific extraction, endurance, and powerful burst from the contest. Berry averaged 17.7 disposals and 4.4 clearances across his 10 NAB League outings, going at a rate of 52 per cent contested possessions while showcasing his two-way work ethic with the all-important addition of 6.5 tackles per game.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

Alex Davies
Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Allies
191cm/84kg

The leading Gold Coast SUNS Academy prospect for 2020 is Davies, a prototypical big-bodied inside midfielder who will fit right in at the elite level given his physical attributes. Davies ran out four times for the SUNS during their NAB League stint, averaging an even 18 disposals and almost four clearances and tackles per game. He was not quite able to break into the 2019 Allies side, but represented Queensland at Under 17 level and was a prime mover in the Under 17 All Stars showcase fixture. If not for his ties to an AFL club already, Davies would perhaps sit even further up draft boards and is set to cost the SUNS a pretty penny in terms of points come draft time.

>> Get to know
>> Marquee Matchup

Oliver Davis
Tasmania Devils/Allies
182cm/75kg

Tasmania’s most promising midfield candidate is Davis, a consistent performer who would have always been among the first Devils on the team sheet during their inaugural full-time NAB League season. He is another who is not tall in comparison to other inside types, but his desire at the contest and ability to get first hands on the ball more than make up for the fact. Davis averaged 22 disposals (53 per cent contested) as Tasmania’s prime mover in 13 NAB League games as a bottom-ager, accompanied by a whopping 7.8 tackles and 5.4 clearances per outing. With those kind of numbers, he earned a call-up to the Allies side for a single game and will be a key cog in the same side for 2020.

>> Draft Watch

Luke Edwards
Glenelg/South Australia
187cm/80kg

One of the more prominent names among the overall 2020 draft crop is Edwards, whose allegiance to the Adelaide Crows as a potential father-son selection remains up in the air. The Glenelg product has already cracked the SANFL Reserve grade, and was a key part of South Australia’s defence throughout the entire 2019 Under 18 National Championships. At 187cm and 80kg, Edwards has remarkably not added a single centimetre to his height since his Under 16 year but remains a readymade body once called upon at senior level. Having been utilised as a general defender who uses the ball efficiently, Edwards is primed to move back into the middle where he can use his big frame and contested prowess to dominate at stoppages.

>> Get to know
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

Finn Gorringe
East Fremantle/Western Australia
183cm/77kg

Gorringe is somewhat of a bolter among the top-level ranks, but looks set to slot straight into the West Australian state side in 2020 as a ball winning midfielder. The East Fremantle product impressed across his six WAFL Colts outings for the Sharks in 2019, averaging 15.5 disposals and a tick over four tackles to again fit into the category of those who remain relevant going both ways. A very handy string to Gorringe’s bow is his ability to find the goals as an inside type, managing a goal per game last year in a tick to his versatility.

Nicholas Kraemer
South Adelaide/South Australia
184cm/81kg

There is a good amount of South Australian representation on this list, and Kraemer is yet another solidly-built ball winner who is set to shine in 2020. At 184cm and 81kg, the South Adelaide junior has the perfect makeup for his position, but is more than just an inside battler in the sense that he can also play as a defender, and may swing up the other end at SANFL senior level. He may not have cracked last year’s Under 18 state side, but has been a mainstay in the Academy system and was part of South Australia’s carnival-winning Under 16 squad in 2018. Kraemer played every game in the Panthers’ run to last year’s SANFL Under 18 grand final, finishing the season strongly to average 20.2 disposals and five tackles.

>> Get to know

Mani Liddy
Sturt/South Australia
181cm/79kg

One of the more versatile inside midfielders to hit this list is Liddy, who has previously been forced out to the flanks at representative level, but thrived with his ground level presence and ability to get to contests nonetheless. Employed in his more comfortable midfield role at SANFL Under 18 level with Sturt, Liddy averaged just over 25 disposals, 4.2 marks, and 5.5 clearances, but surprisingly went at a higher rate of uncontested possessions. Still, the 181cm prospect is hard at the contest and seldom shies away from it, making him a good option for his state come the national carnival.

Zavier Maher
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country

184cm/82kg

Maher is a rare inside type who also possesses terrific athleticism, seeing him feature a touch higher up draft boards when compared to others of a similar build. He is solid at 82kg and has the typical power you come to expect of an inside type, but what sets Maher apart is his combination explosive speed and agility at the stoppages. A true metres-gained kind of midfielder, Maher averaged around three inside 50s and clearances in his six NAB League appearances for Murray in 2019, while also representing Vic Country at Under 17 level. Expect him to break into the heart of this year’s Under 18 side.

>> Q&A
>> Marquee Matchup

Reef McInnes
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro
192cm/84kg

McInnes is another whose name will already be well known to keep draft watchers, as the next in line among a talented group of Collingwood Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospects. The Oakleigh Chargers midfielder was pushed forward in 2019 due to the Chargers’ incredible depth through the engine room, but he still managed to have an impact across 12 games en route to becoming a NAB League premiership player. At 192cm, he has the size to transition seamlessly into the elite level, and possesses surprisingly good athleticism in congestion to keep him out of trouble. When utilised as a midfielder for Vic Metro’s Under 17s, McInnes truly showed his worth with a great first half display, but can work on staying in the game more consistently.

