Tag: Sydney Swans

Ones to Watch: 2022 Northern Academy prospects

WITH the likes of Harris Andrews (Brisbane Lions), Jack Bowes (Gold Coast SUNS), Tom Green (GWS GIANTS), and Isaac Heeney (Sydney Swans) among the many great Northern Academy products, there are always prospects of note coming out of each region in an AFL Draft sense. While there may not be as many featuring at the top end of this year’s crop, there are still a bunch to consider and plenty more for the future. In a special Ones to Watch edition, we take a look at some of the Northern Academy talents to keep an eye on ahead of next year’s intake.

BRISBANE LIONS

Jaspa Fletcher

Fletcher has somewhat a double-link to the club, being not only an academy member but also a father-son prospect, with his father Adrian playing 107 games for the Brisbane Bears/Lions. Fletcher looms as one of the top Northern State talents heading into 2022, with his speed and class by foot two standout attributes in his game. Fletcher is also extremely versatile, able to fill a role up either end, on a wing or right in the thick of things in the engine room, giving whichever team he plays for a lot of options.

Riley McMillan

A creative player in the forward half of the ground, McMillan has a lot of tricks to win the ball and get himself out of congestion, combining his speed and agility to get clear from opponents and then use the ball well by foot to get it to his teammates. When McMillan has run through the midfield, his positioning around stoppages has been consistently good, with his clean hands in close a crafty weapon.

Bailey Tome

A hard at it inside ball winner, Tome is the type of hard-working midfielder that makes life easier for the outside runners. With impressive movement that allows him to keep up with most opponents and be able to tackle as soon as they grab the ball, it is not uncommon to see Tome lay three or four tackles in a short period, as is his relentless approach.

Others:

Ravi Schofield is an exciting forward that can pinch hit in the midfield and use his athleticism as a weapon. Benjamin McCarthy plays as a reliable defender who can also fill a role forward. Liam McNeil and Thalayn Ryschka are two impressive ruck options for 2022. Will Ashcroft, whilst not an academy prospect, is tied to the club via father-son rules as the son of Marcus. He looks an early top five contender and is currently plying his trade for the Sandringham Dragons at NAB League level.

GOLD COAST SUNS

Jared Eckersley

A high-leaping running defender, Eckersley is another Broadbeach product that was able to impact at Under 19’s level in 2021. He was consistently a roadblock to opposition attacks, contesting well with his spoiling and rebounding effectively with his long kick to get his side back in its front half from defensive 50. 

Cody Harrington

Utilising his speed and smarts, Harrington is a constant danger in the forward half of the ground and can hurt the opposition in plenty of ways. Coming from talent factory Broadbeach, whilst Harrington is more than capable of playing a traditional small forward role, he’s an aerial and one-on-one marking threat, making him a difficult match up for one defender to deal with. To go with all this, Harrington is also a solid tackler, taking opponents down more often than not when he gets a hold. Harrington is a goal sneak as well, able to kick them from anywhere or set them up by hitting teammates with his deadly kick. 

Campbell Lake

Popping up all over the ground regardless of his starting position, Lake is a hard working midfielder with genuine will to run both ways and win the football. A Labrador product, Lake combines this work-rate with quality disposal, particularly when heading inside 50, often looking to hit up leading forwards or putting it where he wants them to go.

Others:

Levi Fyffe and Joshua Young are high leaping and exciting forwardline targets who have formed a dangerous duo when playing together, with the two often working up the ground as well to be link up options. Kye Reynoldson is a winger who can also play half-back that turns opponents inside out with his evasiveness, and possesses a penetrating kick. Taine Dawson rotates between the forward line and the ruck, with some impressive speed off the mark and a high leap that makes him a danger around the ground.

GWS GIANTS

Angus Curry

Currently boarding as Wesley College, Curry has had a few more chances to impress than a lot of other Northern Academy prospects for 2022; playing for Wesley, Oakleigh Chargers in the Under 17 series and the GWS Academy at different times. Curry doesn’t let his shorter stature hold him back, showing a lot of tenacity with his approach to contests and tackles, but also balancing that with quality ball use when he wins it.

Luke Lawrence

Looming as a dangerous midfielder that can rest forward in the future, Lawrence has made the most of his limited appearances in 2021 – including a three-goal haul in his only NAB League appearance. Mostly playing through the midfield through the academy series, Lawrence’s ability to get away from, or around, opponents with his speed and agility is eye catching, while his ability to find the right handball option in close most impressive.

Dayne Posthuma

Posthuma is a no fuss tall defender, remaining consistently accountable for his own opponent whilst drifting across and intercepting in front of contests to aid his teammates. The 197cm Queanbeyan product has a good leap and read of the ball, as well as a deceiving amount of speed, where he usually follows up with clean ball use.

Others:

Nick Madden is a strong bodied ruck who is already 203cm and is strong one-on-one, providing headaches for opposition as he positions down the line to take intercept marks. Harry Rowston is an in and under midfielder that can be damaging with his disposal, able to get through traffic and provide second efforts. Nathan Battaglia provides an athletic option up forward capable of getting high on opposition shoulders with plenty more to work with going into the future.

SYDNEY SWANS

Tye Gander

An athletic medium forward option, Gander is electric around the contest and even more exciting when leading up at the footy, getting on an opponents’ shoulders without putting a hand on them and sticking high marks or selling candy to open up more space, Gander is capable of it all. His leap is such a strength it is not uncommon to see him rotate through the ruck and win some contests, then follow up his own tap at ground level.

