Tag: tariek newchurch

Rookie Rundown: The picks you might have missed

THE 2020 AFL National and Rookie Drafts have been run and done, with plenty of fresh faces entering the elite system despite limited exposure, opportunities, and football this year. Often times, the best gems and values picks are found in the Rookie Draft and this year is no different, with a bunch of selections not read out during the official event seeing hot prospects get their chance. We take you through some of the names who have snuck onto lists via pre-listing or Category B eligibility, perhaps flying under the radar having been confirmed away from the glamour of draft night.

>> NATIONAL DRAFT: Club-by-club picks
>> ROOKIE DRAFT: Full order

Gold Coast is arguably the team with most relevance to this kind of category, with a total of five pre-listings made as part of the Suns’ draft concessions. Top 25 talents Alex Davies and Joel Jeffrey made their way onto the primary list, with the former an academy product and the latter aligned through Gold Coast’s access to the Darwin zone. Davies is a tall inside midfielder who thrives at the contest with great poise and clean extraction, while Jeffrey is an athletic swingman who stands out aerially and has great upside.

Rhys Nicholls and Aiden Fyfe are other academy graduates who were called out during the Rookie Draft, both promising to add some outside run and class to the Suns’ squad. Their listings were somewhat of a formality, but also show the growth of Gold Coast’s talent program. International scholarship holder Hewago Paul Oea earned a Category B slot after being overlooked last year, potentially bringing great speed and excitement to the forward half. ‘Ace’, as he is affectionately known, hails from Papua New Guinea and represented the Allies during last year’s Under 18 championships.

Another Queensland academy product in Carter Michael also earned rookie selection, pre-listed by Brisbane having been an integral part of the Lions’ pathway setup. The versatile midfielder’s selection slipped under the radar and was only announced after the fact, but he has long been linked with a spot on the Lions’ list. He is a Category A rookie, while Irish convert Deividas Uosis has been listed as a Category B prospect. The Lithuanian-born athlete was announced as a Lions coup early in 2020, but will only officially join their list come 2021.

Will Shaw was somewhat of a surprise get by GWS, with Marc Sheather Sydney’s only other academy selection after matching bids for Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden. Shaw is a former Giants Academy member who played for both Murray and Bendigo in the NAB League but was overlooked as a top-ager before getting his chance with the Giants, who value his outside run and class. He was eligible for selection as he falls in the Giants’ NSW zone. Sheather is a versatile option for the Swans who can play above his size up forward, down back, or even through midfield. He has athletic traits which appeal and a readymade kind of build. Both are said to have been put into Category B slots.

Adelaide wasted little time in announcing the Category B listings of Next Generation Academy (NGA) members James Borlase and Tariek Newchurch, who managed to slip through past the National Draft. Both are fast-developing talents, with Borlase a strongly-built defender who is the son of 246-game Port Adelaide champion Darryl, while Newchurch is a zippy small forward with x-factor and a wonderful eye for goal. They are far from the finished product, but could play a part in the Crows’ rebuild having capped off a massive overall draft haul.

Elsewhere, a couple of monster basketball converts also earned Category B selection, with Paul Tsapatolis landing at Geelong and Mate Colina snapped up by Richmond. Melbourne NGA prospect Deakyn Smith carries some interest after missing out on this intake, but will train with the club in hopes of nabbing a spot in future. Port Adelaide father-son Taj Schofield was one who did find a home in the Rookie Draft after the Power committed to him, adding great value at essentially no cost.

Featured Image: Gold Coast Category B rookie Hewago Paul Oea | Credit: SUNS Media

2020 AFL Draft recap: Adelaide Crows

ADELAIDE went into the 2020 AFL Draft holding all the power with pick one and knowing it would need to absolutely nail each pick or movement as its rebuild continues. Armed with the greatest draft points total of any side coming in, the Crows were able to bolster their midfield stocks, fulfil the pressing need for a genuine small forward, and obtain one of the best tall prospects available to form their list regeneration around. With all bar one of Adelaide’s picks originally hailing from South Australia, there was a real local feel to this draft haul.

ADELAIDE

National Draft:
#2 Riley Thilthorpe (West Adelaide/South Australia)
#11 Luke Pedlar (Glenelg/South Australia)
#25 Brayden Cook (South Adelaide/South Australia)
#28 Sam Berry (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#38 James Rowe (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)

Pre-Season Draft: Jackson Hately (Greater Western Sydney)

Rookies: Bryce Gibbs (Adelaide), James Borlase (NGA), Tariek Newchurch (NGA)

Adelaide had no problem relinquishing its pick one status in using it to place a bid on Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (NGA) member Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, which was inevitably matched. Having subsequently slid back to the second selection, the Crows were delighted to snare local bigman Riley Thilthorpe, a genuine key forward who can also rotate through the ruck. National recruiting manager Hamish Ogilvie shared the view that Thilthorpe had long been the best player for his age group in the State, helping confirm the feel-good local choice. Out of West Adelaide, the 201cm talent should prove a pillar of Adelaide’s rebuild and with senior experience under his belt, will likely be given early opportunities if fit.

The Crows then pulled one of the shocks of the first round by pouncing on Luke Pedlar with pick 11, an explosive inside midfielder who may begin his career up forward. The Glenelg product was also captain of this year’s Prince Alfred College side and while injury cut his season short, Pedlar showed enormous quality at each opportunity. The Crows obviously rated him highly and were happy to act at such a high cost with the likes of GWS and Fremantle lurking within the next few picks. The lone Victorian of the group, Sam Berry is another hard-working midfielder who will add to Adelaide’s ball winning stocks, likely to provide great value at pick 28. Speed is his main knock, but his effort and endurance are high-level.