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

Jamison Murphy
North Adelaide/South Australia
180cm/85kg

Murphy’s story is one of the more interesting ones across the entire 2020 cohort, as he turned down a promising cricketing career which had already seen him captain Australia as a junior to pursue Australian rules football. He is undoubtedly one of the most solidly built smaller types in this lot, weighing in at 85kg to ensure he can endure the rigours of playing such a position, and enforce his way into the contest. The 180cm North Adelaide product played nine SANFL Under 18 games in 2019, averaging 23.6 disposals and 5.2 tackles, putting in the hard yards as per usual.

>> Get to know

Zane Trew
Swan Districts/Western Australia
186cm/78kg

An outstanding inside midfielder for 2020 is Trew, potentially the best user of the ball both by hand and foot of this entire group. He comes in at a decent height (186cm) but is not at all bogged down, able to weave through traffic with class and deliver the ball expertly with terrific vision and poise. Trew was a standout for the Black Ducks at Under 16 level, earning All Australian honours, and looks set for a similar projection in this year’s Under 18 crop as one of his state’s prime midfield movers.

>> Draft Diary

OTHERS TO CONSIDER

There are plenty of prospects who you may be itching to point out as deserving for this list, but we think we have them all covered both above and below. Among the most outstanding overall midfield candidates this year are Will Phillips, Tanner Bruhn, and Finlay Macrae, all of whom we categorise as balanced midfielders, rather than pure inside types.

Among those who may transition to inside roles but currently thrive elsewhere are Nathan O’Driscoll (wing/half-back), Connor Downie (wing/utility), Archie Perkins (half-forward), Jackson Cardillo (balanced midfielder/forward), Eddie Ford (general forward), Corey Durdin (small forward), and Braeden Campbell (outside midfielder/forward). Elijah Hollands could also be considered, but is again, more of a forward, while the likes of Will Bravo and Charlie Lazzaro may continue outside of the midfield realm in future.

Outside of the AFL Academy intake are Bayleigh Welsh and Darby Hipwell, both very viable options, while 19-year-old candidates include Jared Dakin, Darcy Chirgwin, and Jai Newcombe.

Positional Analysis: Key Position Forwards

>> CATCH UP ON OUR OTHER SERIES

Squad Predictions:
Allies
South Australia
Vic Country
Vic Metro
Western Australia

Features
AFL Draft Watch

Preseason Testing Analysis:
Jumps
Speed
Agility
Endurance

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 12 – Chargers gain on top three

ONLY one side managed to score more than eight goals in Round 12 of the 2019 NAB League season, with Oakleigh Chargers among the big winners having knocked off Sandringham en route to equal third. Ladder leader, Eastern remained a game clear with a win in its split fixture against Tasmania two weeks earlier, while Northern enjoyed the bye.

The round’s first game promised to be a corker, as Sandringham hosted a climbing Oakleigh side at Trevor Barker Oval. While neither side was at full strength, there were some notable top-agers in action and a raft of bottom-agers ready to prove their worth in the highly-anticipated contest. Oakleigh would overcome a half time deficit in the end to run out 18-point winners on the road, as the Dragons posted 1.8 in the final term.

Potential 2020 number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was one of three Chargers to boot multiple goals, notching a game-high three from 10 disposals. Richmond draftee Hugo Ralphsmith was joined by Oakleigh bottom-ager Reef McInnes as the leading ball winners, racking up 23 touches each with added time around the contest.

Heading into Saturday afternoon, and Greater Western Victoria (GWV)  got back on the winners list after a tight loss the round before, more than doubling Dandenong’s score to finish 28-point winners on the road. The Rebels were only behind at the first break, but fought back well at the scoring end to pile on five goals in the next term and set up a game-defining lead. A mere collective three goals were added in a lacklustre second half.

Mitch Martin and Harry Sharp led the scoring stakes with two goals each for the winners, as Martin played a particularly influential role. A pair of Stingrays, Jack Toner and Clayton Gay had the most ball though with 25 and 24 disposals respectively, while Mitchell Burgess was the sole Rebel to tick over 20 touches on the day.

Only 15 minutes later that same afternoon in Echuca, Murray got the better of Bendigo in another low-scoring slog. The Bushrangers were remarkably held goalless for the entire first half, and booted over two goals worth of behinds before finally finding the big sticks in term three. Their final effort of 3.22 was enough to carry them to a 10-point victory, despite Bendigo managing one more major.

Five Bushrangers kicked multiple behinds, with leading ball winners Jye Chalcraft (33 disposals, 0.3) and Jimmy Boyer (27 disposals, 1.4) among the main culprits, while Charlie Byrne provided a refreshing sense of accuracy to boot two-straight goals from his 18 touches. James Schischka saw most of the ball for Bendigo with 28 touches from defence, with Noah Walsh the next best on 23.

