Sam Bennett (North Ballarat Rebels)
Height: 189 cm
Weight: 79 kg
Position: Rotating half back flank/wing
Player comparison: Marley Williams
Strengths: Agility, game sense, willingness to learn and improve
Weaknesses: Lacks experience, inconsistent
He may be touted as one of the surprise inclusions of the national draft combine, however in a competition as cut-throat as the AFL, surprises are a common occurrence. Having played just two games as a bottom-ager in his first year, Bennett’s season with the North Ballarat Rebels this year has meant he may lack some of the experience of other potential draftees. This however, has not halted Bennett’s dedication to the game and impact upon the team.
He actively seeks to improve areas of his performance, recognizing that constantly evolving will better his chances on the big stage. His versatility is of crucial assistance to the Rebels and indeed his future club, with the move as a rotating half back flank/wing injecting adaptability across both positions.
Bennett’s ability to shut down opponents shuts down any qualms regarding his slim-built frame, citing tackling as a personal strength that is indeed reflective in his performance despite the bigger bodies of his competition. Moreover, the imperative skill of reading the play and making intelligent decisions in the game is not lost upon Bennett, who executes clever disposals using both hand and foot under high-pressure situations.
Speedy passages from defence coupled with quick turnovers into the attacking realm are a regular occurrence and major selling point that could firmly secure the surprise package’s position in the AFL. Once again, his versatility could also be utilised on the wing, giving an added bonus to any AFL side that may lack players in either a defensive or assisting role.
However, a potential downfall could be drawn from his inconsistencies: performances lacking much impact and a tendency to slip into the shadows. A brilliant role in shutting down opponents in one quarter could be followed by a far-too quiet following quarter, dangerous in a game that requires unwavering influence to the team.
This facet could be readily overlooked if he maintains his work rate and willingness to improve as well as capitalising on abilities such as endurance and intelligence. Judging by his development in such a short space of time, this should not be difficult for the boy packed with potential, perhaps allowing himself to show why the unexpected can garner the greatest success.
While he might not be talked about in the same way that other draftees have been, Bennett is one who has attracted interest from at least five clubs, hence his invitation to the draft combine. In a lowly side, Bennett has stood out along with Matt Crouch, Dallas Willsmore and Louis Herbert to give himself the best chance of being selected. Any teams needing a defender who can lock down opponents but hurt them on the rebound, should consider Bennett.