POWERHOUSE NAB League region, Sandringham Dragons produced a handful of AFL draftees in 2020, but looks set to build on that strong crop through its formidable 2021 squad. The Dragons have essentially retained their full 19th-year list, only adding to some of the nation’s most exciting 18th-year talents at their disposal.
There are three AFL Academy members in the Sandringham squad, along with a ridiculous amount of depth and some previously unheralded names who will look to rise onto the draft radar. The Dragons could well end up producing a trio of top 10 selections as those academy prospects – Josh Sinn, Campbell Chesser, and Blake Howes – have all already built on their strong reputations in preseason.
Sinn, who recently began his studies at Monash University, is a line-breaking half-back with elite decision making and execution by foot. A versatile type, expect to also see him roll up to a wing and even get on the inside as he continues to learn his best position. He will co-captain the side with top-ager Darby Hipwell, a strong inside midfielder who will also ply his trade for the Sandringham Zebras VFL team.
During a preseason intraclub scrap, Sinn lined up against Chesser on the wing and the two were arguably the best players afield for either team. Chesser is a similar type, able to play off half-back or through midfield with a strong athletic profile and plenty of explosiveness. His running capacity and balance between contested and uncontested ball winning is outstanding.
Howes, the third AFL Academy talent, impressed in that same intraclub match and has massive upside as an athletic forward with sticky hands and elite speed. He will likely share the forwardline with Lachlan Benton, another dangerous type, while St Kilda Next Generation Academy (NGA) and Scotch College prospect Angus McLennan proves his aerial worth at half-back. The defender has terrific footy IQ and reads the play well from behind the ball.
Saints fans will likely also have their eye on fellow NGA product Jack Peris, the son of Olympic champion Nova Peris. He hails from a national athletics background and along with his famous mother, has been mentored by the likes of Ben Long as he grew up alongside a host of famous footballing families in the Northern Territory. Relatively new to the Dragons’ program, Peris will look to provide run-and-carry and tackling pressure along the wing.
In terms of other 18th-year prospects to watch, the Dragons will likely be book-ended by Dante Visentini and Caleb Lewis, while there are strong wraps on the likes of Lachlan Brooks and Finn Callaghan in midfield. Luke Nankervis is another to watch, with the forward already garnering some attention ahead of season proper.
Looking at the 19th-year returnees, 2020 National Draft Combine invitees Luke Cleary (defender), Max Heath (ruck), and Lachlan Carrigan (half-back/wing) are all listed, with the latter currently spending some time on the sidelines. Heath should have some solid competition for his ruck spot, with Jacob Edwards emerging as a top talent of late. Both players provide a physical presence and strong follow-up work at the contest.
In midfield, Claremont junior Logan Young has made the move from Western Australia and already looks at home in Sandringham’s engine room. The big-bodied 19-year-old is the son of player agent, Colin Young. He will likely play plenty of minutes on the inside along with Charlie McKay, a Carlton father-son prospect who competes fiercely and has been touted as one to watch by his teammates.
There are also some over-agers eligible for the squad, with 2001-births Felix Flockart and Jesse Castan set to be available should Sandringham VFL duties not come knocking. The former is a raw ruckman who flourished during the 2019 APS Football season, while the latter is a strong, but athletic tall defender with good upside.
Sandringham’s first assignment in the new NAB League season comes against Oakleigh Chargers, the Dragons’ closest rival and the competition’s reigning premiers. That game bounces down at 2:00pm at RSEA Park on Monday April 5, bringing a massive number of high-level draftable talent to the one place. It looms as a must-watch.
Image Credit: Quinn Rooney/AFL Photos