From one bolter in Pedlar to another in Brayden Cook, the Crows obviously did their homework on the vast array of SANFL products this year. The South Adelaide wingman/forward came from seemingly nowhere to enter draft contention this year with 26 goals in 13 Under 18 games. He has grown nicely and shown an equally steep rate of development; with overhead marking, goal sense, and creative nous his main weapons. Mature-age small forward James Rowe rounded out the Crows’ National Draft intake at pick 38, right after Carlton nabbed Corey Durdin. The Woodville-West Torrens goalsneak booted 38 majors this year to top the SANFL charts, showcasing impressing natural smarts and ability inside 50 to suggest he could slot into the Crows’ starting side immediately.

Adelaide also got their man in Jackson Hately, who returns home after quitting GWS at the end of this season. The tall midfielder fits the Crows’ need for midfield depth and is an absolute steal at effectively no cost in the preseason draft. A sense of deja vu came over fans as Bryce Gibbs was called out with pick one, only this time in the Rookie Draft and purely for administrative reasons. He will be moved onto the inactive list and remain retired in 2021. The Crows also managed to land their two NGA products in James Borlase and Tariek Newchurch through Category B listings, a terrific result given their levels of talent and potential to develop.

Featured Image: Riley Thilthorpe dons Adelaide’s tricolours | Credit: Getty Images

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: Club AFL Draft previews (Part 4)

OVER the past few weeks, 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, special guest Tom Cheesman again joined Chief Editor Peter Williams and AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro as they continue to break down how this year’s draft may pan out for each club.

The clubs featured in part four are Adelaide, Essendon, and Greater Western Sydney (GWS), all of whom loom as the three biggest players in this year’s first round. The Crows lay claim to pick one and have narrowed their options down to four; bid on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, or take one of Logan McDonald, Riley Thilthorpe, and Elijah Hollands. With Pick 9 and the first two second round selections also under their belt, this years wooden spooners comfortably hold the highest total draft points value of any side. There also looms the factor of their academy products in Tariek Newchurch and James Borlase, who they will hope can get to the club as rookies.

Then there is Essendon, who could become the first team to boast three top 10 picks since the expansion era, depending on how the pointy end plays out. The Bombers’ early hand will likely attract some live trade interest, but a great opportunity to bring in multiple elite talents presents itself. Essendon could also place bids on a couple of academy talents, with Port Adelaide NGA hopeful Lachlan Jones in that range and Collingwood NGA member Reef McInnes tempting the Bombers, who are crying out for a big-bodied inside midfielder. Like Adelaide, Essendon also has a couple of academy members of interest in Cody Brand and Josh Eyre.

GWS is the other club with a massively influential hand, largely thanks to the Jeremy Cameron trade. The Giants now lay claim to four first round picks and five within the top 30, providing a terrific opportunity to hit live trading hard or simply work with the strong haul they already have. There are a good number of options available in the teens for GWS, of which could bolster their midfield and key defensive needs in the long term. It is also a good range for sliders to come into play and the Giants may well end up as the team which shapes the late-first round to early-second round action.

Below are the picks held by each club, as of December 3.

Adelaide: 1, 9, 22, 23, 40, 80 
Essendon:
6, 7, 8, 44, 77, 85, 87
GWS: 
10, 13, 15, 20, 26, 74, 88

To listen to the discussion in full, click here.

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

AFL Draft Whispers: 2020 Edition

WITH this year’s AFL Draft less than a month away, the rumour mill has been in full swing as supporters turn their attention from trade period, to draft period. There is some early general consensus already, mostly pertaining to where prospects are ranked, but not necessarily where they may end up come draft time. In our November 2020 edition of AFL Draft Whispers, Draft Central takes a look at some of the key factors which may shape the top 10, as well as some of the queries pertaining to academy and father-son bids among the most compromised intake in history.

With pick one, Adelaide has selected…

Starting at the top, it is thought by many that the race for pick one honours has been narrowed down to two players. Given Adelaide boasts the first selection, local talent Riley Thilthorpe has been put forward as a safe choice, though Logan McDonald is marginally considered the better talent. Both are key forwards with senior state league experience this year who the Crows will be able to form their rebuild around. The ‘go home factor’ is a slight some Crows fans may have against McDonald, who is from Western Australia, though a local bias has hardly presented at the Crows previously and the 18-year-old seems to have no qualms about shifting interstate.

The other factor in this discussion is Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, the consensus best prospect in this year’s pool who is tied to the Western Bulldogs. Adelaide could keep the Dogs accountable by bidding with pick one, but may seek to market their ties to the top selection by simply taking a player they can actually access. Elijah Hollands is another in contention, a midfielder with plenty of x-factor who is coming off a long-term knee injury and actually supports the Crows.

‘The fantastic five’

It is well known that along with McDonald and Thilthorpe, three other top-end prospects have formed a breakaway group which clubs are jostling to gain access to. Aside from Ugle-Hagan, who will find his way to the Western Bulldogs regardless of where a bid is placed, Hollands, Will Phillips, and Denver Grainger-Barras are the players who join the two aforementioned key forwards in this exclusive group.

Hollands, who suffered a serious knee injury during preseason, was touted as a potential challenger to the number one spot, and looks likely to be North Melbourne’s favoured pick. He is a tall midfielder/forward with serious game-winning attributes which include athleticism and scoreboard impact. Sydney’s top five pick is likely to come down to one of Phillips or Grainger-Barras, with interest in an inside midfielder growing, rather than the taller options. That of course brings Phillips to the fore, a 180cm ball winner who cut his teeth alongside Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson in Oakleigh’s 2019 premiership side.

What will Gold Coast look for with pick five?

The Suns were one of the big improvers in 2020, thanks in no small part to their top-end draftees who managed to make an immediate impact at senior level. With pick five, they have the chance to bring in another talent who may do the same next year. It seems the Queensland-based outfit will look to prioritise another midfielder, and Phillips would be the obvious choice as arguably the best pure ball winner available. Though, with growing talk that he may already be taken by the time Gold Coast gets on the clock, Geelong Falcons product Tanner Bruhn could be their man. He was Vic Country’s Under 16 MVP in 2018 and despite repeat injury setbacks, has shown his class through midfield when fully fit. Gold Coast is also able to pre-list Academy member Alex Davies, a tall clearance winner, but may look towards balance in acquiring the hard-running, 183cm Bruhn.