Billy King

A physically imposing but also athletic ruck and forward option, King wins most ruck contests he attends; able to out-body opponents well, but just as capable of leaping over them even when giving up a little bit of height. What makes King so dangerous is his strong marking when resting forward and good leading patterns, making him a danger when he gets on the move inside 50.

Joshua Nicholls

With a nice bit of speed to help him, Nicholls can fill in role up either end, on a wing or even through the midfield, applying the same level of intent to win the ball and use it. A jack of all trades type, Nicholls is good across the board with his skills and footy IQ, making him particularly dangerous when given the freedom to roam around the ground and impact where he sees fit.

Others:

William Sabolch is a solid defender that can run through the midfield, with his ball use particularly impressive out of the back half and resulting in a lot of attacking plays. Bililign Robertson plays mostly on a wing but is more than comfortable in congestion where he can find a backwards handball option, whilst Christian Webster is a taller option that can play up either end with a good mark. Indhi Kirk, the oldest child of Brett, is also in the academy and possesses some impressive tricks as a small forward, whilst fellow club legend Michael O’Loughlin has had his nephew TJ Speedy Coe recently switch across from rugby, bringing a lot of speed and excitement to the forwardline.

Rogers looks towards Gulden source of inspiration

THE Sydney Swans Academy has been a raging success for the New South Wales-based club, producing the likes of Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills, and most recently Errol Gulden and Braeden Campbell. It means the next generation of Swans stars never have to look far for inspiration, with the visual of their elders’ journeys serving as a clear pathway to the top.

For current Academy member Felix Rogers, that pathway has taken on a varied route but still holds some influence from closer to home. The small midfielder-forward is crafty with ball in hand and has little trouble finding it, much like one of the Swans’ most recent Academy graduates.

“I’d say someone who I’ve really moulded my game on pretty recently is Errol Gulden,” Rogers said. “He was only a year ahead of me in the academy. I played and trained with him and was always underneath him in that role as the link forward or midfielder. “My biggest strengths would be my kicking and that kicking leading to goals… this year I played on-ball and drifted forward again, I think another strength which showed was my ability to find the footy pretty well.

“(Tackling) is a part of my game I can improve. “Definitely because I’m shorter than the average AFL player, that’s always looked upon as a bit of a weakness but I guess it’s not the size of the dog in the fight.”

Born in London, Rogers moved to Australia with his family at age four, only picking up the native football code when he was about 10. After missing the cut in his first crack at entering the Swans Academy, the 18-year-old has been there ever since and yielded some terrific honours en route to Allies squad selection this season.

“I only really started playing AFL when I was about 10 and really, really got into it,” Rogers said. “I was playing (European) football up until then, obviously coming from England. “Outside of the Swans Academy, I’ve gone through my local club which is Willoughby Wildcats, then into (AFL Sydney) Premier League with the North Shore Bombers.

“(NSW-ACT) Rams was great fun for Under 16s. We were up on the Gold Coast and had a pretty good team. I played pretty decent in that carnival but ended up doing my shoulder at the end of it, in the last game against Tasmania. Ever since then I’ve had to get that right and I was lucky enough to have it ready and okay this year. “That lead me into a couple of good NAB League games for the Swans and lead into Allies selection which was my goal all year round. I was super ecstatic to make the squad. It’s just unfortunate that’s looking more and more unlikely to go ahead.”

While currently in lockdown and pondering the “what ifs” of season 2021, Rogers still managed to produce some blistering form when allowed on the park. He got a taste for senior football with four games in Sydney’s Premier Division and turned out in a VFL scratch match, while also averaging 28.3 disposals, 6.7 inside 50s and booting four goals across three NAB League outings.

“I think I’ve probably had one of my better years to date,” he said. “For me, this year’s kind of been a bit of a ‘wonder if?’. “Had the Swans had five more games where I kept up the numbers I had, could I be in a lot better position to try and get myself drafted? “Had the Swans not finished up so early and COVID not interrupted, would I have gotten games for the Allies?

“This was my first year of senior footy. It was good fun, it’s a good group and it’s really interesting to play with bigger bodies. “It’s not as fleet-footed as NAB League games and what-not but it’s an interesting dynamic.”

Having been immersed in the Sydney pathway program for many years now, Rogers is an avid Swans supporter and says landing at his home club would be his “first choice”, but is happy to land just about anywhere at the end of this “crazy” year.

The budding draft prospect is also completing his Year 12 studies online with sights studying business and law alongside football next year. As for his escapes from “repetitive” lockdown living, Rogers has gotten into golf. A stint on the Gold Coast also helped him focus on football and get out of the current bubble.

“I’m big time into my golf, that’s my hobby outside of AFL,” he said. “It’s a bit hard with all the time it takes up but I find that a good release from footy and from school. “Day to day is very repetitive. I’ve still got online classes so I try and do a bit of exercise in and around them – go to the little home gym we have here and go for a kick or go for a run. It’s hard to try and keep that routine but it’s definitely valuable, especially with the small chance of Allies games still going ahead.

“I was in the Gold Coast about a month ago. “I lived up there and was training with the Suns Academy for a bit and played a VFL game. “That was a good experience and that was a bit of an escape from COVID lockdown which was lovely and meant I could focus on my footy a bit more as well.”

With such a series of experiences comes some important mentors too, from those who have nurtured Rogers through the Swans Academy, to others who have come in and guided him more recently.

