The National Draft is a strong talking point throughout the year. Over the past few years, there has usually been a stand out number one draft pick, yet this year it seems to be a wide open race. The top five draft picks are certainly not set in stone, but there are some early contenders.
Many draft watchers believe the best of the crop at this stage is Norwood’s star midfielder James Aish. Despite being only 183 cm and 72 kg, Aish is a very strong contested mark for his size. To go with those tremendous dukes is his elite disposal of the ball. Whilst many players can hit a target in space, Aish has the rare ability to do so in contested situations. The only real knock on the dual-sided gem is his size, but of course that will come along with a few AFL pre-seasons.
If the Bulldogs get the number one draft pick this year, you can be relatively sure they will be taking Eastern Ranges’ Tom Boyd. At 198 cm and 100 kg, he is a monster of a man who bears a striking resemblance to Jon Patton, both in-game style and stature. Boyd simply dominates his opponents in the air and has very good skills at ground level for a key forward. Often double-teamed, he regularly takes pack marks and is a wonderful strong kick at goal, as well as being a decent field kick.
Another highly touted youngster who has impressed early is Oakleigh’s Jack Billings. Billings can play up forward and in the middle. Many compare him to Brisbane’s Sam Mayes and have doubts over whether he can play as a permanent midfielder. Billings doesn’t have trouble finding the ball and has fantastic disposal efficiency. He may need to build his tank a little more, but that will come with time. Billings plays well above his height of 182 cm with an incredible marking ability. It would be unwise to discount Billings just yet as he could end up being the best of the lot.
Josh Kelly from the Sandringham Dragons is an interesting prospect. He is a fantastic outside runner with fantastic foot skills, but there are queries over his ability to win the hard ball and be a consistent four-quarter player. Kelly is perhaps the second most damaging player behind Aish, but he could be a hit or miss. Currently traveling with the AIS squad in Europe, Kelly came close to pushing Jesse Hogan and Jack Martin in the mini-draft last year but missed out. Expect a big season here will push him into top five contention.
One to pay close attention to during the year will be North Ballarat’s Matt Crouch. As the hype over his brother Brad increases, so too does the hype for Matt. Crouch is very similar to his brother in that he is a very strong inside ball winner. Not only does Crouch find the hard ball, he distributes it well to the outside players. Crouch is a solid runner but isn’t overly athletic. He may slip past pick five, but he will be a fantastic recruit as he is ultra consistent and hard at the ball.
Other interstate hopefuls, including South Australian pair Luke Dunstan and Matt Scharenberg, are also strong chances for top five picks, as well as Subiaco’s Domenic Sheed. While they won’t receive as much coverage as some of the other Victorian players, they may well push them all the way playing senior footy for their respective SANFL and WAFL clubs.
The season has only just started, but these aforementioned players will be the ones to watch. Whilst there is not real standout number one pick, Aish and Boyd seem to be the most talked about players. Like every year, it may well come down to the last 24 hours before players will more than likely know their destinations. Over the next seven months, all these players among others will have a chance to stake their claim as the best 18-year-old in the country.