Will Essendon trade into the top two?

Though the Bombers have done well to secure the services of Peter Wright at little cost, the key forward slot remains an area which depth is desperately needed. Essendon currently holds picks 7-9 and could become the first team since the expansion era to utilise three top 10 picks in one draft. It would make for a hell of a story, though Adrian Dodoro will inevitably look to squeeze even greater value out of that significant hand.

With a wealth of high-level talls available at the pointy end of the draft, the Bombers may look to package a combination of their current top 10 picks to move up the order and gain access to one of those elite key position forwards. For example, North Melbourne may be a team of interest as they are in need of as much fresh talent as possible. Thus, the Roos could send pick two to Essendon in exchange for two of those top 10’ers in order to maximise their hand. It will unlikely be that simple, but that kind of thinking is perhaps what Essendon will have to do to obtain the likes of McDonald or Thilthorpe, who could become pillar key forwards in future.

Will Thilthorpe slide to Adelaide’s pick nine?

Plenty of talk has surrounded the proposed two-horse race pertaining Adelaide’s pick one (see above), but what happens to Thilthorpe should the Crows favour McDonald? Depending on the final order of the top 10, the South Australian may end up as this year’s slider despite being considered a top five or six talent. Essendon could be a potential suitor, though are said to have eyes on a certain other prospect in moving up the board, while the likes of North Melbourne, Sydney, and Gold Coast may look towards the midfielders available. Thus, Thilthorpe could slowly slip back to the Crows at pick nine, which would be a massive result for last year’s bottom side. A long shot, yes, but possible.

Will clubs take all of their Academy/father-son talents available?

In short, no. With cuts to list sizes, it just is not feasible for many clubs with rich academy cohorts to take every talent available to them this year. We saw with Brisbane in 2019 that if another club is interested in their homegrown products and the price is too high, they simply will not match the bid.

That may be the case for Brisbane once again, while Adelaide is another team of interest this year. The Crows have access to Tariek Newchurch and James Borlase through the NGA system, while Luke Edwards is a potential father-son choice. The latter is said to be weighing up whether to nominate for the open draft, and Adelaide’s current top-ended draft hand suggests it is only considering taking two of the three players.

Fremantle will look to secure NGA talents Joel Western and Brandon Walker. After the Dockers’ pick 12, they only have picks 32, 55, and a couple in triple figures to match any potential bids, so might get a little busy before their picks are locked in. Otherwise, they may prioritise one over the other. Collingwood is in a tricky spot too, with Reef McInnes attracting some added attention after his draft combine exploits. The bid will have to be fair on the Magpies’ end, and ideally after their current picks 14 and 16.

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Adelaide Crows

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 subject to heavy change, so perhaps we can predict some of that movement here.

Adelaide is first up, the team which finished last in 2020 and thus holds the power of wielding pick one in the draft. An inspired final month meant Crows fans were left with something to cheer about in the three-win campaign, and holding the competition’s ace card will only add to their excitement. It is the first number one pick Adelaide will use in its history and with many list needs to cover amidst a heavy rebuild, there is plenty of pressure on Crows staff to nail every move and selection. As it stands, they boast the highest total draft value index points of any club at 6832 – over 1300 more than the next-best club.

CURRENT PICKS*: 1, 9, 22, 23, 40, 56, 66, 80
* – denotes as of November 19

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

ELIGIBLE ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PLAYERS:

James Borlase (NGA), Luke Edwards (father-son), Tariek Newchurch (NGA)

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

LIST NEEDS:

Ball-winning midfielder
Key forward depth
Ruck depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:

It seems the race for pick one is down to two options; Logan McDonald and Riley Thilthorpe. Debate has raged over whether the Crows will opt to select McDonald, a West Australian key forward who bolted into top three contention this year, or to eliminate any threat of the ‘go home factor’ by snapping up local forward/ruck, Thilthorpe.

While nothing from McDonald suggests he would be unhappy to shift interstate, the argument for Thilthorpe goes that he is far less likely to move elsewhere in future and can prove a safe pillar for the Crows’ to form their rebuild around. While McDonald is arguably considered the better talent, this is the kind of thinking which may impact Adelaide’s choice.

If it were up to us, McDonald is the Crows’ man. They may also consider placing a bid on Western Bulldogs NGA product Jamarra Ugle-Hagan to keep the ‘Dogs accountable, as they would not think twice in matching for the athletic forward who is the consensus best talent in this year’s crop. Elijah Hollands looms as another option, the only midfielder of the bunch and one who could prove a perfect fit for Adelaide’s engine room with his size, x-factor, and ability to rotate forward.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

The Crows are likely to put pick one under lock and key, but have great potential for flexibility with their later picks. Pick nine could be split into two first rounders in order to maximise the amount of top-end talent brought in, perhaps even packaged up with one of their early second rounders. It may also be used to improve their hand in next year’s first round, as the 2021 intake looks like being a strong one.

Covering potential bids for all three eligible players in Borlase, Newchurch, and Edwards may be tough, so there could be work to do to ensure those bases are covered. Although, it seems more likely that only two of the three will land at Adelaide, especially with Edwards seemingly considering his options in the open draft. The Crows should be one of the busier clubs in terms of pick swaps both in the lead up to draft day, and as it goes live.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Who will the Crows take with pick one?

Will they bid on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan first?

Do they trade or split pick nine?

Do they trade into next year’s first round?

Will they take all three of Newchurch, Borlase, and Edwards?

Where will the bids come in for those three players?

Featured Image: (Retrieved from) Perth FC

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: The best AFL Draft hands

OVER the past few weeks, 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, this time to discuss which clubs hold the best hands heading into the 2020 AFL Draft.