Jared Crouch, Chris Smith, and Nick Davis at the Academy have been phenomenal,” he said. “They help us in every facet of the game. I think another key mentor for me only really came this year and that was Lloyd Perris. He used to be in the academy system and played with Isaac Heeney. He’s now our North Shore Bombers coach, he knows all about the system and has been very good with me and trying to help forge a path.”

While overlooked for the initial National Combine intake, Rogers caught the eye this year and if there is anything his journey through the Swans’ pathway has shown, it’s that he can overcome early obstacles to produce great things.

AFLW Expansion look: Sydney

WITH four new teams accepted into the AFL Women’s competition, it means there will be at least 120 new players stepping up to the elite level. So just where might the clubs look outside the junior pathway? Draft Central casts an eye over each of the clubs through either their state league team or Academy that might help them get off to the best possible start.

Whilst the makeup of lists and how much compensation the expansion clubs will get is unknown, we take a look at it from a broader sense and who might be some names to remember. The series concludes with Sydney, a side that broke barriers last season to play its first NAB League Girls game – and win – allowing a number of future AFL Women’s talents to showcase their ability for when the Swans’ expansion side comes in.

Sydney’s list makeup will likely be the toughest to determine, as the Swans have some quality youngsters going about, but the main league in Sydney – the Women’s Premier League  – whilst having some AFLW experienced talent, do not have the same volume of elite-level players as other states. This means from an experience point of view, the Swans will need to attract players from other states – as well as convince some GWS GIANTS to come across the the Harbour City and pull on the red and white in the inaugural year.

One of those GIANTS high on the Swans list would be Academy captain Jess Doyle, who came through the Sydney Academy, though as a draft-eligible player this year, was picked up by the GIANTS in the most recent draft. A silky forward-midfielder, the young gun had a huge season and would no doubt be one that the red and white would so dearly love to have back in their colours for the 2022-23 season. Talented forward Georgie Fowler was the other Academy member to be picked up, having impressed as a lead-up forward in the AFL Sydney competition this year and landing at the GIANTS. Of the other Swans Academy players who impressed, Maddy Hendrie, April Devine and Isadora McLeay are all versatile tall talents that could be looked at, with Danika Spamer, Ella Heads and Ruby Sargent-Wilson among the others to show off what they have at Academy level.

Among those future names to keep an eye on, the father-daughter potential selections of Tallulah and Memphys Kirk have been front and centre around promoting the AFLW bid. The Kirk twins hope to follow in the footsteps of their father Brett, a 241-game Swans champion and premiership player. Southern Power player Kiara Beesley earned an AFLW Draft Combine invite in 2020, and whilst she ultimately missed out on being selected, could be another Academy member close to making the step up, while Hannah Cerezo is a late developer to the code and impressed in the Academy games.

Overall the Swans have some developing talents, and as shown by their upset of NAB League Girls grand finalists Geelong Falcons, are a well-coached and well-drilled unit despite having less exposure to high-level underage football compared to their opponents. Next year will be a big year for the club in the female football space, as they go to work to try and attract current and mature-age talent to join the junior ones coming through the Academy.

Picture credit: Sydney Swans FC

McLeay thrives on championship “learning experience”

HAVING started out looking to take up a sport “different to everybody else” at eight years old, Isadora McLeay is now well versed in Australian football nearly a decade later.

The Sydney Swans Academy member had hit 100 games for local club Mosman Swans by the age of 12, but is still adding strings to her bow after the “learning experience” that was this year’s AFLW Under 19 National Championships.

“I found them really, really fun,” McLeay said. “The Allies are lucky because we get a whole bunch of different girls from different places, all walks of life, and coming together you’re learning lots of things.

“It’s a good learning experience, especially from all the coaches like Jared Crouch who has played lots of games in the AFL system. It’s really interesting to learn his perspective on things.”

In her two outings for the Allies, McLeay was able to showcase her versatility and impressive one-on-one game, thriving most down back to average 16.5 disposals, three marks, and three rebound 50s. The 17-year-old says the defensive role is one which has grown on her through representative experience.

“I find it easier to punch the ball rather than mark it,” she said. “I used to hate playing back, I used to always be put back for representative (duties) but I’ve actually started to really enjoy full back.

“I think I’m pretty good at winning one-on-ones, just beating my opponents.”

There are two sides to the game though and while McLeay has already shown her promising defensive capabilities, she says she is working on some of her offensive attributes to fully enhance that desirable trait of versatility.

“I focus a lot on defence because I play back,” she said. “So I probably need to work on how I attack the ball and try to move it forward rather than just trying to prevent goals.”

When football is your “whole life” and what you “look forward to most weeks”, making those improvements becomes less of a chore. McLeay has a few inspirations to feed off too, especially close to home.

“Obviously my mum has been a great inspiration for everything she’s done for me to get to where I am,” she said.

Erin McKinnon has also come from my local club so it’s pretty interesting to see where she’s come from. “And one of my favourite players is Maddy Prespakis, just because she’s really good.”

With Sydney setting its sights on an AFLW licence in 2022, McLeay has the chance to become a lifelong Swan – from juniors, to the academy, to the top level.

Scouting Notes: 2021 NAB League Boys – Round 6

THE 2021 NAB League season rolled on over the weekend despite a fourth Victorian lockdown, with a pair of Northern Academy derbies making up the extent of the Round 6 fixtures. It meant budding AFL Draft prospects from around the nation got their chance to shine on centre stage, and a good number of them impressed. Check out the top performers from both fixtures in our opinion-based Scouting Notes.

