As each year begins, a new wave of up-and-coming talent head to the biggest stage of all, the MCG. It casts the hopefuls of the AFL’s future into a momentary spotlight, previewing the best of the Under 18s around Australia against Collingwood’s VFL side.
The AIS Academy will showcase their 2014 talent tonight as a curtain-raiser for the Hawthorn vs. Fremantle clash at the MCG.
Highlighting the AIS side is Vic Country and Melbourne Grammar representative Hugh Goddard (cousin of Brendon), who at this stage of the year is highly regarded as a top five pick. Another key position player is Peter Wright, the 202-centimetre forward for Vic Metro, who will play predominantly up forward as a key goal kicking target.
Joining them is the highly touted Christian Petracca. An Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro representative who shows power and explosiveness along the half forward line and on ball, Petracca possesses an incredible goal sense, similarly to Dustin Martin.
More players to look out for are Sandringham Dragons key man Angus Brayshaw, who adds toughness around the contest as well as precision and quality disposal, West Australian midfielder Clem Smith and Lachie Weller (brother to St Kilda’s Maverick), another gutsy on baller representing Queensland who will look to impress.
Four of the Academy’s 31 will miss the game through injury. Jake Lever won’t play due to a knee reconstruction, highly unfortunate for a young talent that is seen as a potential top ten pick despite the injury.
Additionally, Nakia Cockatoo (Northern Territory) will miss with a foot injury, Sam Durdin (South Australia) won’t play because of a thumb problem and Jermaine Miller-Lewis (Western Australia) will also miss the game due to shin problems.
The game’s purpose is for the development of the young players to get a feel for senior competition, and while it is only one game, it has generally been a great indicator for draft projection.
The top draft picks of recent years all played in this showcase game and played well. 2013 number one pick Tom Boyd established himself throughout the game as a dominant marking option, as well as Joe Daniher the year before. Lachie Whitfield also showed signs of excellence when he played a year before his draft eligibility.
It will be a great experience for the AIS players, going up against more experienced, stronger and bigger bodied players. Their opposition compete at a high level each week, so tonight provides an environment which can hopefully preview the skills of the future AFL stars.