Gippsland survived a scare over as part of the Shepley Oval double-header, made to work for its four-point win over the languishing Geelong Falcons via an incredible final term comeback. The Falcons started strongly and led at all of the first three breaks to boast a 27-point buffer heading into the final term. But the Power would enact a 31-point turnaround in the final 25 minutes, piling on six goals after managing just two beforehand to sneak over the line. Zach Reid was the hero as he swung forward for the winning goal.

A bottom-aged Sam Berry was also a key player in the comeback, finishing with three goals from 20 disposals via the engine room as Gippsland’s leading ball winner alongside Leo Connolly. Chas Karpala managed the same feat for Geelong with a game-high 22 touches, followed closely by Charlie Lazzaro. 2020 Falcons co-captain Gennaro Bove also stood up with two goals.

The sole Sunday fixture saw two top eight Metro sides battle it out at Highgate Reserve, with Calder coming out a 22-point victor over Western – again, doubling its opponent’s total. The scoreboard at the first break looked like that of a soccer game as Calder led 4-3, with Sam Paea‘s second term goal the only one come half time. Eddie Ford booted Western’s first after the break, but the Cannons were too strong and kicked away comfortably.

Mason Fletcher booted a third of the winners’ six goals as the lone multiple goalkicker, with six others finding the big sticks overall. Carlton draftee Sam Ramsay led all comers with 31 disposals as teammates Curtis Brown and Harrison Minton-Connell had 29 and 27 respectively. Daly Andrews managed 25 touches for Western, with Ford’s goal coming from a serviceable 21 disposals.

In a standalone fixture two weeks earlier, Eastern travelled down to Tasmania to take on the Devils in an entertaining clash. The home side, not in a great vein of form, started strongly and matched it with Eastern for all of three quarters, but the eventual minor premier would skip away at the end, breaking to a 22-point victory on enemy territory.

Devils bigman Jackson Callow had a dominant first half, finishing with 4.3 from 14 disposals as the clear-best forward afield. Jamieson Rossiter (two goals) was a threat up the other end, while the trio of Mitch Mellis (33 disposals), Zak Pretty (23) and Lachlan Stapleton went to work in the engine room. Oliver Davis found the most ball for Tasmania with 23 touches as the bottom-agers once again led the way.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 11 – Gippsland the big winners on super Saturday

FIVE of the six fixtures scheduled for Round 11 of the 2019 NAB League were played out on a super Saturday, with Gippsland among the big winners. In an interesting quirk, the eventual top four sides all squared off against each other, with the Power facing Oakleigh, while Eastern and Sandringham went head-to-head in Sunday’s lone fixture. Mars Stadium in Ballarat hosted the lone double-header of the weekend, while Tasmania was again raided by a Victorian side and Calder enjoyed the bye.

That side was Northern, who came out narrow nine-point winners against the Devils at Kingston Twins Ovals. The Knights looked to be coasting to victory having led at every break, laying claim to a 19-point buffer at three-quarter time, and extending the margin out to 34 points less that 10 minutes into the final term. A late charge by the home side would fall short as Northern took its foot off the gas, but still travelled back to Victoria with the four points.

Tasmania’s Jordan Lane booted a game-high with three majors as his side’s only multiple goalkicker, while Carlton draftee Sam Philp shared top honours in the ball winning stakes alongside Josh D’Intinosante with 30 disposals apiece. Oliver Davis fared best for Tasmania in that department with 28 touches, while fellow bottom-agers Patrick Walker (25 disposals, one goal) and Jackson Callow (16 disposals, 1.2) also impressed.

Heading back to Victoria, and Western made its trip to Ballarat a fruitful one by trumping the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels by seven points. In a similar vein to Northern, the Jets led at every break in the low-scoring affair, but were made to work for their victory as GWV pulled to within a single point midway through the final term. The fightback would again prove too little, too late though, as Western held on to secure its seventh win.

Competition leading goalkicker Archi Manton was the only player to boot multiple majors (two), with individual goalkickers spread across the two sides. Liam Herbert (28 disposals) and Mitch Martin were among the Rebels to find a good amount of ball and the big sticks, with Carlton rookie Josh Honey (16 disposals) Western’s highest disposal winner to also bag a goal. Daly Andrews impressed with 27 touches, as did the pairing of Josh Kellett and Lucas Rocci in defence.

They say when it rains, it pours, and that proved the case for Dandenong after having its undefeated streak snapped in Round 10, following it up with another loss – this time to the Murray Bushrangers to the tune of 34 points. Murray’s inaccuracy was the only factor keeping the Stingrays in the game for the best part of three quarters, with its 25 scoring shots to 11 only yielding a 19-point lead at the main break. The Bushrangers finally managed to reverse the trend in the fourth term to run out comfortable winners.