>> RESULTS: Round 6 snapshot

GWS GIANTS Academy 10.9 (69) def. Sydney Swans Academy 9.9 (63)
By: Michael Alvaro

GIANTS Academy:

#7 Matthew Hamblin

Hamblin finished as the most prolific GIANTS midfielder with 27 disposals and proved a productive runner among the centre bounce group. He showed a good step through traffic and was able to zip onto the outer with a few quick steps before disposing of the ball cleanly. Complimenting those bursts was one excellent example of repeat running in the second term, where Hamblin was involved at half-back, got the ball again as the GIANTS transitioned through the corridor, and was rewarded for his running effort as he received inside 50 and slotted a goal on the fly. He could have added a couple more majors, but put shots wide in terms one and four.

#21 Fraser Kelly

Kelly was one who rotated forward from midfield and had an impact in both roles, collecting 18 disposals and booting three goals. He finished well on the day and his third major was an important one to level the scores in term four, snapping home with aplomb. Around the ball, he showed clean hands and the ability to get his arms up while being tackled to keep the play moving. While some of his handball distribution fell short of the intended targets, Kelly looked stylish in tight spaces and under solid pressure at the contest.

#24 Sam Frost

The GIANTS Academy leader was a dominant aerial force across his side’s defensive 50, rising to take 10 grabs and looking to generate some forward momentum by foot on the rebound. He took on the kick-in duties, which aided his road to 30 disposals (24 kicks), and looked to have sharpened his execution a touch this time out. Frost’s intercept marking was the highlight of his game though, as he sat on opponents’ heads in one-on-one contests and floated across to cut off an array of Sydney attacks. It’s clear what his key strength is, and he played to it perfectly on this occasion.

#31 Josh Green

A top-age prospect who has garnered interest for the mid-season draft, Green was solid in this outing without being dominant. He used his strong frame on the inside to get over the ball and distribute out of congestion, with 18 of his 25 disposals coming by hand. He was clean in those situations, even under tackling pressure, and brought his teammates into the game by playing to his primary strength in congestion. Green also rotated forward and took a couple of decent grabs, with a two-bite mark in the second term leading to his lone goal of the game – a set shot conversion from 40 metres out.

Swans Academy:

#3 Felix Rogers

Rogers clearly has no trouble finding the ball and again proved as much by accumulating a game-high 34 disposals both inside and away from the contest. He positioned well at the back of stoppages to receive second possession and be released to burst forward with a short run and kick. The 18-year-old also turned feeder himself and found a way to consistently get his hands on the ball, while spreading well to accumulate around the ground. He lifted in term four when the game was on the line, getting busy in midfield despite his side falling short. Rogers also hit the scoreboard with a set shot goal in the third quarter and was arguably best afield.

#7 Pierce Roseby

Another small Swans midfielder who finds the ball at will, Roseby worked hard all day for his side in an offensive and defensive sense. He worked back well when stationed in midfield to provide an outlet option, generally using the ball well with his short kicking game. Roseby used the same kind of method forward of centre too, often marking inside 50 but looking to find the next short option within the arc. He seemed to spend a bit more time up forward in the second half but presented right up the ground and covered plenty of territory in the process, helping his side link out of defence and along the outer.

#15 Jeremy Woodford

Woodford was one who showed great class in possession and made his kicks count, despite not racking up as much as others. Stationed on the wing and moving the ball forward of centre, Woodford was able to link the Swans into attack from the outer, weighting well directed passes to centre half-forward and inside attacking 50. One such pass was a goal assist for Hugh McLeod in the second term, and that kind of execution proved a weapon at times. Woodford was also thrown into the centre bounces and showed nice spurts of agility, but looked more comfortable when operating in space and given the time to hit a target going forward.

#26 Angus Anderson

Providing a hard edge on the inside, Anderson competed well and looked to help set the tone for Sydney. He built into the game steadily, proving strong at the contest with attempts to bustle out of congestion and break tackles with strength. Those kind of efforts meant Anderson had a good amount of presence at stoppages, but he also spread well to boot a goal on the run in term two, while also dropping back to find the ball in defence when required.

Brisbane Lions Academy 7.7 (49) def. by Gold Coast SUNS Academy 13.18 (96)
By: Declan Reeve

Lions Academy:

#12 Saxon Crozier

Considered unlucky by some not to be picked up in last year’s draft, Crozier showed that he’s since worked on his football to enhance his stocks for this season. With one particular knock last season being his inside game, Crozier played the majority of the contest as a rover on his way to a game-high 34 disposals. He won the first clearance of the day which set the tone for how he would play, utilising his positional awareness and speed to win the ball around the ground and then use it well, especially when kicking, to get the Lions into good spots. He balanced his performance well, also featuring on the wing at times where he showed what people already knew he could do, holding his space and being a switch option before getting the ball and pumping it forward.

#23 Charlie Bowes

Utilising his speed and deadly long kick, Bowes was one of the standout users of the footy throughout the game. He often leant on his penetrative kick to break lines and get the ball well clear of the defensive 50. When he took the kick-ins, he’d back in his speed and take on the opponent on the mark, then once he had run his distance, kick it 50-plus meters low and hard to give his leading teammates the best chance of holding onto it. Not only able to bullet his kicks, when required he weighted them well for a teammate to run onto and take easily.

