Tag: zavier maher

High stakes training: Vic prospects take the field ahead of draft day

VICTORIAN AFL Draft prospects hit the track one last time before draft day, strutting their stuff at Highgate Reserve in a one-off training session on Wednesday. The meet served as a final chance for recruiters to survey the talent available in this year’s pool, just a week out from draft day on December 9.

Players who earned Draft Combine invites in September were split into two major groups, initially separating those from country and metropolitan regions, before being divided even further into small drill groups of five to seven participants. Among those on display were potential number one picks Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Elijah Hollands, the latter of which participated in a running program amid his recovery from a preseason ACL tear.

Draft Central analyst Ed Pascoe was on hand in Craigieburn to recap all the action and give an insight into how things panned out.

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RECAP:

By: Ed Pascoe

A sense of irony came over me walking into Highgate Reserve, the same ground I last got to watch a lot of these young players back on March 15, right before Covid derailed the Victorian football season. It was a Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers trial game on that day and the ground was bustling with keen onlookers, many the same faces I would see today and it was great to see the development of some of these players. One of the big matchups in March was Nikolas Cox vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan which looked to be a clash we would see if the National Championships went ahead. Fast forward a few months and both players have bulked up, looking as sharp as ever in the lead up to the most important time of their lives.

To start the day it was the Vic Metro based players who were split into four training groups with the following participants:

Group A

Ewan Macpherson
Reef McInnes
Bailey Laurie
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips
Conor Stone

Group B

Cody Brand
Nikolas Cox
Josh Eyre
Liam Kolar
Ollie Lord

Group C

Jake Bowey
Josh Clarke
Connor Downie
Max Holmes
Finlay Macrae
Corey Preston

Group D

Matthew Allison
Lachlan Carrigan
Luke Cleary
Eddie Ford
Liam McMahon
Fraser Rosman

Injured Group

Max Heath
Campbell Edwardes

Vic Country players would later take the field and were split into three main groups:

Group A

Cameron Fleeton
Zach Reid
Josh Treacy
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Henry Walsh

Group B

Ryan Angwin
Will Bravo
Jack Ginnivan
Charlie Lazzaro
Zavier Maher
Blake Reid
Harry Sharp

Group C

Dominic Bedendo
Sam Berry
Tanner Bruhn
Clayton Gay
Oliver Henry
Seamus Mitchell
Nick Stevens

Injured Group (Laps)

Elijah Hollands
Charlie Ham
Noah Gribble

There were four main drills conducted after a warm-up; with ground balls, marking, kicking, and handballing the respective focus areas. The ground ball drill involved taking half volleys, running towards the loose ball coming from behind them, taking on the bump bag and finally working in pairs to pick the ball up cleanly under pressure from a teammate.

The marking drill was changed slightly as the day went on but the main focuses were receiving a high ball before getting called to a certain colour cone to run to, turn, and then meet at the drop zone of the ball. Contested marking was the final focus, with two players coming from either the back or front to contest a mark. This drill was certainly the most competitive and one of the drills players had the most fun in, with plenty wanting just ‘one more go’.

The kicking and handballing drills were fairly standard with a three-man weave, and a short to long stationary handball among the handball drills. The kicking drills consisted of kicking to a stationary target often 45 degrees to another player, and finally a drill which involved kicking to a leading player which really separated the better kickers on the day – especially in the notoriously windy conditions at Highgate Reserve.

Overall, it was a great day for the players to get a run while bonding with some former teammates and potentially future teammates. It was also a nice little refresher for scouts and recruiters as well, who got to see how some of these players have progressed both in their football and in their body. It is hard to gauge who would be considered the ‘standouts’ from this training session but most players put in the effort required and it was also good to see some really get involved with coaches and looking for advice in certain drills, showing their commitment to getting the best out of themselves.

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Carlton Blues

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.