Ryley Bouker and Dominic Bedendo were a couple of bottom-age Bushrangers to impress in front of goal, evenly sharing six of their side’s goals in the win. Another bottom-age pair, Max Gregory and Jai Neal also booted multiple goals, combining for four of Dandenong’s 10 majors. Murray’s hold on the game shone through in its ball winners, with Cam Wild (29 disposals) and Jye Chalcraft (27) well ahead of Dandenong’s best in Bayleigh Welsh, who managed 19 touches and a goal.

In the second game of Saturday’s Ballarat double-header, two country sides went at it for the second time in season 2019. Bendigo would again come up trumps over Geelong, setting up the 29-point win with a six-goal to one second term and holding on to secure victory despite being kept scoreless in the final quarter. The Falcons’ superior finish provided a slight positive despite the loss, as the young side had become known for late fade-outs.

Big-bodied bottom-ager Josh Treacy had a good day at the office with four goals, while the over-age Harry Stubbings also booted multiple goals (two) from his 19 disposals. Sharing the spoils as top ball winners were Geelong’s Keidan Rayner and Bendigo’s Ben Worme with 26 touches apiece, while 2020 Falcons co-captain Cam Fleeton continued his mid-season rise with 21 disposals from defence, and Swans draftee Brady Rowles found the ball 15 times.

Morwell was the next country venue to host NAB League action, as Gippsland took on Oakleigh in what would end up being a qualifying final preview. But the strong Power unit took home the points on this occasion against the undermanned Chargers, keeping them scoreless in the third term while booting five majors of their own to make up most of the eventual 46-point winning margin.

The day arguably belonged to rookie draftee Fraser Phillips, who booted 5.3 from 20 disposals in a huge outing, with Tom Fitzpatrick the sole other multiple goalkicker. St Kilda recruit Leo Connolly led all comers with 32 disposals and a goal, while bottom-ager Sam Berry and former skipper Brock Smith were among three players to notch 26 touches. Vincent Zagari (22 disposals) was Oakleigh’s leading ball winner, followed by bolting 19-year-old forward Cooper Sharman (20 disposals, one goal) on a down day for the eventual premiers.

Sunday’s sole fixture again proved to be a finals preview, as Eastern and Sandringham did battle in a top of the table clash at Box Hill City Oval. Both teams were slightly undermanned, especially the Dragons, and it somewhat showed as the low-scoring affair was played on the terms of the structured and disciplined Ranges side. They would prove a tough nut to crack, holding out for the 18-point victory and keeping Sandringham goalless in the final term.

Big forwards Ben Hickleton and Billy McCormack combined for five of Eastern’s eight goals, with no Dragon able to find the big sticks on multiple occasions. Darcy Chirgwin led the ball winning stakes though with 32 touches, while eventual draftee Ryan Byrnes managed 21 of his own. Jarrod Gilbee (26 disposals) was Eastern’s leading possession getter, followed closely by usual suspects Zak Pretty (24) and Lachlan Stapleton (22).

AFL Draft Watch: Sam Berry (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

IN the build up to football eventually returning, Draft Central takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state at Under 17 or Under 18s level in 2019. While plenty can change between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at the NAB League Preseason Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft Watch is Gippsland Power’s Sam Berry, a powerful inside midfielder who can run all day. Hailing from Maffra in the Power’s region, Berry has grown accustomed to the elite standard not only through his local program, but also as part of the APS Football system at Melbourne Grammar. Having represented Vic Country at the Under 16 and 17 levels, Berry was also a mainstay in the talent-rich Gippsland side last year in between his school footballing commitments.

The 180cm prospect is well poised to become an integral part of Vic Country’s midfield should the National Championships go ahead, able to put into actions the learnings passed down by the likes of 2019 Gippsland graduates Caleb Serong and Sam Flanders. Berry thrives in the contest and is not afraid to get his hands dirty, able to consistently win his own ball and power his way through congestion.

PLAYER PAGE:

Sam Berry

DOB: February 12, 2002

Height: 180.6cm
Weight: 81.4kg

Position: Inside midfielder

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATS: 10 games | 17.7 disposals (53% contested) | 2.7 marks | 6.5 tackles | 7.3 clearances | 3.8 inside 50s | 1.3 rebound 50s | 0.6 goals (6)

Strengths: Endurance, two-way work rate, contested ball, strength
Improvements: Speed

>> MARQUEE MATCHUP: Sam Berry vs. Zavier Maher

PRESEASON TESTING HIGHLIGHTS:

Vertical Jump: 65cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L): 80cm/89cm
Speed (20m): 3.19 seconds
Agility: 8.24 seconds
Endurance (Yo-yo): 21.7

2019 SCOUTING NOTES:

2019 NAB League Round 17 vs. Bendigo

By: Peter Williams

The bottom-age midfielder provided a number of highlights in the game, able to gain separation from his opponents in midfield and hit targets forward of centre. He created a goal for Riley Baldi, kicking well inside 50, and then showed off his lovely left foot again – playing on to hit-up another target later in the game inside 50. He ran hard throughout and took a courageous mark back with the flight early in the third term.

