Christian Salem (Sandringham Dragons)
Height: 182 cm
Weight: 83 kg
Player comparison: Scott Pendlebury/Dustin Martin
Strengths: Disposal, Strength, Vision, Endurance
Weaknesses: Consistency, Ball Getting
Christian Salem is one of the most unique talents in the draft pool this year. He combines the rare ‘time and space’ quality that Scott Pendlebury possesses, while also having the brute strength that Dustin Martin has. Salem has been a class act all year and has done nothing wrong that could see him slide further than the first round.
While Salem doesn’t rack up the disposals like Matt Crouch or Lewis Taylor, Salem rarely wastes a disposal and can hurt opposition teams with only a handful of kicks. He’s that type of player that with 30 seconds remaining and there is a stoppage in the forward pocket, he’s the player any ruckman should look for as he makes something out of nothing. The old adage of “give him an inch, he’ll make it a mile” is so true with Salem who bullocks his way through packs but does it so gracefully at the same time.
While Salem does need to work on his consistency a bit more, he has all the characteristics to become a super silky player at AFL level. He’s not overly quick, but neither is Pendlebury as he glides around the packs and seems to make time stop as he makes decisions in a nano-second despite it seemingly taking minutes. What makes him more unique is the fact he does have the strength of Martin and can physically out muscle players at the contest while also providing defensive attributes such as tackles and shepherds for teammates. It also helps when he can do it all day with a high endurance base that sees him run out games. This was emphasised by his 15+ beep test results.
In terms of versatility, Salem has been played off a half forward flank and also as an inside midfielder at times. While he is primarily an outside midfielder, he has that strength to win his own ball at the contests and weave out of a pack to find a target that many others wouldn’t have seen. Behind Aish and Kelly, Salem is probably the next best ball user, if he isn’t on par with them as it is.
A few people in the know suggest that if Boyd, Aish and Kelly were the top three picks, Salem should be the next one to go – high praise for a guy who could fall outside the top ten. It is ridiculous to suggest that he could find his way to a top four club, but with the various midfielders in this draft, clubs could very well take preferred midfielders and Salem could fall to a Geelong or Hawthorn.
In the Bound For Glory Rising Stars Phantom Draft, Carlton selected Salem as he is that elite user that it is craving so badly for. After selecting Menzel with its first pick last year, Carlton will be keen to take another midfielder given that there should still be a number of key forwards there at their second rounds selection.
To emphasise the importance Salem can have to a team, one needs to look no further than his performance for Sandringham against Eastern Ranges at Box Hill. After being a clear best on ground all game as an inside midfielder, he drifted forward in the dying seconds to receive a pass about 35 metres out and manage to kick the winning goal off a couple of steps while under pressure. It was well noted prior to that game that if you could have the ball in one guy’s hands when it counted to win the game of his own boot in a moment of magic, Salem would be that man.
He’s not entirely perfect and needs to find the ball a little more while also working on his consistency, but all in all, Salem is a very exciting prospect. In terms of disposal he is well and truly elite and rarely makes rushed decisions. He sizes up his options and chooses the right one nine times out of ten.
In 2014 he won’t see much AFL action because they’ll still want him to build his endurance a little and earn his spot, but once he’s in the AFL system, Salem can be expected to forge a very good career. He has that ‘future Brownlow medalist’ look about him, someone the umpires would really like. If he can find the footy more, he’ll be one to watch for both SuperCoach and Dream Team given his disposal is top notch. Watch out for Christian Salem, he’s a diamond that could well be hidden behind the more talked about top prospects.