Next under the microscope is Carlton, a side on the up after finishing 11th in 2020 and bringing in some high-end talent during trade period. Having featured at the pointy end of many a draft over the last 20 years, the Blues are only set to enter this year’s event towards the end of round two. It is a signal of their finals intent after elongated rebuilds and a new lease on life under coach, David Teague. As has often been the case for Carlton, academy and father-son options are scarce, despite four prospects being eligible under the latter rule this year. With the Blues only set to use two or three picks, it is difficult to see them making much of an impression on this year’s proceedings, though some late gems may be in the offing with their current hand.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 38, 48, 78
* – denotes as of November 21

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

ELIGIBLE ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Charlie McKay, Mackenzie Hogg, Tom Silvagni, Tom Gleeson (all father-son)

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

LIST NEEDS:

Ruck depth
Midfield points of difference
Long-term key defensive depth

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 38)

There are a few areas Carlton could look to consolidate with this year’s intake having already covered the need for speed during trade period. The retirement of Matthew Kreuzer leaves the Blues with only two genuine ruck options, while recent delistings sees their long-term key defensive stocks looking quite thin. In the former category, ruckman Henry Walsh, the 203cm brother of Sam already has links to the club having also trained there during preseason, potentially making for a good story and easy transition. He’s a competitive tap ruckman who is working on his running capacity and impact around the ground. Other ruckmen likely to feature in that range include Shannon Neale, Kalin Lane, and Max Heath.

There is not too much in the way of key defenders who would be viable to Carlton in the second round, and perhaps the Blues could further relay their intentions by targeting a mature-age prospect. Tom Highmore fits the bill as a tall defender who seems ready to make the next step after an outstanding maiden SANFL campaign. The 22-year-old former GWS Academy member made the move to South Adelaide this year and was a rare mature-age invitee to the national draft combine. Along similar lines, 21-year-old Woodville-West Torrens goalsneak James Rowe is a name which has been hot on the lips of Carlton fans, who are yearning for a genuine small forward to take over from Eddie Betts in 2022.

If the Blues look towards midfield depth, Zavier Maher could be the explosive type they are after on the inside, and Sam Berry is a hard-working accumulator who remains active going both ways. Should they take the two birds, one stone approach, the likes of Corey Durdin and Charlie Lazzaro may slide far enough to be snapped up as zippy smalls who are likely to begin their careers up forward. However, Carlton has spent first round picks on Paddy Dow, Lochie O’Brien, Liam Stocker, Sam Philp, and Brodie Kemp in recent years, not to mention Sam Walsh and traded-in players like Matthew Kennedy and Will Setterfield, so should back their current stocks to develop over another preseason.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

With the third-lowest total draft points value of all clubs as it stands, the Blues may not have much leverage to work with in terms of live trade options. Should a player they are really keen on slide within the second round, they could package a couple of their picks to move up the order and come away with just two selections. Alternatively, their 2021 picks may be put on the table to extract maximum value out of a deal, though next year’s crop is said to be much stronger than this year’s.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Will Carlton take on any mature-age players?

Will Carlton work to move up the order?

Will Carlton back its current midfield crop, or look to add depth?

Will Carlton take a punt on their father-son choices?

Featured Image: Carlton Media

2020 AFL Draft Preview: Brisbane Lions

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.

Brisbane is the next side under the microscope, fresh off a season good enough for fourth spot in the final standings. As a team looking to truly contend for the premiership over the coming years, the Lions have traded down the order a touch and focused on securing mature talent from other clubs to further aid their push. A strong academy cohort has also seen them bolster their late hand, with five of the Lions’ current seven picks sitting in the third and fourth rounds. There also lies an opportunity to bring in a second round talent, though the Lions are said to only be looking to use two to three picks overall.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

CURRENT PICKS*: 25, 53, 58, 63, 68, 69, 94
* – denotes as of November 20

>> Podcast: The current best AFL Draft hands

LIKELY ACADEMY/FATHER-SON PICKS:

Blake Coleman (Academy), Saxon Crozier (Academy), Carter Michael (Academy)

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

LIST NEEDS:

Best available

FIRST PICK OPTIONS:
(Pick 25)

As it stands, Brisbane’s first selection will be made in the 20s for the third year running, signalling the Lions’ steep rise and clear intentions. While it is subject to trade offers, Brisbane could get some good value from the pick despite not having any glaring list needs. Perhaps a running half-back would provide long-term cover for the ageing Daniel Rich and Grant Birchall with Alex Witherden out the door, or a point of difference through midfield could be the way to go.