2019 Under 17 Futures vs. NSW/ACT

By: Ed Pascoe

Berry was his team’s standout player with his grunt work in the middle setting the tone for the day. His work rate with and without the ball was impressive and that carried on for the four quarters. He would also hit the scoreboard with his goal coming from reading the play to mark 40 metres out to slot the nice goal.

His clearance work was great but it was also his skill with ball in hand that stood out, and despite looking like the type to just win the hard ball and bomb it, he actually took the time to hit his targets on both feet. His only real blemish was an ambitious kick in the corridor on his opposite foot. Berry finished the game with 23 disposals, six tackles, six clearances and a goal in a complete performance through the midfield.

2019 NAB League Round 13 vs. Northern

By: Craig Byrnes

A typically tough, in and under day for the bottom-age midfielder. Starting at the centre bounces, Berry got involved inside 50 during the first term with a nice goal assist to Tom Fitzpatrick by hand. He got busier through the midfield in the second quarter, somehow stealing a clearance seemingly straight out of the hands of an opponent before sending the ball forward.

His possessions were heavy, which occasionally lead to him rushing the ball forward and producing some messy disposals. He fought hard though and was one of Gippsland better players, collecting 21 disposals and laying five tackles.

2019 NAB League Round 12 vs. Geelong

By: Peter Williams

A match-winning effort by the small midfielder who put together a terrific four quarter performance. He showed great thinking under pressure with quick hands and was able to balance well between offensive and defensive work.

He laid a massive amount of tackles, and booted three goals – all of which came from tackles. His first goal came in the second quarter, nailing the set shot with a Ben Brown-like run-up from 55m, while the last two came back-to-back at a crucial time in the last quarter, converting set shots from 40m and 30m out respectively. His last quarter was special and he is so strong one-on-one for his size.

2019 NAB League Round 11 vs. Oakleigh

By: Craig Byrnes

The in-and-under bottom-ager was one of many relevant players returning to the Gippsland fold and he continued on from where he left off earlier in the season. He is a competitor who does the heavy work on the inside with determination, often getting first hands on the footy cleanly and extracting to advantage.

Berry has a physical presence defensively and ensures his opponent doesn’t get an easy touch. I loved his overhead work on Saturday too, taking a great contested mark in the corridor under pressure and backing that up with a leaping effort at half back in the last. One of the better players on the ground finishing with 26 disposals and five tackles.

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Vic Metro:
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Archie Perkins

Vic Country:
Jack Ginnivan
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Luke Edwards
Taj Schofield
Riley Thilthorpe

Western Australia:
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll

Allies:
Braeden Campbell

Squad predictions: 2020 Vic Country Under 18s

THE annual Under 18 National Championships may be the only chance we get to catch a glimpse of the class of 2020 before draft day, with a decision on the recommencement of competition pushed back to at least September. In the meantime, Draft Central takes a look at how each regional squad may line up should the carnival come around, but with a few stipulations in place. Last week we began with our Vic Metro squad predictions and today we take a look at Vic Country’s potential line-up.

GUIDELINES:

  • Top-agers (2002-born) have been prioritised due to the limited season and exposure
  • Of those, AFL Academy Hub members also gain priority for the starting squad
  • Bottom-agers (2003-born) in the hub, and top-agers outside it are named for depth
  • 19-year-old inclusions are limited, having already staked their claims in previous years

A lot may change between now and when the squad will be announced, and it should be noted that injured players will not be picked here. Of course, the sides may vary greatly as players look to shift and develop in different positions, but each member has been selected based on the roles they have previously played. Given only previous form, preseason testing and scratch matches are what we have to go off, bolters are also difficult to gauge at this point.

But without further ado, let’s get stuck into the second squad prediction, with Vic Country’s talent broken down line-by-line. An alternate squad with no limitations will also be provided below.

DEFENCE

FB – Clayton Gay (Dandenong), Zach Reid (Gippsland), Cam Fleeton (Geelong)
HB – Nick Stevens (GWV), Ethan Baxter (Murray), Isaac Wareham (GWV)

There is a good mix of styles and talent among this back six, with some height, power, dash, and clean ball use all to come from these potential representatives. Versatile 202cm tall Zach Reid seems a lock for full back, able to also double as ruck aid.

Leadership candidate Cam Fleeton and Dandenong standout Clayton Gay provide sound reading of the play and aerial presence on the last line, while Greater Western Victoria (GWV) pair Nick Stevens and Isaac Wareham are solid options off half-back. 19-year-old Wareham has already donned the Big V at under 18 level, but may earn another chance given injury curtailed his top-age season.

Ethan Baxter is the final member of the defence, a solidly-built Richmond Next Generation Academy (NGA) product who is a touch undersized (192cm) to play as a pure key defender, but makes up for it with strength. He could be utilised elsewhere, but we see him fulfilling a role down back.