#26 Jack Briskey

The former Collingwood train-on player was solid defensively and dangerous offensively, providing a well rounded performance that is sure to catch some eyes. He was strong overhead, even when under pressure, to hold most marks he should’ve taken. His follow up disposal was also generally good, though missing a few kicks or failing to get much penetration remains an area of improvement. What’s most impressive about Briskey is his athleticism for a bigman – he possesses great speed which saw him go for a couple of runs, one in the second quarter was particularly notable, where he took on two opponents and took a couple of bounces, then kicked long inside 50. That speed, along with his great leap meant that he rarely allowed his opponents to take marks near him, as he could close down the space extremely quickly and then compete in the air to get a fist in and spoil the mark.

SUNS Academy:

#2 Max Pescud

Splitting his time between the forwardline and midfield, Pescud was arguably the spark that got Gold Coast piling on scores in the second and fourth quarters, bringing a nice bit of zip to the midfield group when he got the ball. He generally used it well, more inclined to place the ball in front of teammates rather than bullet it directly at them, making it easier to hold onto. When in the forwardline he was always dangerous, kicking the Suns’ first two goals of the game; one from a strong lead when the Suns got a turnover, and the next from crumbing from a pack and snapping it through the middle.

#4 Austin Harris

Whilst not accumulating massive numbers, the AFL Academy member added a bit of class out of the back half for the Suns, with his ball use and speed especially dangerous in transition. He got into the right spots trying to receive a handball on the outside of packs, with the times he was used in those situations generally resulting in a penetrating kick forward. Had an impressive display of composure in the third term, where he got the ball and managed to evade two opponents, then break a tackle and kick the ball laterally to a teammate. Through his efforts to be involved even when the ball wasn’t in the backline, he got up the ground and snagged a goal in the second quarter. He occasionally tried to do too much or opt for unrealistic targets, which is an area of his game he can look to iron out.

#22 Bailey Reeves

Starting the game up forward before being promptly moved into the midfield, Reeves was one of the leading ball winners for the Suns. In midfield, his balanced disposal was vital to his side winning the midfield battle, as he would often get first hands on it around the stoppages and then move it on via hand to an outside runner or kick long forward. In open play his kicking was accurate and sharp, giving his leading forwards to best chance to hold onto it and maintain their separation.

#35 Will Bella

The most dominant forward in the contest, Bella was able to easily out-body and out-reach opposition defenders in marking contests, making it almost a sure thing he was going to win one-on-ones. As the Lions defenders caught onto this strength, they started to look to outnumber him, forcing him to start leading a bit more and look to create separation which he did to varying success. He would’ve had more than just two goals if he had been a bit more accurate, with that conversion a part of his game that he’ll certainly look to work on. Looked comfortably the best ruck when he was rotating through there, winning taps and doing well as a ‘kick behind the play’ player.

2020 AFL Draft recap: Sydney Swans

DESPITE the final standings showing a 16th place finish, Sydney was a side which produced plenty of promise throughout 2020. Much of that came down to young talent rising the Swans’ ranks and with an eventual draft haul boasting two top five picks, that factor is set to be compounded heading into next season. Pick three slid down to pick four and the Swans were again on the board with pick five, quickly matching their first of two bids in the National Draft. One more matched bid and a couple of rookies later, and Sydney has a handful of fresh faces entering the elite system, but with a sense of great familiarity given three are Academy graduates.

SYDNEY

National Draft:
#4 Logan McDonald (Perth/Western Australia)
#5 Braeden Campbell (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)
#32 Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)

Rookies:
Malachy Carruthers (Sturt/South Australia), Marc Sheather (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)

Having known what was available with its two leading Academy products, Sydney came into the draft looking to target key position options with its first pick. Many analysts linked the selection with West Australian defender Denver Grainger-Barras, but the Swans rated Logan McDonald higher so when he slipped past Adelaide and North Melbourne, they pounced on their man.

McDonald is another West Australian with a full season of senior football under his belt, proving one of the big improvers this year after a stellar campaign up forward. The 196cm forward is hard to deny in front of goal, able to find the big sticks from a bunch of ranges while also bringing contested marking to the fore. He can play deep, but also gains good separation up the ground with his elite endurance base. It is something which has seen him draw comparisons to St Kilda great, Nick Riewoldt.

The Swans were always prepared to match a top 10 bid for Academy talent, Braeden Campbell, but were perhaps a touch peeved when Hawthorn put them back on the clock with pick five. It proved a straightforward decision to match, even if it meant Sydney would then sweat on where Errol Gulden‘s range would land. Ideally for the Swans, it came after the first round and in a position where they could comfortably match once again.

Campbell is a 181cm midfielder with great versatility; not only with his inside-outside balance, but also in that he can also play up forward or off half-back. His speed and penetrating boot make for two damaging weapons and plenty of upside. Gulden is a touch smaller at 175cm, but just as versatile and finds the ball at will no matter which level he plays at. He is crafty with ball in hand, runs all day, and may even be in line for a Round 1 debut despite his light frame. With those two bids matched, the Swans were satisfied with their National Draft intake.

That left a little more action for the Rookie Draft and the Swans took on another interstate prospect in South Australian, Malachy Carruthers. The Sturt Under 18s standout is another terrific runner who opens up the play across half-back or on the wing with his expansive use by foot. Another Academy graduate in Marc Sheather also made the cut at no cost, bringing athleticism, a readymade frame, and developable footballing traits to the squad. He can play on each line and even above his 185cm height.