While the indicative draft order is set to undergo a raft of changes in the build up to draft day (December 9), the discussion highlighted three teams which were head and shoulders above the rest of the competition in terms of their pick hauls as of the end of trade period. Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney (GWS), and Essendon were the sides in question, though the positions of all 18 teams also came under the microscope; touching on pure draft value index points, flexibility and potential to trade, and likely academy or father-son selections.

To listen to the discussion in full, click here.

Below is a recap of what makes the three aforementioned clubs’ draft hands so strong:
(All picks are as of November 18)

Adelaide
Picks: 1, 9, 22, 23, 40, 56, 66, 80

Having finished bottom, the Crows have all the power with pick one for the first in their history and will likely use it to gain one of Logan McDonald or Riley Thilthorpe. Afterwards is where it gets interesting, as Adelaide could opt to split pick nine or use it to get into next year’s top 10 as the 2021 crop looks a strong one. The Crows also have three prospects already tied to them in Tariek Newchurch (NGA), James Borlase (NGA), and Luke Edwards (father-son). As it stands, Newchurch is likely to attract the first bid and one for Borlase will hopefully come after their current pick 40. The Crows could be left with a tricky decision as to whether they match for Edwards, who is also flirting with nominating for the open draft. Either way, Adelaide must nail this intake and lay a strong marker for its rebuild.

GWS
Picks: 10, 13, 15, 20, 29, 52, 74, 88

An exodus of sorts sees the Giants hold five picks within the top 30, four of which land among the first round. While the loss of Jeremy Cameron will be felt immediately, GWS has the opportunity to stock up with high-quality long-term options and avoid another steep drop off after finishing 10th in 2020. Alternatively, the Giants could use their picks in the teens to try and enter next year’s first round, or even sneak further into this year’s top 10 should a likely suitor wish to split their picks. Josh Green, the brother of Tom looks set to be the Giants’ sole academy selection this year but holds a value which will be relatively straightforward to match with one of their late picks, if necessary. GWS could be one of the busier clubs in the lead up to draft day and has plenty of potential to extract from its current hand.

Essendon
Picks: 6, 7, 8, 44, 77, 85, 87

The third of three clubs to currently hold a total points value of over 5000, Essendon may also become the first club since the expansion era to take three top 10 picks into the draft. What the Bombers decide to do with those picks is anyone’s guess given the flexibility afforded to them, and that there looms a few long-term list needs which require attendance. It seems as if they will opt to part ways with at least one of their top 10 selections, again either keen on next year’s crop or to expand their options in the first round. Another interesting scenario would be to package a couple of those picks to move into the top five, with Logan McDonald a prospect of particular interest. The Bombers also look set to bring in a couple of promising NGA talls in Cody Brand and Josh Eyre, with the latter potentially attracting a bid before the their current round three selection. There is likely enough cover for Eyre later on, though Essendon may also opt to bolster that late hand for any advanced bids.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

Past Episodes:

Best readymade prospects
Best players under 175cm
Best midfielders over 190cm
Logan McDonald vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Best academy and father-son hauls
Brayden Cook vs. Conor Stone
Key defenders kicking comparison
Offence from defence
Denver Grainger-Barras vs. Heath Chapman
The top non-aligned midfielders

Draft Central Power Rankings: November 2020

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

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

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

>> 2020 Draft Profiles

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

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

October Ranking: #1

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #2

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

October Ranking: #3

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

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus | Player Focus

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

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

October Ranking: #4

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #5

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

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #6

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus

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

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

October Ranking: #8

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

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #7

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #9

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #14

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

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #16

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

>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #12

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #11

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #10

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #15

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

October Ranking: #17

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

October Ranking: #18

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #13

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #19

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #29

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

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

October Ranking: #21

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #22

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

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #23

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

>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #24

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

>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #20

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #25

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

>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #27

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

October Ranking: #26

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

>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #28

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #30

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

>> Draft Watch

IN THE MIX:

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

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

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

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

Scouting Notes: 2020 South Australian Under 18 All-Stars

THE 2020 South Australian Under 18 All-Stars and Under 17 Futures took to Thebarton Oval on Friday night, performing in their final showcase for the year. While a number of highly touted top-age draft prospects were unable to take the field, other big names were able to show their class. In the main event, Team Grundy defeated Team Hurn 12.18 (90) to 4.12 (36), while Team Smith held on to beat Team Ebert 9.6 (60) to 7.10 (52) in the curtain raiser.

Draft Central Football Editor, Michael Alvaro was on hand to take note of the standout players and familiar names who impressed across both games. For the full teams and replays of either game, click here.

>> Power Rankings: October Update

Under 18 All-Stars – Team Grundy (Red) vs. Team Hurn (Yellow)

Team Grundy:

#4 Jase Burgoyne

One of a half-dozen Team Grundy bottom-agers, the 2021-eligible Port Adelaide father-son prospect showed off some of his best traits in patches. Able to adapt on each line, the smooth moving son of Peter boasts plenty of upside, but remains quite raw and light-on at 184cm/62kg. He was able to show nice agility in traffic and evasive techniques which helped him keep clear of closing opponents. Much of his work was done in general play, but he is known to be a strong accumulator who can utilise his sound short kicking game to help his side maintain possession.

#6 Will Spain

Another bottom-ager on Team Red, Spain popped up with some nice moments throughout the game. The diminutive Sturt midfielder was mostly utilised on the outer, where he was able to get his legs pumping with ball in hand and provide quick linkage between the arcs. He conveyed a good work-rate to get back and take a relieving diving mark inside defensive 50 during the second term, but showed his best form when taking the game on and gaining repeat possessions with his line-breaking run.

#7 Blayne O’Loughlin

O’Loughlin is a 2021-eligible prospect who is sure to provide Adelaide fans with continued hope, given he is tied to the Crows’ Next Generation Academy (NGA). There may not be much of the 172cm defender, but he packs a punch. He was able to compete well in his usual defensive post, proving strong at ground level and rebounding quickly once he had snapped up possession. While stationed a touch deeper than usual, O’Loughlin’s penetration by foot was somewhat replaced by his sound decision making, as he was able to find shorter options. He was even entrusted with the kick-ins at times, much like he has been with North Adelaide.