MIDFIELD

C – Ryan Angwin (Gippsland), Tanner Bruhn (Geelong), Jack Ginnivan (Bendigo)
FOL – Henry Walsh (Geelong), Sam Berry (Gippsland), Zavier Maher (Murray)

Zavier Maher may be the tallest of the Vic Country mids here at 184cm, but by no means will the chosen crop lack power or ball winning ability. Maher, Sam Berry, and Tanner Bruhn are all terrific at the centre bounces, with Maher and Berry the powerful types, while Bruhn is all class in congestion.

Berry can run all day, too, much like Bendigo’s Jack Ginnivan on the outside. Ginnivan could also find a spot up forward like fellow wingman, Ryan Angwin, but the pair have really come on of late and should have no trouble in making an impact further afield.

Of course, Henry Walsh will likely be the one to provide first use to his midfield fleet as the primary ruck. The brother of Carlton Rising Star, Sam is quite apt at the centre bounces with his 201cm frame and is constantly working on his ground level work.

FORWARD

HF – Noah Gadsby (Geelong), Oliver Henry (Geelong), Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo)
FF – Dominic Bedendo (Murray), Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh), Charlie Lazzaro (Geelong)

This is hardly a forward six blessed with height or overwhelming strength, but that is not to say that it lacks marking power. Much like Baxter in defence, the high-flying Oliver Henry could play above his size as a focal point, though may be better suited to a third tall role. Highly touted Bulldogs NGA prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is unbeatable off the lead at full forward, so is a lock for that spot.

Alongside him may be Dominic Bedendo, a fantastic athletic talent who can compete both in the air and at ground level, while Charlie Lazzaro occupies the other pocket. He is arguably predominantly more a midfielder, but has been adding strings to his bow as a small forward.

On the flanks, his Geelong teammate Noah Gadsby also slots in as a newcomer to the forward line, while raw Bendigo product Seamus Mitchell assumes a role familiar to him on the same line. The largely small make-up of this six is somewhat a product of the guidelines we put in place, as there are a few key position products across each age bracket who could easily add some height and strength to the structure.

INTERCHANGE

INT – Sam Conforti (Bendigo), Will Bravo (Dandenong), Bayleigh Welsh (Dandenong), Blake Kuipers (Dandenong)

Filling out the side are some versatile options, with most of these prospects able to be utilised in many roles. Sam Conforti skippered the Under 16 Country side, and could well slot in as a small forward or wingman in this lineup. Dandenong’s Will Bravo is an exciting player who should also get a run up forward, providing a touch of speed and evasion while also being able to contribute in midfield.

Two more Stingrays cap off the side, with Bayleigh Welsh a midfielder the Dandenong program is high on, while athletic over-age swingman Blake Kuipers could be one to again sneak into the team as key position or ruck depth.

TOP-AGE DEPTH

Given this may be the only chance for draft-eligible top-agers to shine in front of recruiters in 2020, there will be plenty who come onto the radar of AFL clubs. Elijah Hollands and Noah Gribble are two who would have featured in the team, but unfortunately miss out due to long-term knee injuries.

Academy prospect Josh Treacy is a key forward who could well fit into the squad having gained experience for Country at Under 17 level, with fellow tall options Mason Hawkins and Keith Robinson of Gippsland others who can fill that forward/ruck role.

In terms of smalls, classy Geelong co-captain Gennaro Bove may be in the mix, while nippy GWV forward Harry Sharp has also caught the eye alongside another Falcon, Blake Reid. Other options from the Geelong region include Charlie Brauer – another outstanding athlete – and Kyle Skene.

Speaking of athletes, Bendigo is high on elite runner Jack Hickman and could also see the likes of ex-Rebel Jack Tillig or Finn Ellis-Castle push into contention. Dandenong has a couple of products around the mark too, with Deakyn Smith and Jai Neal both likely to be considered.

THE BOTTOM-AGERS

Last year’s Under 16 side may not have produced pure results-based success, but there are a few fantastic prospects who should push into contention. Leading the pack is last year’s carnival MVP Josh Rachele, a damaging midfielder/forward who is incredibly skilled.

Ben Hobbs was his partner-in-crime through midfield and should also get a crack as one of many high-end GWV up-and-comers. Those include Charlie Molan, Josh Rentsch, and Josh Gibcus, with the former two already boasting NAB League experience.

Fleet-footed Sandringham prospect Campbell Chesser was another to impress enough to break into the NAB League, while fellow Under 16 All Australians Toby Conway and Cooper Hamilton are also within the Academy bubble.

Given the focus will even more strictly be placed on draft eligible players, the likes of Ben Green, Connor Macdonald, Tom Brown, Justin Davies and so on will likely have to wait until next year to break into the Under-18 representative side.

There are a number of others outside of the current representative and academy bubbles who could also break through in their own top-age seasons, but it simply remains to be seen.

19-YEAR-OLDS

Possibly the most unlucky over-ager to miss out on our squads is Geelong’s Darcy Chirgwin, who was set to return to his original region after representing Sandringham in his draft year. After injury heavily interrupted his 2019 campaign, he should come into consideration once again.