VIDEO RECAP:

Featured Image: Swans Academy graduates Braeden Campbell (left) and Errol Gulden | Credit: Jenny Evans/Getty Images via AFL Photos

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Sydney Swans

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

Next under the microscope is Sydney, a side which has been notoriously consistent in the modern era but is currently in the midst of a list rebuild. The Swans finished 16th in 2020 having slid from finals to 15th the year before, meaning they will again lay claim to a top five pick and have the chance to bring in some elite young talent. As has often been the case, Sydney also boasts a couple of high-end academy products set to garner interest in the first round; meaning pick three, Braeden Campbell, and Errol Gulden will likely make up the Swans’ total National Draft haul.

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

CURRENT PICKS*: 3, 34, 37, 43, 48, 60, 82

2021 PICKS*: SYD Rd 1 | SYD Rd 2 | SYD Rd 4

* – denotes as of December 4

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

LIKELY ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Braeden Campbell, Errol Gulden (both academy)

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

LIST NEEDS:

Long-term key position depth
Long-term inside midfield depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 3)

While the Swans recently bolstered their ruck stocks during trade period with the coup of Tom Hickey, losing versatile tall Aliir Aliir hurt their top end key position depth. With pick three, Sydney has the opportunity to bring in a genuine gun key defender in Denver Grainger-Barras; a player who can not only fill the post long-term, but who also suits the club’s style and culture. He is the best defender available and will unlikely slide much further among the top five. The West Australian also showed his wares this year against pick one fancy Logan McDonald, arguably getting the better of him in the second half with courageous aerial efforts and superior reading of the play.

Should the Swans again look to target a midfielder in the top five like they did with Dylan Stephens last year, Will Phillips will be the go-to. At 180cm, he is not exactly the big-bodied type Sydney might prefer in the long-term, but he looks every bit the 250-game player clubs look for with such lofty selections. The Oakleigh Chargers graduate joined Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson in midfield last year and largely held his own, showcasing consistent ball winning ability, toughness, and a handy step away from congestion. Dynamic midfielder/forward Elijah Hollands could be another factor in this range, while the Swans have also committed to a bid on Western Bulldogs NGA Jamarra Ugle-Hagan should that option be available. Fortunately for Sydney, a bid for Campbell is expected to arrive after pick three.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

Having already completed a good amount of work to cover high-end academy bids, the Swans would perhaps prefer to stay a touch quieter among this year’s live trading scene. The best case scenario would see a bid for Campbell come late in the top 10, or even outside it, with Gulden’s bid sliding into the second round. Obviously keen to match both, the Swans could easily avoid a points deficit and any more trading action with that type of hand. Otherwise, we may see them spring to life once a team puts them under the cosh, but it should be a relatively straightforward outcome with three overall picks taken.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Which list need will the Swans attend to with pick five?

Will a bid for Braeden Campbell come within the top 10?

Will Errol Gulden be off the board before round two?

Do the Swans have enough to match two first round academy bids?

Will the Swans pick up any more academy products in their Rookie intake?

Featured Image: Swans Academy prospects Errol Gulden (left) and Braeden Campbell embrace | Credit: Narelle Spangher/ AFL NSW/ACT

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: The best academy & father-son hauls

OVER the last week, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the next edition, Chief Editor Peter Williams again sat down with AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro to discuss which AFL club shapes as boasting the strongest combined academy and father-son hauls.

The Next Generation Academy (NGA) and Northern Academy programs have garnered plenty of attention as we prepare for what will arguably be the most compromised AFL Draft in history. Adding fuel to the fire, consensus number one prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is a Western Bulldogs NGA product, while fellow potential top 10 picks Braeden Campbell (Sydney) and Lachlan Jones (Port Adelaide) are also already aligned to clubs. Add to that Gold Coast’s pre-listing rights and access to the Darwin zone, as well as some handy father-son prospects overall, and around a quarter of the likely draft pool will include club-aligned juniors.

It got our editors thinking, ‘which club lays claim to the strongest academy and father-son pool?’. We outline the strongest eight hauls, and touch on a few others to look out for in the latest pocket podcast.

To listen to the discussion in full, click here.

Here are some of the strongest likely academy and father-son hauls:

Sydney:
Braeden Campbell (Academy) | 181cm/75kg | Midfielder/Forward | Range: 8-15
Errol Gulden (Academy) | 175cm/75kg | Outside Midfielder/Small Utility | Range: 15-30

Gold Coast:
Alex Davies (Academy) | 192cm/85kg | Inside Midfielder | Range: 10-15
Joel Jeffrey (Darwin Zone) | 192cm/80kg | Tall Utility | Range: 20-30

Fremantle:
Joel Western (NGA) | 172cm/68kg | Midfielder/Small Forward | Range: 25-40
Brandon Walker (NGA) | 184cm/75kg | Medium Defender | Range: 25-40

Port Adelaide:
Lachlan Jones (NGA) | 186cm/89kg | General Defender | Range: 7-12
Taj Schofield (F/S) | 178cm/72kg | Outside Midfielder/Forward | Range: 35+

Western Bulldogs:
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (NGA) | 195cm/90kg | Key Forward | Range: 1-5
Ewan Macpherson (F/S) | 181cm/82kg | Defender/Midfielder | Range: Late/Rookie
Cody Raak (NGA) | 190cm/78kg | Defender | Range: Rookie

