The five gamebreakers you must keep an eye on

Christian-Petracca

There is one simple fact about the 2013 draft – you cannot deny the amount of dangerous players who were taken. Players with explosive skills who change the game instantly were almost common in last year’s draft class. Ben Lennon, Jay Kennedy-Harris and Mitch Honeychurch are the type that come to mind.

In 2014, the TAC Cup hosts some of the most exciting talent, and although 2014 is supposedly the ‘year of the talls’ (and it certainly is), there are many guys who play more explosive, eye catching roles. The top five soon-to-be fan favourites look like this:

Christian Petracca – Eastern Ranges
Petracca is without a doubt my personal favourite player to watch and has been for a year now. I believe he is the most talented player of 2014 and on output alone he is well ahead of the likely number one pick, Hugh Goddard. Simply, I would not hesistate to take Petracca with pick one if I was a recruiter and here’s why:

He is 185 cm and 96 kg, yet he runs all day and puts in the effort every second of the game. He plays like a third tall forward, yet he dominates as a key forward and has no trouble being the main man, or the second or third option. He takes stronger contested marks than just about anyone and he is undefendable. The only AFL player I can think of who could adequately match up on each of his characteristics is Luke Hodge. Petracca has built his engine up to play far more midfield time, and after seeing him in early January, he looks imposing physically, yet also fit.

The new AIS recruit has spent this summer training with the Hawks, and after winning the Premiership at Eastern last year, Petracca lives for and understands the requirements for success. Petracca’s 2013 season can be summed up with his Preliminary Final against the almost unbeatable Geelong Falcons – five goals, five behinds, 23 possessions, 78% disposal efficiency, 11 marks (nine of those were contested) and a whopping 206 Supercoach points.

If 41 goals in 17 games in a forward line that hosted Tom Boyd, Michael Apeness and occasionally Dan McStay isn’t convincing enough, then go watch the Ranges play.

Angus Brayshaw – Sandringham Dragons
The 184 cm AIS midfielder looks to be a step above most midfielders in terms of polish and awareness. It was hard to judge him last year as a broken arm restricted him to just five games, in which he averaged 19 possessions. However, if you take out one game where he got the ball just three times, he averaged over 23 possessions a game.

Yet James Brayshaw’s nephew can hang his hat on other things too. In a midfield that boasted Josh Kelly, Christian Salem, Zach Merrett and Tom Langdon, Brayshaw was restricted to playing off a back flank. He showed promise though, as he averaged seven tackles a game. His defensive work was matched by his offensive running, with an average of over six handball receives per game and a bit over four uncontested marks per game.

The most impressive part about Brayshaw though would be the things that do not show up on the stat sheet. His awareness and ability to evade tackles is impressive. He is slick in traffic and dangerous with the footy in hand as his decision making is second to none. His disposal efficiency needs work, but do not be fooled – Brayshaw is not a bad kick, but rather a risky, take the game on sort of kick. He will create wonderful scoring chances with his great vision, but his execution can occasionally be poor.

Liam Duggan – Western Jets
180 cm and almost your typical classy, rebounding half back. Yet Duggan is more than just a tidy left foot kick. He is a risk taker with his long kicks, yet in 2013 his disposal efficiency was at 67%. Not incredible by any stretch, but when you look at other players disposal efficiency in TAC Cup, it is really not too bad. He is not one for cheap stats either. His 17 disposal per game average does not justify his AIS status but it is the quality of possessions that do.

Duggan is very quick and evasive. He should move up onto the wing this year and create offensive opportunities. Coming equal third at the Jets with 40 rebound 50s sums up his game style. He’s got a fair bit of bulking left to be done and it will take quite some time before he becomes a definite star, but Duggan is no doubt the key to the Jets’ success.

Patrick McCartin – Geelong Falcons
McCartin is the epitome of exciting. His contested marking and brute strength is incredible. Honestly, while Goddard and Wright look like fantastic key forwards, McCartin’s highlight reel and potential just seems to be that much more exciting than the other two. In the National Championships, McCartin bore a striking resemblance to early 2000’s Jonathan Brown, where his courage and reading of the flight were phenomenal. His 28 marks across four games was impressive, but what’s more was his 12 contested marks, an astounding second in the carnival.

With Goddard set to move down back, McCartin should own the forward 50 and aim to kick 45 plus goals for the year. Obviously his other commitments are going to see him miss a bit of footy, but his 21 goals in eight games this year is promising. His five goal haul against Western Australia was important, but if we are to use one game to show why McCartin is a game breaker, look no further than his personal demolition of the Bendigo Pioneers: seven goals, two behinds, 20 disposals and 13 marks. Yeah, not bad.

Darcy Moore – Oakleigh Chargers
Son of Collingwood great Peter Moore and an almost certain father-son selection, the towering and athletic Darcy remains an enigma. He’s 196 cm and fairly solid with a highlight reel to captivate all draft watchers. But the Carey Grammar key forward / back has so much to prove. Moore has only played six games in total with the Chargers due to injury. In those games, he struggled to impact the game at all. His athleticism is what makes him a game breaker though. Capable of flying for extraordinary marks as well as being able to evade tackles like a much smaller player, Moore is the type of guy who will stun crowds, but he will need to show it consistently as there are plenty of other talls who are ahead of him so far on output.

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