Geelong teammate Jay Dahlhaus also suffered a long-term injury last year but should be back for more, while Murray prospect Sam Durham has shown a good rate of improvement as a latecomer to the code. Jai Newcombe is somewhat of a bolter having only now made the final cut at Gippsland, and could provide that inside presence with Chirgwin given he is yet to capture centre stage.

The two 19-year-olds we chose for both squads, Kuipers and Wareham, come into the category of players with great upside. Kuipers’ height and athleticism make him a handy option to fill gaps up either end or in the ruck, and his phenomenal testing performance puts him in good stead. Wareham is a solid athlete who will more so be looking for consistency after his top-age campaign last year.

With these additional top, bottom, and over-age prospects in mind, below is our potential best Vic Country squad without any provisions.

FB – Clayton Gay, Zach Reid, Cameron Fleeton
HB – Nick Stevens, Blake Kuipers, Ethan Baxter
C – Ryan Angwin, Tanner Bruhn, Jack Ginnivan
HF – Noah Gadsby, Oliver Henry, Seamus Mitchell
FF – Charlie Lazzaro, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Josh Rachele
FOL – Henry Walsh, Sam Berry, Zavier Maher
INT
– Will Bravo, Dominic Bedendo, Ben Hobbs, Isaac Wareham

Preseason testing analysis: Which State has the best endurance runners?

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

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

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

>>SCROLL DOWN FOR THE OVERALL TOP 10.

STATE TOP 10’s

New South Wales:

1. Harry Grant (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 22.8
2. Lachlan Squire (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 22.3
=3. Hamish Gilmore (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 21.8
=3. Samuel Frost (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 21.8
=3. Noah Clarke (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 21.8
=3. Angus Crelley (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 21.8
=3. Luke Fellons (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 21.8
8. Marco Rossman (Sydney Swans Academy) – 21.7
=9. Joshua Fahey (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 21.6
=9. Harrison Parker (Sydney Swans Academy) – 21.6

Top 10 Average: 21.9

Boasting the greatest average across its top 10 yo-yo testers was New South Wales, the state to also lay claim to the top two scores across the nation. The GWS GIANTS Academy boys must have eaten their Weet-Bix that morning, returning some phenomenal results and making up eight of their state’s top 10 placings. Harry Grant and Lachlan Squire are top of the tree for 2020, a giant effort from them.

Queensland:

=1. Riley Buckland (Gold Coast SUNS Academy) – 21.1
=1. Tahj Abberley (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 21.1
=3. Shaye Walsh (Gold Coast SUNS Academy) – 20.8
=3. Mason Gates (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 20.8
=5. Billy Evers (Gold Coast SUNS Academy) – 20.7
=5. Brinn Little (Gold Coast SUNS Academy) 20.7
=5. Max Nelson (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 20.7
=5. Kirk McGrory (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 20.7
=9. Joel Peters (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 20.6
=9. Reed Maskell-Dobbin (Brisbane Lions Academy) – 20.6

Top 10 Average: 20.8

The Queenslanders hold the unfortunate status of placing last in terms of their top 10 average, with just two athletes ticking onto the 21.1 stage. Though among the pair is Tahj Abberley, one of Queensland’s best prospects. It was a rather consistent showing up north though, with a good spread of scores and representation from either academy.

South Australia:

1. Benjamin Belperio (Norwood) – 21.5
2. Luke Mitton (South Adelaide) – 21.4
=3. Bailey Griffiths (West Adelaide) – 21.3
=3. Harvey Bock (West Adelaide) – 21.3
=5. Lewis Rayson (Glenelg) – 21.2
=5. Brody Stuart (North Adelaide) – 21.2
=5. Ethan Schwerdt (Norwood) – 21.2
=5. Jack Saunders (Norwood) – 21.2
=5. Morgan Ferres (Sturt) – 21.2
=5. Joshua Garrels (Sturt) – 21.2

Top 10 Average: 21.3

The South Australians were represented well during preseason testing, but were essentially the best of the rest in terms of averages across their top 10. Six clubs had players sneak into the 10, with Norwood’s Benjamin Belperio leading all-comers as one of three Redlegs to make the grade. Sturt was another well-represented side, much like in the 20m sprint times, and had bottom-age bigman Morgan Ferres feature. No scores below 21.2 in the 10, but none getting into the 22’s.

Tasmania:

1. Jake Steele (North Hobart) – 21.3
2. Alex Davies (Launceston) – 21.2
=3. Jared Dakin (Launceston) – 21.1
=3. Kye Chilcott (Launceston) – 21.1
=3. Jake Dixon (Wynyard) – 21.1
=3. Dominic White (North Hobart) – 21.1
=3. Angus Jeffries (North Launceston) – 21.1
8. Patrick Walker (North Hobart) – 20.7
=9. George McLeod (North Hobart) – 20.6
=9. Jacob Young (Clarence) – 20.6

Top 10 Average: 21.1

The small Tasmanian crop put in a solid showing for the endurance test, with a couple of standouts just breaking clear from the trailing pack. Over-age tall Jake Steele topped the sheet with 21.3, with Launceston’s Alex Davies not far behind, and five athletes managing 21.1. Just below them, Academy Hub member Patrick Walker also snuck into the rankings. Fifth place for the Tasmanians on top 10 average.

