Height: 186 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Strengths: Accumulation, work below the knees, decision making
Areas of improvement: Straight line speed, body strength
Player comparison: Robbie Gray (pre-2014)
Jack Steele is an overaged mid/forward tied to Greater Western Sydney via the academy system. Having missed seven months in 2013 with a knee injury, he was overlooked in 2013 but was allowed to play in the championships again this season. It was during the championships that Steele rocketed into draft calculations, averaging 22 disposals, six marks and two goals a game on his way to All-Australian honours. His round one game was a particular highlight, amassing 32 disposals, 10 marks, seven clearances, six inside 50s, four goal assists and three goals in a truly dominant display. While Steele may be an overaged player, with a mid-December birth he is only three weeks older than Christian Petracca, so he still has plenty of development left, with his age closer to most 2014 prospects than 2013 prospects.
Steele is one of those players that just does nearly everything right. As a result he’s able to play a variety of roles and gives a side options. His hands are very clean, with his handball receives always one grab, irrelevant of direction. At ground level he’s exceptional at picking up the ball without fumbling, and overhead his hands are sticky. What Steele also does well is convert that clean first possession into a quick and effective disposal. Upon gathering or picking up the ball, Steele already knows what he plans to do with the ball and his movement and positioning is exceptional. Despite only being 186cm, Steele is a marking option around the ground. While he’s not incredibly strong, his read of the ball in flight allows him to be a great one on one mark. His superior read of the play also allows him to be a great lead up forward, with his leads timed and directed well. He also works very hard to find space up the wings and provide an uncontested option.
With a great read of the play and uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, Steele is able to accumulate the ball at a high level through the middle, while his clean hands and great reading of the play allow him to be a natural clearance winner. By foot he’s solid without being spectacular. He often picks the right targets and has good vision but occasionally his execution lets him down. However he’s just as acceptable when under pressure with his natural composure a highlight. While he’s got only average straight line speed and a laconic running style, his evasive movement in traffic is exceptional as is his ability to create space when there isn’t any. His ability to stand up in tackles and still distribute effectively is great, and his defensive work rate is reasonable.
Steele shares a lot of similarities with Robbie Gray. Both are medium-sized midfielder/forwards. Neither are particularly quick, but they have excellent evasion and great core strength, with both rarely getting pinned in a tackle. Both have incredibly clean hands, with their work below the knees a particular highlight and both are far better one on one marks than their heights suggest. Steele when forward is a lot like Gray, with his scoring opportunities coming not through electrifying athleticism and speed but football smarts and the ability to create opportunities out of nothing. Both Gray and Steele are also very capable clearance winners despite not being traditional inside midfielders, and both accumulate far more contested possessions than one would think from watching them, such is their ability to convert a contested possession into an unpressured disposal. Steele is also able to play as a high half forward, with his work rate and ability to take uncontested marks in volume not dissimilar to Mitch Duncan.
In the NEAFL Jack Steele has been nothing short of exceptional. Though he is still only 18, since the championships he had a 25 disposal, seven tackle game against the Swans reserves, following that up with a 39 disposal, seven mark and eight tackle game and a 30 disposal, six mark and 12 tackle game. Since the championships he has averaged 31 disposals, five marks and nine tackles a game, some incredible numbers for an 18-year-old in a state league. If drafted, expect Steele to have an immediate impact in 2015, starting on a forward flank playing a linkup role before eventually moving into the midfield later in his career – not dissimilar to how Robbie Gray’s career has progressed.