Zavier Maher is a player who has been linked with top 25 honours of late and may come into contention. Brisbane has been known for selecting Vic Country players over the years and the Murray Bushrangers product has all the speed, grunt and competitiveness Brisbane would love. Although, the Lions have stocked up on inside midfielders with their first picks in 2018 and 2019, obtaining Ely Smith and Deven Robertson.

Should they look elsewhere because of that factor, a bid for Hawthorn NGA prospect Connor Downie may be in the offing. Given the pick will be pushed back slightly, it will fall right into the Eastern Ranges captain’s range, and he could be the attacking half-back Brisbane is after. Jack Carroll has his first round suitors but is a classy half-back/midfielder who may fit the bill if available, while Nathan O’Driscoll could be the one and join former Perth teammate, Robertson at the elite level.

LIVE TRADE OPTIONS:

An early bid for one of Brisbane’s academy prospects may send its list management team into a scramble trying to scrounge the points to match, though the Lions’ cover in that department looks quite sound after a raft of pick swaps during trade period. Given they have traded out of the first round this year and into that of 2021, the Lions may one of the quieter clubs at this year’s draft and obtain a rather straightforward hand. Pick 25 may be of interest to other clubs wanting to move up the order, with picks from the late-second round onwards arguably more relevant to Brisbane, unless it is keen on a particular player. With no glaring list needs, there is a good sense of freedom in what the Queensland-based club can do.

THE KEY QUESTIONS:

Will Brisbane match bids inside the top 30 for their academy players?

Which academy players will Brisbane end up with?

Will other clubs move in for Brisbane’s overlooked academy players?

Will Brisbane hold on to pick 25?

Will Brisbane look to further bolster its 2021 draft hand?

Featured Image: RF Photography

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

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

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

>> SCROLL to see the top 10 results

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

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

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

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

Top 10 times:

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

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

>> Power Rankings: November Update

Preseason testing:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

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

Draft Central Power Rankings: November 2020

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

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

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

>> 2020 Draft Profiles

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

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

October Ranking: #1

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #2

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

October Ranking: #3

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

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus | Player Focus

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

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

October Ranking: #4

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #5

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

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #6

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus

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

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

October Ranking: #8

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

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #7

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #9

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #14

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

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #16

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

>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #12

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #11

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #10

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #15

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

October Ranking: #17

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

October Ranking: #18

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #13

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #19

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #29

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

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

October Ranking: #21

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #22

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

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #23

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

>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #24

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

>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #20

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #25

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

>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #27

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

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

October Ranking: #26

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

>> Draft Watch

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

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

October Ranking: #28

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

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

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

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

October Ranking: #30

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

>> Draft Watch

IN THE MIX:

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

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

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

2020 AFL Draft Positional Analysis: Inside Midfielders

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

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

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

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

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

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

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

>> Get to know
>> Marquee Matchup

Oliver Davis
Tasmania Devils/Allies
182cm/75kg

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

>> Draft Watch

Luke Edwards
Glenelg/South Australia
187cm/80kg

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

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

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

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

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

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

>> Get to know

Mani Liddy
Sturt/South Australia
181cm/79kg

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

Zavier Maher
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country

184cm/82kg

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

>> Q&A
>> Marquee Matchup

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

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

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

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

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

>> Get to know

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

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

>> Draft Diary

OTHERS TO CONSIDER

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

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

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

Positional Analysis: Key Position Forwards

>> CATCH UP ON OUR OTHER SERIES

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

Features
AFL Draft Watch

Preseason Testing Analysis:
Jumps
Speed
Agility
Endurance

Squad predictions: 2020 Vic Country Under 18s

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

GUIDELINES:

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

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

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

DEFENCE

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

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

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

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

MIDFIELD

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

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

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

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

FORWARD

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

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

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

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

INTERCHANGE

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

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

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

TOP-AGE DEPTH

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

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

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

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

THE BOTTOM-AGERS

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

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

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

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

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

19-YEAR-OLDS

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A: Tom Brown (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Murray Bushrangers’ Tom Brown at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The Mooroopna junior impressed both in the V/Line cup for Murray and Under 16 National Championships for Vic Country, showcasing terrific smarts around goal and clean movement from half-forward. The 184cm prospect also possesses great agility, and proved as much with a 8.10-second time at pre-season testing.