Victoria:

=1. Harry Sullivan (Dandenong Stingrays) – 22.1
=1. Noah Gadsby (Geelong Falcons) – 22.1
3. Oskar Faulkhead (Bendigo Pioneers) – 21.8
=4. Chance Doultree (Gippsland Power) – 21.7
=4. Sam Berry (Gippsland Power) – 21.7
=4. Liam Kolar (Northern Knights) – 21.7
=7. 21.6 x7

Top 10 Average: 21.8

The NAB Leaguers contribute among a massive talent pool, so it was no surprise to see some impressive scores put on the board. No score below 21.6 – higher than the top score of three other states – helped the Victorians secure equal-second, with Noah Gadsby and Harry Sullivan top as the only athletes to breach level 22. Gippsland’s Sam Berry features on the list, a promising midfield prospect who managed 21.7.

Western Australia:

1. Alex Crowe (East Fremantle) – 22
2. Teakle Bohan (East Fremantle) – 22
=3. Nathan O’Driscoll (Perth) – 21.8
=3. Zac Sanderson (Perth) – 21.8
=3. Corey Sellars (South Fremantle) – 21.8
=3. Cameron Dean (Subiaco) – 21.8
=7. Jayden Peak (East Perth) – 21.7
=7. James Ettia (Perth) – 21.7
=7. Jack Demarte (West Perth) – 21.7
=10. 21.6 x7

Top 10 Average: 21.8

Joining the Victorians in second place are the boys from out West, who also combined to have two athletes clock up level 22. Top midfield prospect Nathan O’Driscoll leads a quartet of four players who managed to notch 21.8, which ended up being the state’s average. With a number of high-level performers down the list, WA is sure to feature highly again in the overall averages.

OVERALL TOP 10

1. Harry Grant (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 22.8
2. Lachlan Squire (GWS GIANTS Academy) – 22.3
=3. Harry Sullivan (Dandenong Stingrays) – 22.1
=3. Noah Gadsby (Geelong Falcons) – 22.1
=5. Alex Crowe (East Fremantle) – 22
=5. Teakle Bohan (East Fremantle) – 22
=7. 21.8 x10

Grant and Squire lead the way, making it two GIANTS at the top, while a pair of East Fremantle products also make the top ranks. Geelong’s Gadsby is a big name among the podium placings, and there were a bunch of guns among the 10 athletes to clock 21.8. Only three states were represented at the top end; New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia.

STATE AGAINST STATE:

1. NSW/ACT – 20.7
2. Western Australia – 20.6
3. Victoria – 20.4
4. Tasmania – 20.3
=5. South Australia – 20.2
=5. Queensland – 20.2

In the question of which state is has the best endurance runners collectively? The answer is again NSW/ACT, with the GWS and Sydney academies notching an overall average score of 20.7 – backing up their triumph in the 20m sprint stakes. Western Australia again featured highly, just below the benchmark at 20.6, while Victoria and its wealth of athletes managed to sneak onto the podium. Tasmania, just clear of a joint-last spot, jumped South Australia from the top 10 averages.

Marquee Matchups: Sam Berry vs. Zavier Maher

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

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

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

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

PLAYER PAGES

Sam Berry
Melbourne Grammar/Gippsland Power/Vic Country

DOB: February 12, 2002

Height: 180.6cm
Weight: 81.4kg

Position: Midfielder

Zavier Maher
Caulfield Grammar/Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country

DOB: May 5, 2002

Height: 184.2cm
Weight: 82.6kg

Position: Midfielder

FITNESS TESTING PROFILES

VERTICAL JUMP

Berry – 65cm
Maher – 71cm

RUNNING VERTICAL JUMP (R/L)

Berry – 80/89cm
Maher – 73cm/80cm

SPEED (20m)

Berry – 3.19 seconds
Maher – 2.96 seconds

AGILITY

Berry – 8.24 seconds
Maher – N/A

ENDURANCE (Yo-yo)

Berry – 21.7
Maher – N/A

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

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

ON-FIELD PROFILES

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATISTICS

Berry:

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

Maher:

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

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

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

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

BEST GAME

Berry:

2019 NAB League Rd 12 vs. Geelong

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

Maher:

2019 NAB League Rd 13 vs. Eastern

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

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

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

STRENGTHS

Berry:

Endurance
Two-way work rate
Contested ball
Accumulation

Maher:

Explosive speed
Metres gained
Kick penetration
Vertical leap

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

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

IMPROVEMENTS

Berry:

Speed

Maher:

Short field kicking
Durability

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

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

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

KEY SCOUTING NOTES

Berry:

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

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

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

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

Maher:

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

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

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

ACCOLADES

Berry:

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

Maher:

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

FINAL WORD

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