#8 Henry Nelligan

The 2020 SANFL Under 18s premiership player had a case for being best afield, as his sheer work-rate and ability to accumulate possessions across the ground took full toll. Nelligan is one of the most consistent players among his South Australian peers in terms of pure ball winning; able to win it at ground level, in space around the ground, or even on the lead up forward. His craftiness forward of centre came to the fore, with a beautifully improvised snap to Tom Emmett in the second term making for a nice goal assist. He also had chances to find the goals himself, but saw a set shot and attempt on the run dragged wide, while a quick snap in the final term was rushed over. His second efforts and clear footballing smarts make up a lot for what he lacks in size, and it seems he had a point to prove having missed out on a National Combine invite.

#11 Lachlan Grubb

Perhaps another National Combine omission with a point to prove, Grubb seems to have gained a great deal of confidence having turned out at senior level. The speedy forward brought exactly that to the contest, breaking the lines and proving a menace going inside 50. While he missed multiple chances to get on the scoreboard himself, Grubb assisted goals to Zac Dumesny in the second term and Cooper Horsnell in the fourth, while also unselfishly hitting up Tom Emmett on the fly when he could easily have sunk a shot from 35 metres out. But arguably his biggest play of the night came via a three-bounce dash on the wing during the third term, where he showcased his high-level sprinting ability to burn an opponent and deliver inside 50. A solid outing, he just needs to refine that finishing product.

#12 Daniel Fairbrother

Fairbrother is another Norwood premiership player, and one who has also gained some valuable senior experience. In a defensive role which he looks comfortable in, the top-ager was able to prove his worth with ball in hand on the back of some clean kicks and composed touches. He is the type of player you want to be exiting the defensive 50, and was a strong contributor across half-back.

#15 Max Clifton

Another solid contributor, Clifton popped up with glimpses of his best form in each quarter. In the first term, it was his courage to mark strongly overhead and willingness to move the ball on immediately which stood out. In the second stanza, the midfielder showed nice agility and was difficult to tackle. After half time, he had more of an impact inside attacking 50 with a set shot attempt which went wide, followed by an assist to Nasiah Wanganeen who tapped-in a snap on goal from point-blank range.

#16 Mani Liddy

The hard-nosed Sturt midfielder proved a fast starter, nearly snaring two impressive goals within the opening term. He did manage to claim Team Grundy’s first major, taking advantage from a free kick inside 50 and finishing with aplomb on the checkside. He almost followed it up with a snap moments later, but could not find the same spark as the contest wore on, rotating between the midfield and forwardline.

#17 Cooper Beecken

Arguably the most impressive bottom-ager afield, Beecken is a light and athletic 190cm defender who boasts many similarities to Hawthorn’s Will Day. The Glenelg prospect proved very clean and composed in possession across the back half, chiming in with timely intercept marks and mopping up at ground level. He seems to cover the ground well too, able to float into good positions in the defensive arc and help initiate rebounding forays. Having spent a good chunk of his season turning out for Sacred Heart, Beecken has emerged as an early top 25 prospect ahead of his draft eligible year in 2021.

#20 Zac Dumesny

The highly touted South Adelaide prospect was back to his best in this contest, taking up a spot on the wing and even rotating through the inside at times during the second half. Dumesny’s third quarter was arguably his best; as his clean hands, sharp skills, forward running capacity, and intercept qualities all came to the fore. He got forward well to become an option in said term but hit the post with his 30-metre set shot, and was also sighted marking on the defensive goal line during the following stanza. A typical Dumesny play was evident in the second quarter, as he gathered superbly on the half-volley at pace and flicked out a releasing handball to Caleb Poulter on the run. Top effort overall, one of the best afield.

#21 Riley Holder

Another prospect out of Sacred Heart and Glenelg, Holder proved dangerous inside attacking 50 with his strong aerial marking and sound conversion in front of goal. He booted three majors overall, with all three coming from set shots. Two of them were claimed in the opening term, as Holder’s ability to gain separation on the lead and hold onto marks on the move helped earn those scoring opportunities. He sunk a third after half time by presenting well once again, capping off a handy display up forward.

#22 Nic Couroupis

Couroupis is an over-ager who has flown a little under the radar, but came to prominence with some nice plays in this outing. The strongly-built midfielder spent a lot of time in defence, utilising his overhead marking ability to relieve some contested situations in the back half. He had a nice attacking moment too, with a well-taken mark in the corridor helping him continue his run and provide Tom Emmett with a goal assist just before the half time siren, while his kicking game was also generally sharp.

#33 Caleb Poulter

Far and away the best and most classy player afield, particularly in the first half, Poulter may well have cemented his first round status with this performance. The 192cm midfielder started at the centre bounces and made an impact straight away with a couple of clearances right out of the middle. He was simply cleaner and more effective than any other player, extracting beautifully and hitting a teammate with nearly every disposal. His ability to release long handballs from congestion has always been a key trait, and one particular pass from the centre bounce found Zac Dumesny on the wing, who hardly had to break stride to gather. It is difficult to do justice to his impact in the first half, with his silk and poise on the ball proving a class above the rest. Hardly reliant on pure strength, Poulter proved elusive and athletic in his craft. He was quieter after the main break, but had done plenty to prove his worth beforehand.

#34 Tom Emmett

About a month shy of his 19th birthday, Emmett looks a mature type in terms of his physicality and willingness to compete. At 186cm/86kg, the Sturt forward provided great presence inside 50 and finished with a game-high four goals. He was particularly aggressive at opposition kick-ins, reading the play well to intercept and even snaring a turnover goal that way. His long-range set shot conversion right on the half time siren showed his finishing ability, and some Reserves experience this year seems to have boosted his stock back down at Under 18s level.

