2015 Draft Profile: Harley Balic

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Harley Balic
Sandringham Dragons
Height: 186 cm
Weight:
80 kg
Position: Forward/midfielder
Strengths: Overhead marking, spacial awareness, vision, high ceiling
Weaknesses: Consistency, goal kicking accuracy
Player comparison: Jack Macrae
First year projection: Long-term prospect

Kicking: Above-average
Marking: Sub-elite
Endurance: Elite
Speed: Average

Statistics:

Sandringham Dragons (TAC Cup): five games, 11.6 kicks, 11.6 handballs, 23.2 disposals, 66 per cent disposal efficiency, 4.6 marks, 3.4 tackles, 0.2 goals

Vic Metro (under 18 championships): three games, 11.3 kicks, 13 handballs, 24.3 disposals, 75 per cent disposal efficiency, 5.6 marks, 2.3 tackles, 0.3 goals

Harley Balic is perhaps one of the most exciting prospects in the draft. Any club who considers him with an early pick will be looking more at what he can do in five years, rather than the immediate future, as his ceiling is so high.

He’s performed very well on the big stage this year for Vic Metro. He nearly dragged Metro over the line against Vic Country in the first round of the under 18 championships. His 27 disposals came with a 70 per cent efficiency, but he also had four tackles and kicked an important goal.

Balic is similar to Jack Macrae in the sense that he finds the ball and shows excellent vision and poise. He’s a very creative passer around the forward 50 and he’s also unselfish. Balic has shown to pick out leading forwards, both in and out of traffic. While his kicking penetration is not high, Balic is able to find targets short and then find space for himself to receive the pass.

Balic has proved he is perhaps one of the more dynamic half forwards in the draft crop and can switch between the midfield and forward 50. The issue for me is, although he is a smooth mover and uses his intelligence and spatial awareness to find teammates – he can struggle in terms of scoreboard conversion and defensive pressure.

Balic played as a forward in 14 games for the Dragons last year. He kicked just eight goals, but what’s worse was his 20 behinds. He will go for the difficult snaps in traffic, which can be great at times as no-one else has the agility to even get through the traffic and get it on the boot, but it’s hard to make more than 40 per cent of those rushed snaps.

His set shot kicking also needs work. His action could be improved, but Balic has shots often from 40 metres out and even further. Once he feels like he needs to put more power into his kick, they drift quite a bit. A decent kicking coach could iron out that fairly easily, and just building up his leg muscles should also get him that extra five metres on his distance.

Balic has moved into the midfield this year, for mixed results. For Sandringham, he averages 23.2 disposals per game. This is really impressive, as in the past, he has struggled to find the ball on occasions. However, his kicking efficiency is a poor 55 per cent. Some of this can be attributed to his development as an inside midfielder. He is indeed getting more clearances and working in and under, but he hasn’t been quite as smooth as a kicker as expected.

What has been impressive though is his quick hands in traffic. He averages just under 13 handballs per game and 77 per cent of them hit the target.  With his vision and ability by hand, plus his already electric outside game, it’s not too difficult to see Balic putting all the pieces together and becoming one of those guys who can play both inside, outside and up forward to a high standard.

The biggest tick in Balic’s game is his overhead marking. He’s got a tremendous leap and really safe hands. He’s put on a few kilograms since last year and because of that, he is now even better at using his body in packs.

Balic is also fairly smart on the lead. With his great vision and understanding of where the ball is going to, his leading patterns are excellent. He pushes up very high as a half forward, which is why he can take so many marks. Balic runs a 15.3 beep test. His elite running power could be used to better effect as a forward. Once he leads up around high half forward, he would be best served to sprint back quickly into open space. This would be a vital part to add to his game, as many AFL teams counter the press by running into open forward lines.

AFL.com’s draft expert Callum Twomey said “Balic probably doesn’t have that incredible speed like Jarrod Pickett last year, but he’s still fairly quick.”

Balic needs to improve his defensive side. He’s an okay pressure player, but it’s taken him a year and a half at TAC Cup level to have five games with five or more tackles. With his running power and long limbs, he could build an excellent defensive side to his game.

Overall, Balic is a neat prospect who has that fantastic spatial awareness and vision in traffic that very few do. He’s not very quick, but he thinks quickly and because of that awareness, has the ability to move through traffic. An impressive under 18s championships should see Balic selected in the first half of the draft.

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