Adelaide:
Luke Edwards (F/S) | 188cm/83kg | Inside Midfielder/Utility | Range: 30-45
Tariek Newchurch (NGA) | Small Forward/Midfielder | Range: 30-45
James Borlase (NGA) | 192cm/93kg | Tall Utility | Range: 40+

Brisbane:
Blake Coleman (Academy) | 181cm/79kg | Small Forward | Range: 30-45
Carter Michael (Academy) | 188cm/74kg | Balanced Midfielder | Range: 40+
Saxon Crozier (Academy) | 190cm/80kg | Outside Midfielder | Range: Late-Rookie

Essendon:
Cody Brand (NGA) | 196cm/87kg | Key Defender | Range: 30-50
Joshua Eyre (NGA) | 198cm/85kg | Tall Utility | Range: Late/Rookie

There are plenty of others who loom as solid options not only aligned to the clubs listed here, but also to others around the league. Additionally, the selections above are not indicative of those clubs’ entire available pools, but rather the top prospects who have garnered the most attention.

Elsewhere, Reef McInnes is arguably a first round talent who may slide to the 20-30 range for Collingwood, another from their NGA program. Connor Downie is a proven quantity out of the Eastern Ranges, a line-breaking outside mover who boasts a penetrating left boot and is tied to Hawthorn through its NGA. Of course, another prospect who has already garnered plenty of attention is Maurice Rioli Jnr, the son of late Richmond and South Fremantle great, Maurice Rioli. He is a hard-tackling small forward with terrific goal sense and will most likely be picked up as a Richmond father-son, despite also qualifying for Fremantle under the same rule, and Essendon via the NGA.

Expect to see most of the above names find homes at AFL level in 2020, and for the inevitable top five bid on Ugle-Hagan to shape the pointy end of the draft. About a third of the top 30 names could well come from academies, bringing out plenty of baulking and bluffing in the bidding process. As we have seen in previous drafts, being aligned to a club does not always mean you will end up there, so those with big hauls will undoubtedly be made to pay a pretty price for their products.

>> Power Rankings: October Update

Past Episodes:
Key defenders kicking comparison
Offence from defence
Denver Grainger-Barras vs. Heath Chapman
The top non-aligned midfielders

Academy Series Player Focus: Braeden Campbell (Sydney Swans Academy)

IN continuing our extended Player Focus series, we take a look at a prospect who stood out in the recently commenced Academy Series. A Sydney Derby kicked off the carnival, as the GWS GIANTS and Sydney Swans academies locked horns over the weekend. Leading Swans prospect Braeden Campbell is the player we put under the microscope, with his trying performance across a range of positions helping Sydney get up by 15 points in a low-scoring slog.

PLAYER PAGE

Braeden Campbell
Swans Academy/Allies

DOB: February 4, 2002
Height: 181cm
Weight: 72kg

Position: Balanced Midfielder/Forward

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

PLAYER FOCUS

After a scintillating performance in last year’s Under 17 Futures All Star showcase, Campbell is well known to all keen AFL Draft watchers. The Swans Academy jet is lightning quick, boasts a damaging left-foot kick, and provides great balance through midfield while also doubling as a flanker up either end. He can do it all, and Saturday’s game against the GIANTS was a true test of his skillset.

The soggy conditions were hardly conducive to Campbell’s typical run-and-carry, and forced many similar types to revert to different methods of driving the ball forward. Luckily for Campbell and the Swans, he can win his own ball, and his kicking is among the best in the 2020 draft pool. These factors allowed him to have a consistent impact on the attack.

Starting at the centre bounces, Campbell looked lively early, adjusting well to the step-up from representing Pennant Hills in the AFL Sydney Premier Division. He booted a couple of clearances into Sydney’s attacking 50, and looked dangerous on the break as he gained separation from his direct opponents. While the long bombs didn’t quite come off, Campbell would soon enough find a target with his lovely lateral ball to find an unmanned Pierce Roseby inside forward 50.

After a bright start through the middle, the 181cm prospect began to rotate through the lines and primarily off a wing. A rare turnover via foot came in the second quarter, perhaps for a lack of options forward of centre, and it seemed Campbell was receiving a good bit of opposition attention. A more reserved term and some biff on the half time siren would attest to that.

He returned to his usual self after the main break, and showed he doesn’t need to win a mountain of possessions to have an impact. His five-step burst of speed came in handy when wheeling away from the back of congestion, allowing enough room for Campbell to prop and deliver the ball via foot – both laterally and directly forward. Campbell’s lone goal of the game came in the third term, as his direct opponent failed to follow him to the fall of the ball inside 50, allowing for a relatively straightforward finish on the move. He’s deadly accurate within 50 metres.

Moving on into the final period, and Campbell would return to the centre bounces after some time across half-back and on the outer. He seemed a touch frustrated as he lost out in a couple of hard-fought one-on-ones in general play, but was still finding his way to the ball. His desire for the contest remained, hunting the ball amid heavy congestion and proving clean below his knees on the move.

He missed the chance to cap off his day with another major, spurning a hand-off from just outside the 50-metre arc with the result beyond any doubt. Overall, it was a well-rounded display from Campbell in conditions unsuited to good football. While his outside traits (speed, kick penetration) often catch the eye, this time it was his inside game, and the ability to adapt to that style which helped win the day for Sydney. It was by no means his best performance, but Campbell always seems a class above when on the ball and produced some clean plays amid the messy contest.

