Height: 195 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Position: Key position utility
Strengths: Versatility, work rate, football smarts
Areas of improvement: Field and goal kicking, contested marking
Player comparison: Jack Watts (less skilled but works harder)
Jeremy Finlayson is possibly the most unappreciated player in this draft crop. A versatile key position player, Finlayson is part of the Greater Western Sydney academy and as a result is likely to end up there. He’s flown under the radar so far this year, with his NEAFL and championships performances not drawing much attention.
His first two matches in the championships were okay, but he really impressed in the third game against Queensland, racking up seventeen disposals, four marks, four tackles and a goal to be one of New South Wales’ best. Where Finlayson has really impressed is in the NEAFL though. Despite being very raw and thin, last year Finlayson won a rising star nomination for the Hills Eagles and this year while playing for the UWS Giants Finlayson has surpassed expectations; kicking goals when forward, getting a reasonable amount of the ball around the ground and looking like he fits in at that level, at times outplaying GWS listed players and finding himself in the bests, with his round 19 performance a particular highlight, amassing twenty-seven disposals, thirteen marks and two goals.
Able to play back or forward, Finlayson offers clubs the luxury of being able to be developed to suit their needs. A very athletic type, in defence he’s shown promise as an offensive minded defender with his ability to read the play and zone off to intercept mark a highlight. Defensively he has a bit to work on with his slender frame, as he gets occasionally outbodied and struggles to close down leads. Like Jack Watts, if Finlayson is to be played in defence, he may be best suited to playing on smaller opponents, third talls and resting rucks which would give him the luxury of being able to zone off and take advantage of his strong intercept game. He projects as someone who could perform the loose man role to a high level.
When played forward, Finlayson is able to really firm up a teams structure. While capable of playing deep where he uses his smarts and athleticism to find space inside 50, his best work is done as a true centre half forward running between the arcs. A high level athlete, Finlayson not only offers some reasonable speed and great agility, but he’s also very fit and capable of running most defenders off their feet and constantly providing a link up target on the wings. When his leads are ignored, he remains in the play, often flanking contests and looking for the handball receive. He’s a one grab mark and below the knees he’s excellent with his ability to quickly pick the ball up without fumbling a highlight. In a lot of ways Finlayson plays like somebody 10 centimetres smaller.
Despite being 195 centimetres, Finlayson isn’t a contested marking threat. Some of this can be attributed to not only his lack of weight, but he also lacks the desire to attack contests, preferring to remain at ground level for the crumb or handball receive. By foot he’s got a long left foot kick, but technically it needs a lot of work with regulation targets sometimes missed. He is also prone to shanking simple shots at goal. However a lot of this is due to a poorly balanced kicking technique, something that can be rectified. Finlayson also struggles to win his own ball, rarely following up with effort if the ball is contested at ground level instead preferring to hang outside the pack. While he is a reasonable outside flanking option, as a 195 centimetre forward he needs to have more of a physical presence at AFL level.
While Jeremy Finlayson is a project, he offers a prospective club a number of options. If he ends up at GWS, it’s likely he’ll be developed as a defender. Another club might prefer his ability to play as that second key forward in the Nick Riewoldt mold, providing a hard working target up the field while creating space for a dominant forward. Finlayson could also be developed as a wingman in the Marco Paparone role, with his endurance, composure in traffic, ground level ability and ability to find space and link up all well suited to playing through the middle, though he doesn’t have the frame to ever be a dominant inside presence.