Team Hurn:

#3 Corey Durdin

The Central District product found some form in spurts as he returned from repeat hamstring injuries, though it was a tough night to be a Team Hurn forward. As has always been the case with Durdin, his ground level efforts were terrific; not only digging in to win his own ball, but also applying strong tackles, smothers, and attempting to accelerate away. The 173cm prospect moved high up the ground in search of possession and attended some stoppages in general play, before moving into the centre bounces during the final term. He was most prominent during the last quarter, showing good toe away from congestion and finding a couple of teammates inside 50 with neat kicks.

#4 Bailey Chamberlain

Having staked his claim for Westies’ Under 18s as a primary ball winner, Chamberlain showcased his balance with a decent performance on the wing. He played there upon earning a senior call-up and was able to utilise his speed in transition to help link Team Hurn inside attacking 50. He tended to shift into the corridor at times, which proved a dangerous ploy when his teammates found him and he was able to accelerate forward. Chamberlain’s kicking at speed remains a touch scrappy, though back-to-back forward thrusts in the final term proved he is capable of finding his targets, but just needs to do so more consistently.

#7 Xavier Robins

Somewhat of a bolter in this year’s talent pool, Robins comes from good pedigree and possesses some handy weapons at half-back. The dashing defender was in the thick of the action early, mostly sighted attempting to repel Team Grundy’s attacks within the defensive arc, and darting kicks forward. While still a touch light, Robins has great speed and repeatedly worked all the way up to half-forward to move his side into attacking 50. While it didn’t always come off, Robins GPS data should show some solid numbers from those efforts.

#8 Liam Hamilton

It was somewhat of an ‘almost’ performance from Hamilton, who ended up with plenty of chances inside forward 50 but could not quite come away with a major score. The South Adelaide top-ager found the ball in dangerous positions nonetheless and was particularly lively in the second half. Perhaps his biggest stumbling block was the distance many of his shots came from, with some falling short from around 40 metres out, while others went wide either on the run or at a closer range. With a more refined finishing ability, Hamilton could have ended up with a bag of goals.

#9 Tom Powell

It often takes a keen watcher to observed Powell’s true impact in midfield, as many of his disposals are easily missed on the inside. The 2020 McCallum Tomkins Medallist showcased his wonderfully clean and quick hands in congestion, keeping his hands up in tackles and flicking out accurate passes to his runners. He just always seems to be able to get a handball away at the ideal time and is one of the most effective stoppage players in this year’s crop. His biggest impact was arguably felt in the early stages, but he also finished well and was able to accumulate at either end in between.

#11 Tariek Newchurch

Plenty was made of Newchurch’s starting position on the wing for Team Hurn, though he did not quite have the overall impact he would have liked. He was first sighted making a darting run inside attacking 50, not afraid to go backwards to find space before delivering well across the arc. Newchurch then popped up with a couple of nice moments in the second and third terms, forced right into the defensive half to take a strong intercept grab overhead, and tracking back to take another in the following quarter. He looked to move the ball on and generate some attack with his pace, but it was a tough night for the men in yellow. Plenty of Crows fans will be excited to get Newchurch on board as an NGA selection.

#13 Brodie Lake

Lake was arguably his side’s most impressive player and was Team Hurn’s sole goalkicker for the best part of three quarters. The Northern Territory native was outstanding in the first half, booting a couple of classy majors and impacting the play from midfield. While rotating forward, he first latched onto a Luke Edwards kick on the lead and sunk a lovey set shot from 40 metres on a tough angle. His second goal was a party trick, converting a checkside attempt from a fair distance out on the boundary line. He also laid a fantastic tackle in the first term to force a stoppage in his defensive goalsquare, exemplifying his work-rate. Lake faded a touch in the second half, but his early moments would have stuck clear in the memory of onlookers.

#14 Nicholas Kraemer

The big-bodied South Adelaide midfielder had his top-age season interrupted by injury, but has fared well upon his return with plenty of time in defence. That was no different in this game, as Kraemer was able to bring great physicality and cleanliness to an under-siege back six. He was busy to start with and had an impact through midfield, but arguably did his best work down back with intercepts and hard work at ground level. It would not have been easy to compete so consistently given the one-sided nature of the game, but Kraemer stood up and was generally reliable with ball in hand, even from the kick-ins.

#15 Beau McCreery

Team Hurn’s only 19-year-old afield, McCreery provided some good spark for his side working up the field from his forward post. He was even thrown into the midfield during the second half having suffered from a lack of service inside attacking 50. The lively South Adelaide product got involved going forward, and his highlight for the game came via an outstanding run-down tackle in the second term to earn possession back.

#16 Luke Edwards

Edwards is one of the many South Australian prospects to have been highly touted from a long way out, especially given his father-son ties to the Adelaide Crows. He somewhat reverted back to a familiar state-level role in this outing, rotating between the midfield and backline for Team Hurn. He provided Brodie Lake with his side’s first goal in the opening term and was generally safe in his disposal via foot. Having won a clearance or two, most of Edwards’ contributions came in defence as he took the kick-ins and looked to calmly distribute out of the back half. He did run into trouble with a couple of turnovers from defensive 50, but worked to recover the ball and was a solid figure overall.

#24 Nathan Hearing

Fresh off his best afield SANFL Under 18s Grand Final performance, Hearing took on the ruck duties once again at 195cm. He is a competitive unit, able to claim the ball out of the ruck and pump it forward, or compete at ground level to help his midfielders with a physical presence. He missed the chance to cap off his game with a goal in the final term, sending a set shot wide.


Under 17 Futures – Team Ebert (Blue) vs. Team Smith (Yellow)

Team Smith managed to hold off Team Ebert in the Under 17 Futures fixture, with a bunch of promising 2021 and 2022-eligible prospects strutting their stuff at Thebarton Oval. As is often the case in showcase games, particularly at the end of a strenuous season, a raft of players popped up in patches throughout the contest to provide a taste of what’s to come in terms of South Australian talent.