Power Rankings: July 2020 | August 2020

>> 2020 Allies Under 18s Squad Prediction
>> Positional Analysis: Key Defenders

AFL Draft Watch: Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)

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 pre-season testing, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft watch is Sydney Swans Academy product Errol Gulden, a crafty outside midfielder/forward who has proven a perennial headache for opposition defenders. The diminutive 172cm speedster has already represented the Allies at Under 18 level, running out for all four games in last year’s national carnival. The feat came after donning NSW/ACT colours for its Under 17 side and earning the 2018 Under 16 Division 2 MVP award. Gulden also shone alongside Swans teammate Braeden Campbell in the 2019 Under 17 All Stars clash, with the pair sure to transition together into the elite level.

PLAYER PAGE:

Errol Gulden
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies

DOB: July 18, 2002

Height: 172cm
Weight: 68kg

Position: Outside midfielder/half-forward

Strengths:Speed/agility, smarts, vision, impact, accumulation
Improvements:
Inside game, decision making consistency

PRESEASON TESTING HIGHLIGHTS:

Did not test.

>> Full Testing Results:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

2019 STATISTICS:

NAB League: 3 games | 27.3 disposals | 63.9% uncontested possessions | 6.0 marks | 2.0 tackles | 2.0 clearances | 8 inside 50s | 2.6 rebound 50s | 1.3 goals (4)

Under 18 National Championships: 4 games | 15.0 disposals | 69% uncontested possessions | 2.8 marks | 2.5 tackles | 0.5 clearances | 3.8 inside 50s | 0.8 goals (3)

2019 SCOUTING NOTES:

Under 17 Futures All Stars

By: Peter Williams

His side’s best despite the loss, and the Sydney Swans fans would be pumped to see both him and Campbell playing well on the MCG. After a quieter first term by his standards often opposed to Eddie Ford at stoppages, he really got going and was crucial in getting his side back into the contest in the second term.

Kicked the easiest of goals over the back in the second term running into the square with space behind him, and looked composed in his movements in close. He sidesteps opponents with ease and gets his hands free time and time again, showing good core strength to stand up in tackles. Just a really clean player who when he gets going adds that touch of class to any side and is hard to stop.

Under 17 Futures vs. Vic Country

By: Michael Alvaro

Came into the side after missing the annual clash against Queensland on the Gold Coast, shaking off some early cobwebs to showcase his talent. Positioned on his customary wing, Gulden continually used his innate ability to find space of the outside to send the Rams forward, getting on the move and piercing some classy passes along the line.

The promising Swans Academy prospect was usually composed with ball in hand, using his agility to prop into space and find a target as he lowered his eyes – a valuable point of difference to many U18 players. While he was almost found out with some kicks across attacking 50 and passes which proved a little too cute, Gulden’s skills were typically fantastic and he makes the play come alive.

Under 18 National Championships vs. South Australia

By: Michael Alvaro

The bottom-aged Sydney Academy member was again impressive, buzzing around the forward half and proving damaging as he wheeled craftily onto his left side. He started in ideal fashion with a well-read crumb off hands inside 50 and clinical finish for his side’s first and only goal in the opening term.

While his spearing passes on the left look good when they come off, Gulden has a tendency to look for those low-percentage kicks across the 50 arc and did turn one over in this game. He can pick his shots better, but is so damaging when he hits them and you would not want to smother his natural talent. Finished with 14 disposals (12 uncontested).

Under 18 National Championships vs. Vic Metro

By: Michael Alvaro

Swans fans will be pretty pleased with what their 2020 Academy prospect has shown to date, and this was another great performance on the big stage. Playing off the half-forward flank and up onto a wing, Gulden was a constant threat moving forward when wheeling around onto his trusty left boot. He always looked to create and showed crafty vision with his passes inside 50 to find teammates on multiple occasions.

Gulden was as clean as anyone at ground level and it proved a telling trait as he delivered so effectively in space around the arc. Gulden’s willingness to opt for high-risk/high-reward kicks and ability to make them work more often than not made him a game-changer, topping off his contribution with two goals in the third term. His first was a real highlight, turning his opponent with great agility and finishing clinically on the left from just inside 50. One of the best for next year’s crop.

NAB League Round 4 vs. Sandringham

By: Alex Gibson

One to watch for 2020. Sandringham had no response to the silky bottom ager who collected 26 disposals in a best-on ground performance. Kicking two goals from the wing, Gulden’s left foot was seriously damaging and was often the man trusted with kicking the ball inside 50 due to his ability to hit a target. Sydney may just have themselves another Heeney or Mills here.

NAB League Round 2 vs. Tasmania

By: Matthew Cocks

The bottom-ager’s performance was hard to fault. Gulden found a way to create his own time and space playing predominantly on the wing and through the midfield. Collecting plenty of the ball (33 disposals in total), Gulden was a key cog in setting the Swans up to attack. His two goals in the first half capped off an impressive best-on-ground performance.

>> Sydney Swans Academy Content

>> Marquee Matchup: Errol Gulden vs. Jake Bowey

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Allies:
Tahj Abberley
Jackson Callow
Braeden Campbell
Oliver Davis

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Luke Edwards
Taj Schofield
Riley Thilthorpe

Vic Country:
Sam Berry
Jack Ginnivan
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Vic Metro:
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Reef McInnes
Archie Perkins

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