Height: 180 cm
Weight: 77 kg
Position: Outside midfielder
Strengths: Pace, versatile game, developing inside game, hits the scoreboard, strong tackler
Weaknesses: Inconsistent kick, not elite at any one trait
Player comparison: David Zaharakis
First-year projection: May play sporadically
Endurance: Above average
Ryan Clarke is going to be a really good complimentary midfielder, no matter where he goes. Although his kicking and speed are listed as excellent, I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt to a degree: his kicking can be wonderful, but occasionally he’ll spray it horribly. His speed is excellent over the first few steps and he really breaks lines, but he’s probably a couple of rungs slower than the absolute best.
Clarke really stands out as an outside midfielder. He’s not a seagull who sits 25 metres off the pack, but he’ll often place himself 10 metres away so he can be freed up by a handball. His first few steps are really explosive, although his top speed isn’t lightning.
He’s an excellent distributor by hand and foot. His decision making and vision is in the top class of this year’s draft, and he backs himself to hit difficult targets. However, he does have the tendency to spray some at times, and that’s the biggest reason why he is rated as a B+ prospect rather than an A-grader.
Clarke is a strong runner who loves to break through the middle. He’s also got a fairly long kick too, and on the run he can impact the scoreboard from 55 out. Clarke has the ability to end up with two or three goals, but they’ll usually be as a midfielder on the run rather than a traditional forward’s goals.
In regards to his decision making, Clarke is unselfish. He will usually honour a lead and he weights kicks well, even in traffic.
He can go forward, but he’s probably got some work to do in that regard. He’s not a great mark overhead, and although he has the physical attributes to be a good crumber, he hasn’t shown that he’s got those talents as of yet. Having said that, he’s kicked seven goals in five games for the Ranges, and troubled the scorers in every game.
Clarke’s inside game is developing. He’s got great core strength, so he breaks tackles fairly easily. He reads the tap well and he’s physical, so he throws himself at the footy. Clarke is sharp and quick by hand too, so there aren’t too many doubts over whether he’ll be a well-rounded midfielder. He’s not the prototype big-bodied inside beast that recruiters are infatuated with, so it’s unlikely that he’ll be a clearance machine at the top level, but he’ll be serviceable.
The biggest improvement he’s made over the year is the effort he puts in on the defensive end. He’s got the speed and strength to throw himself at players and rack up tackles, but he’s also become a more well-rounded defensive player too. Pressure acts are not recorded in under 18s football, but if they were, he’d be well above average for an outside midfielder.
Clarke finds plenty of the footy. Most of it is through his outside work, as his handball receives and uncontested marks stats will tell you. His best game in the TAC Cup saw him collect 37 disposals, three goals, 10 tackles and eight marks against the Jets in a blowout.
Although that game is a bit of an anomaly, Clarke hasn’t dipped below 20 disposals in his five TAC Cup games.
He’s been really average in terms of disposal efficiency this year in the TAC Cup, sitting in the 60-65 percent range in most of his games. What that stat doesn’t tell you is the type of kicking he attempts.
He tries to pull off the really difficult kicks which can break open the game: however, due to the degree of difficulty, he won’t hit those as often as you’d hope for a top prospect.
But what is important is that he is a high impact player who finds plenty of the ball, rather than chasing cheap touches. Basic statistics cannot tell you what kind of player he is, but he certainly passes the eye test.