With promising athletic traits and the experience of running out in the Under 18 NAB League competition already under his belt, Brown looks set to have an impact in his bottom-age year – should competition get underway. In developing his inside game, Brown may also feature further afield as he develops.

Q&A

 

MA: Tom, how’s the day been so far?

TB: “The day’s been real great, thanks. “Loving it, all the boys are getting good results, just seeing where we’re at and it’s just a really good starting point for the year I reckon.”

Which are some of the tests you see yourself excelling in at the moment?

“I think the agility is probably my best test.”

Do you think that transfers to your talent on the field?

“Yeah I reckon it does. “I reckon it shows that I can duck and weave in packs and at the contest I can get away from my opponent easier.”

You had a pretty successful Under 16 National Championships last year, did you enjoy the experience in Queensland?

“That was a good time. “Everyone, they’re good fellas there and we played some real solid footy. We were just unlucky not to get three wins I reckon. But we did our best and it was a great experience.”

It must be awesome playing alongside the skipper and MVP of that team, Josh Rachele at Murray as well?

“I’ve been playing with him since juniors so we’re real good mates and yeah, just loving it. “I love that he’s getting the recognition that he deserves and doing well.”

Who are some of the other boys you’re looking forward to playing alongside?

“I was looking forward to playing with Elijah Hollands but he’s out now. “I think Zav Maher too.”

Are you looking to lock down a specific role this year, perhaps in the forward half?

“I’m looking to just move around and find somewhere else maybe to play. “I love the forward line but don’t know how long I’ll be able to last there.”

What are some of the things you’re looking to develop in your game at the moment?

“I’m really just looking to develop my contested ball. “I think I need to work on that and also just running, running patterns and stuff like that.”

And are you setting any goals for the year?

“I just want to get the Bushies to finals I reckon, get into finals and see how deep we can go with that.”

Marquee Matchups: Sam Berry vs. Zavier Maher

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

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

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

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

PLAYER PAGES

Sam Berry
Melbourne Grammar/Gippsland Power/Vic Country

DOB: February 12, 2002

Height: 180.6cm
Weight: 81.4kg

Position: Midfielder

Zavier Maher
Caulfield Grammar/Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country

DOB: May 5, 2002

Height: 184.2cm
Weight: 82.6kg

Position: Midfielder

FITNESS TESTING PROFILES

VERTICAL JUMP

Berry – 65cm
Maher – 71cm

RUNNING VERTICAL JUMP (R/L)

Berry – 80/89cm
Maher – 73cm/80cm

SPEED (20m)

Berry – 3.19 seconds
Maher – 2.96 seconds

AGILITY

Berry – 8.24 seconds
Maher – N/A

ENDURANCE (Yo-yo)

Berry – 21.7
Maher – N/A

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

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

ON-FIELD PROFILES

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATISTICS

Berry:

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

Maher:

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

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

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

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

BEST GAME

Berry:

2019 NAB League Rd 12 vs. Geelong

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

Maher:

2019 NAB League Rd 13 vs. Eastern

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

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

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

STRENGTHS

Berry:

Endurance
Two-way work rate
Contested ball
Accumulation

Maher:

Explosive speed
Metres gained
Kick penetration
Vertical leap

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

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

IMPROVEMENTS

Berry:

Speed

Maher:

Short field kicking
Durability

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

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

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

KEY SCOUTING NOTES

Berry:

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

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

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

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

Maher:

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

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

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

ACCOLADES

Berry:

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

Maher:

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

FINAL WORD

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

Q&A: Charlie Byrne (Murray Bushrangers/Allies)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Murray Bushrangers’ Charlie Byrne at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

A forward-moving half-back, Byrne impressed in his 16 NAB League outings across 2019 with his ability to generate run and penetrate either arc from defence. The 184cm prospect was also previously been developed through the GWS Academy system, and he has gone on to represent New South Wales at both Under 16 and 17 level.