For the Yellow side, Jacob Lochowiak was physical in midfield, while also proving dangerous within the attacking half. Eagles prospect Brayden Calvett had an enthralling battle with Isaac Birt on the wing, as both players showcased their line-breaking speed and forward running. Lachlan Scannell is a prospect to watch for 2022, as he rotated with fellow 16-year-old Kobe Ryan from half-back to the wing. Tyson Coe is another from that crop, and his work in midfield and defence was solid. Tyson Walls was a lively figure up forward, with Harry Tunkin doing some nice early work down back and through midfield. Sturt’s Brad Jefferies was able to find the ball as he moved forward from the middle, while Shaun Bennier was a dangerous figure inside 50 despite some conversion worries. Bigmen Adam Heath and Declan Hortle were also prominent, with the former presenting well from his starting forward post, while the latter booted two majors in his ruck/forward role.

Twin tall forwards Harry McInnes (three goals) and Luca Whitelum (two) were terrific targets for Team Ebert, with Glenelg’s McInnes mostly stationed inside 50 while Whitelum presented up the ground. James Willis‘ acceleration away from congestion was an eye-catching feature through midfield, and he was supported well by classy 16-year-old Jaiden Magor. Another 2004-birth, Austin McDonald also found plenty of the ball, while Isaac Keeler showed some promising athleticism in the ruck. Cade Kennedy was a handy member of the midfield/forward rotation, with Lachlan Thomas a threatening link into attacking 50 along with Blake Hansen.

Featured image: Nicholas Kraemer gets a kick away for Team Hurn | Credit: Mark Brake/AFL Photos

Caught the Eye: 2020 SANFL Under 18s – Round 14

THE TOP junior prospects from South Australia rolled on into Round 14 of the SANFL Under 18s competition, with a number of standouts continuing to emerge. In this edition of Caught the Eye, we have again compiled a list of the best and most promising performers from across the weekend, with one representative from all eight SANFL clubs. For extended profiles on each AFL Academy member and National Combine invitee listed, click on their names highlighted in red. For our full weekend scouting notes, click here.

WWT Eagles vs. Central District

Caleb Poulter
WWT Eagles | Midfielder/Forward
12/10/2002 | 190cm | 79kg

Stats: 27 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 2 goals

Our scouts said: “Poulter proved once again that he is a class above Under 18s level… in this game, he always followed up his possessions and attacked the ball with ferocity. He frequently pushed back to help the defence and provided a strong marking target when required. Although he made a couple of skill errors early, he cleaned this up as the game wore on. Poulter kicked two majors for the day, including a goal of the year contender in second term.” – Tom Cheesman

Verdict: Having completed a solid school football campaign and a stint in the Reserves, Poulter looks primed to make an impact during the Under 18s finals series. The tall midfielder showed off all of his athletic prowess during Wednesday’s South Australian combine, and continues to thrive on-field. His consistency has been remarkable this year, putting him within reach of a potential first round draft shout. 190cm, goalkicking midfielders who can mark and run well are in vogue at the moment, making Poulter a highly-fancied prospect among this year’s pool.

Austin McDonald
Central District | Midfielder
1/01/2004

Stats: 32 disposals (24 kicks), 4 marks, 4 tackles, 12 clearances, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s

Our scouts said: “McDonald was the Bulldogs’ best player on the day. He is a hard-working midfielder who reads stoppages well and finds plenty of the ball around the ground. His tackling was fantastic, as he never let players run past him and won free kicks for holding the ball. McDonald won many loose balls because he simply attacked it harder than his opposition, and he also has great vision and composure under pressure.” – Tom Cheesman

Verdict: The 16-year-old capped off a remarkable Under 18s season on Saturday with one of his best performances to date. He was again Centrals’ most prolific ball winner, something which has come so naturally despite his age, size, and the fact that the Bulldogs only won four games this year. McDonald looms as one of South Australia’s top midfield prospects for the 2022 draft, but there remains plenty of room for improvement and a long way to go, yet. Such consistency does not go unnoticed, though.

West Adelaide vs. Norwood

Cade Kennedy
West Adelaide | Midfielder/Small Utility
20/06/2003 | 177cm | 71kg

Stats: 21 disposals, 2 marks, 4 tackles, 5 clearances, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s

Our scouts said: “Another talented bottom-ager to impress for the Bloods was midfielder, Kennedy, who once again showed why he is one of South Australia’s leading small midfield prospects for next season. Kennedy gave it his all at each contest, cracking in hard against some of Norwood’s strong-bodied on-ballers. Although his work in-tight was the highlight, Kennedy was also able to impact the play away from the stoppages. He tackled hard as always and was rewarded with a holding the ball free kick early in the first term.” – Tom Wyman

Verdict: Kennedy is another player who has managed to shine among a side which has lost most of its games, with his work-rate and tenacity ensuring he has an impact on each contest. He was up against it on Saturday given the depth of Norwood’s midfield, but constantly gets his hands on the ball and wills himself out of congestion with pace, while also getting his hands dirty with defensive acts. Should he hit the 180cm mark as a top-ager and truly take over the Bloods’ midfield, it will go a long way to putting Kennedy within draft contention in 2021.

Jack Saunders
Norwood | Midfielder
11/02/2002 | 178cm | 71kg

Stats: 29 disposals (20 kicks), 8 marks, 7 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, 5 goals, 2 behinds

Our scouts said: “Saunders was the clear best-on-ground in Norwood’s comprehensive triumph. He started in the middle and impressed with his breakaway pace. Although his foot skills have been questioned by some throughout the course of the season, his kicking was precise for much of the contest against West Adelaide. His tackling pressure remained high for the entirety of the contest and Saunders was able to break the game open with his burst running and intensity around the ball. He used his strength well one-on-one while up forward and harassed the ball carrier relentlessly, but his impact on the scoreboard was what separated his game from the rest.”  – Tom Wyman

Verdict: Saunders’ senior experience has clearly done his confidence and form a world of good, taking his game to another level as he dropped back down into the Under 18s setup. The hard-running midfielder put on a show for Norwood and will likely make them a finals force in the coming weeks, with some terrific class on the inside allowing him to run the show on the outer. As are scouts suggested, Saunders did it all, but it was his five goals which truly set his game apart. He would have been a smoky for South Australia’s state squad, and is a reliable player with good qualities at SANFL level.

