Alec Waterman – Claremont
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 89 kg
Strengths: Ball winning ability, strength, disposal
Areas of improvement: Pace
Player Comparison: David Mundy
Son of former West Coast Eagle Chris, Alec Waterman is eligible to be selected by West Coast as a father-son selection. A big bodied inside-leaning midfielder, Waterman’s championships began well with a 24-disposal game against South Australia followed by a 35-disposal, 10-clearance game against Vic Metro, an exceptional performance ever further highlighted by his 17 contested possessions and disposal efficiency of 83 per cent. Following the first two games, his form dropped, averaging only 13 touches over his next three games, hampered by a groin problem through the back end of the championships.
At WAFL Colts level, he has excelled, averaging over 28 disposals and five marks per game. He has also shown remarkable consistency over the WAFL season, with his worst game still resulting in 23 disposals and five marks. It is rumoured that Alec has already committed to West Coast and has put the cue in the rack for the rest of the season, which would explain why a player of his talent is playing colts. This is further backed up by the allegation he set his price per game high enough for Claremont to believe it would be financially irresponsible to play him in league matches.
One of the most gifted inside players of the crop, Waterman excels in close. With a very wide frame and big body, Waterman is able to bullock through and win the hard ball. His core strength is elite; when he decides he wants to be somewhere, he is able to straight line to that point irrespective of the physical pressure and contact applied. In traffic he is able to root his legs into the ground and put his head over the ball without fear of being buffeted off his path. He has sticky hands and a good first touch, with his pickups and gathers normally clean.
When in possession of the ball he makes good decisions, especially in traffic. While his top speed is slow, Waterman has a good burst and is able to create space for himself to dispose of the ball. If there is a lateral first option by hand, Waterman takes it and follows up to provide a second option but he prefers to use his burst to create space to dispose of the ball forwards, hitting targets with precision not normally seen from inside midfielders. Unlike many inside midfielders, Waterman plays the percentages and rarely blindly bombs the ball, always ensuring he hits targets, often with serious metres gained.
On the outside Waterman is able to effectively contribute. While he has well below average speed, he has a high endurance base and is able to work his opponent over and find space. In one-on-one situations he is often able to outbody his opponent and take advantage of his superior read of the ball in flight to win many contests, which also makes him a dangerous player drifting forward. By foot he’s capable on both sides of penetrating and effective kicks, and with his decision making he’s someone whose hands you want the ball in 65 metres out. Waterman also runs both ways, rarely letting his opponent run loose and is also an excellent tackler, laying tackles in quantity that often stick.
Waterman’s main weakness is speed. While he’s not one-paced like many other prospects in the crop, he has one of the slowest top speeds in the crop. He’s never going to be able to run and carry and he’s not incredibly agile either. He’s a player who needs to dispose of the ball quickly after receiving it. He also rarely goes to ground unless tackling. While this has advantages, often it can look like he’s not making the best decision possible, instead putting his desire to remain on his feet first. He rarely dives and attacks ground balls, often missing out on opportunities to possess. Waterman is also not as natural a reader of the tap as some, winning his clearances through force and power as opposed to natural ability, something that is unlikely to translate to the highest level.
While Waterman may not have played any high level football throughout his junior career, he is still a better prospect than other, more esteemed, inside midfielders such as Jared Hardisty and Brad Walsh. Waterman is capable of doing things that other inside midfielders cannot, with several points of difference. While players like Hardisty and Walsh possess the ball as much as Waterman and work just as hard, they are restricted in their disposal by their inability to create space, often forced to dispose of the ball laterally or backwards for very little net gain, whereas Waterman is able to burst and create space to dispose of the ball directly towards goal.
When disposing laterally, Waterman also follows up better than most other inside midfielders, using his burst to provide a second option and accumulate several effective disposals in the one chain. Quite simply, what sets Waterman apart from the other inside midfielders is his ability to effectively dispose of the ball and gain metres. 20 Waterman disposals are likely to have a greater effect on the game than 30 Hardisty disposals. A hard worker and dedicated individual, Waterman is sure to get the best out of himself and become an AFL level midfielder. With the skills he already possesses and after an AFL pre-season which would be sure to get his skin folds down, Waterman is more than capable of impacting from round one next year.