Having been named in the Allies squad last year despite not getting on the park, Byrne has become a leader among the group and will look to further his game in a half-back/midfield role this season – should it get underway.

Q&A:

MA: Charlie, how’s the day been so far?

CB: “It’s been good. “Eventful for some of the boys, me not particularly. “But it’s been a good day, looking at all the other boys and seeing what they’re capable of.

“Other than that it’s all a bunch of fun, but I think we’re all pushing each other so the day’s been really good. “Couldn’t ask for any better, especially being inside so I don’t have to deal with wind (or) rain.”

How’ve you gone with the testing, do you feel that you’ve improved?

“Yeah, from last year I reckon I’ve improved. “Obviously I needed to, but testing this year for me I’ve actually really enjoyed. “I think I’ve improved in the majority of the things which I find is a big tick for me. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better, just the 20m sprint I didn’t do as well as I wanted but I did what I needed to.”

“The testing day’s also a learning (experience), you go away from it and know what you have to get better at so for me it’s just a big learning day as well.”

And you’ve had a pretty big pre-season so far?

“Pre-season was better and bigger than the others but we dealt with it pretty well. “I think we got through all the hard conditions, got up to 40 (degrees) and we were still doing what we needed to do.

“But I think this year’s pre-season’s really shown all the boys their characters, and I think it’s gotten the best out of me as well so I loved the pre-season this year, loved getting out there and just doing what I needed to do.”

In your bottom-age year, surely there was no better mentor to have as a half-back than Lachie Ash?

“Yeah he told me what to do and I learned from it. “I’d have to give him credit for me just playing this year knowing what he did and me trying to replicate it. “There’s nothing better than Lachie Ash going pick four and playing off half-back, him giving me tips. “He was obviously ripping into me when I needed it but I loved playing alongside him and learning.”

Who are some of the boys you’re looking forward to playing alongside this year?

“I was quite excited to play with Elijah (Hollands) but it’s unlucky for him, we all were pretty upset about it but that’s just how it goes, you’ve just got to live on. “But I’m pretty keen to play again with Campbell Chesser and Josh Rachele, even Zavier Maher and Harry Beasley coming off half-back. “There’s a lot.”

And with the Allies as well?

“Yeah with the Allies this year and growing up from bottom-age last year to now, I’m seeing myself almost as a leader. “Not to the point where I am a leader but I’m more vocal around the boys and being more vocal gets me to be a better football player as well, just being comfortable.

“So I think the Allies this year has given me a big step up, knowing where I have to be and with those boys pushing me as well. “Unluckily for me I don’t get to play with many of them throughout the season but being around that kind of environment keeps me going and I really love playing with those kinds of players.”

How’s the Academy been for your development over the years?

“Being in the New South Wales development squads, like the GIANTS all the way up to 16s, then going to the Bushies has been quite interesting. “I think (having played) for New South Wales, Victorian and New South Wales footballers are a lot different. The Vics are real big-bodied and structured whereas New-South is like you’re running a bit more.”

“I reckon I learned quick hands and quick skills off New-South and then went to Vic footy and it’s a whole different ball game but learning to cop the hits and get in position I reckon has helped me out tremendously and I just really couldn’t have asked for any better. I reckon it’s given me a huge advantage.”

Are you looking to change position at all this season?

“My heart is set on half-back. “I love playing off half-back, but I really think I’ll strive to play midfield this year. I think as a midfielder you have to be fit and I’ve been pushing to get to that stage where I am fit enough, so I think midfield/half-back will be my position this year.”

Have you set any goals so far?

“I think the main goal for me this year is being happy and not taking anything for granted. “I think boys tend in their draft year to stress out about drafting too much. “I think I really just need to sit here and enjoy it, and just play my football, play how I enjoy, play my brand of football. “If it’s good enough, it’ll get me there. I’m not stressing out, putting all those grey hairs on top of my head.”