North Adelaide vs. South Adelaide

Tariek Newchurch
North Adelaide | Small Forward/Midfielder
21/07/2002 | 181cm | 73kg

Stats: 17 disposals (13 kicks), 3 marks, 5 tackles, 5 clearances, 2 inside 50s, 4 goals

Our scouts said: “The Crows NGA product was electrifying in the first quarter, having four shots on goal in the early stages of the game and kicking two of them. His pressure and efforts without the ball stood out all game, with a big chase down tackle in the middle of the ground exemplifying that. He looked dangerous moving up the ground and in the middle with his pace and core strength, managing five clearances during his time in the midfield. He could have been a little wiser at times to not blaze away around goals kicking a couple out on the full, but his efforts are nonetheless exciting.” – Eli Duxson

Verdict: Newchurch’s first term is exactly what would have Crows fans most excited about nabbing their NGA talent come draft time. The small forward set the game alight, producing a raft of scoring opportunities for both himself and his teammates. At his best, that’s the kind of freakish, game-winning quality Newchurch provides. It was pleasing to see him put in a more consistent performance, with some midfield time also allowing him to show off a different side to his game. He remains one of the better small forward options in this year’s pool, but his ties to Adelaide should stave off would-be bidders in the top 30.

Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide | Midfielder/Utility
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 76kg

Stats: 28 disposals (22 kicks), 13 marks, 3 tackles, 2 clearances, 8 inside 50s, 4 goals

Our scouts said: Undoubtedly a best on ground performance for the hard-working midfielder… Roberts was active at stoppages but spread well to find space often, finding a lot of ball between the arcs during slow play from the Panthers. His preferred left boot looked as clean as it gets, although he did look reluctant to go on his right side on one occasion. He normally had enough time and space to steady on his left though. Roberts’ poise going inside 50 was classy, but he was also very effective being on the receiving end from forward entries. A great game for him as he will look to carry that play into finals.” – Eli Duxson

Verdict: Roberts is another player set for a huge finals series, with the Panthers bottom-ager already a potential top 10 prospect for next year’s draft. He simply works harder than most others, accumulating the ball at will while holding a great presence around the ball, and being able to find the goals from range. He has a good balance of class and grunt, with his no-fuss style, red hair, and shared initials among the other traits which help draw comparisons to Matt Rowell. He may not reach the exact same heights, but Roberts is a dependable player who has picked up from where he left off after completing his school football duties.

Nasiah Wanganeen
Glenelg | Wing
22/02/2003 | 187cm | 69kg

Stats: 13 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 1 inside 50, 1 rebound 50

Our scouts said: “While the lively wingman looked a little proppy on a couple of occasions, he still managed to have an impact and put his leg speed to good use. Wanganeen’s ability to close while chasing and apply manic defensive pressure is undoubtedly one of his key strengths, though he could not quite utilise that same factor going the other way. The bottom-ager tracked back well in the early stages, but found more ball forward of centre in the second half with much of the sting sapped from the contest.” – Michael Alvaro

Verdict: The stats hardly did justice to Wanganeen’s game on the weekend, as one of Glenelg’s more impactful players. His closing speed was a particular highlight despite only registering three tackles, and it was great to see him hold a consistent endeavour throughout the contest despite Sturt getting well on top. The bottom-ager is usually most damaging going forward with his speed and raw talent, so look forward to catching more of that as he moves into his top-age campaign next year.

Malachy Carruthers
Sturt | Half-Back/Utility
11/05/2002 | 183cm | 69kg

Stats: 34 disposals (27 kicks), 15 marks, 2 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 7 rebound 50s

Our scouts said: “It is not hard to see why Carruthers earned a national combine invite, as the sharp-kicking defender proved a class above with his use by foot in what was otherwise a turnover-heavy contest. The top-ager broke the game open with his ability to hit targets in the corridor, putting Sturt in the best possible position to attack. His pin-point delivery to runners allowed them to continue in their stride, opening up the stale, short-kicking trend of the game. As somewhat of a loose outlet, Carruthers was also able to generate some run through the corridor himself via handball receives, while dropping back into defensive 50 as a relieving option. Another string to his bow is intercept marking, with some nice floating grabs making for a complete highlight package.” – Michael Alvaro

Verdict: One who has somewhat flown under the radar is Carruthers, who has hardly missed a beat since returning from school football duties with St Peter’s. Having returned to the SANFL fold with Sturt, the top-ager has sent a reminder of his draftable talent with some outstanding form. It was no different on Saturday, with his game-high disposals and marks tallies backing up his perceived impact. Not only can Carruthers break the game open by hitting attacking options via foot, but he also has the work-rate to chain his possessions or provide a safe outlet deep in defence. His pacy runs through the corridor also catch the eye, with intercept marking yet another highly desirable trait for the half-back. There’s plenty to like about what Carruthers presents, and a big finals series should further consolidate his draft stocks.

Featured Image: Sturt’s Malachy Carruthers in action for St Peter’s | Credit: Brenton Edwards/The Messenger

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SANFL League Player Focus:
Rd 1 – Corey Durdin
Rd 2 – Riley Thilthorpe
Rd 3 – Lachlan Jones
Rd 8 – Jason Horne & Lachlan Jones

AFL Draft Watch:
Kaine Baldwin
James Borlase
Bailey Chamberlain
Brayden Cook
Zac Dumesny
Corey Durdin
Luke Edwards
Lachlan Jones
Tariek Newchurch
Caleb Poulter
Tom Powell
Taj Schofield
Henry Smith
Riley Thilthorpe

Marquee Matchups:
Kaine Baldwin vs. Denver Grainger-Barras
Corey Durdin vs. Braeden Campbell
Luke Edwards vs. Connor Downie