Callum Ah Chee
Club: South Fremantle
Height: 182 cm
Weight: 71 kg
Position: Outside midfielder/half forward
Strengths: Short/Mid range kicking, composure, goal sense, vertical leap, speed
Weaknesses: Consistency, accumulation, strength, pure line-breaking, work rate
Player comparison: Chad Wingard (poor man’s version)
First year impact: Minimal. Might play a few games but he will likely need a year of development.
Kicking: Above average
Marking: Above average
Earlier in the year, Callum Ah Chee became a household name. Leaping as high as the clouds, his mark for the AFL Academy against the Northern Blues was shown across the country. From that day forward, Ah Chee was considered a first round talent.
Since that mark, some argue that Ah Chee has not delivered on expectations and that he has been a disappointment. They make a compelling argument – he did not make the All-Australian under 18 side and he didn’t have a fantastic championships. But I disagree – he’s proven himself a tremendous talent.
In the championships he only averaged 14 touches, four marks and a goal a game – and only used the ball at 62 per cent efficiency. At face value, these numbers are average.However it’s worth considering that Ah Chee was a predominantly outside player in a side that really lacked midfield talent and ball winners.
Outside players thrive when the inside midfielders win the ball and distribute it to them well. This simply didn’t happen in the West Australian lineup this year, so a player like Ah Chee who relies on that first receive of the ball wasn’t able to get it. A similar problem was present last year, which saw Jarrod Pickett and Jarrod Garlett struggle.
Ah Chee’s contested possession numbers are a testament to the issue within the WA side. He had 40 contested possessions and 41 uncontested possessions. For an outside mid, his numbers would suggest he’s an inside mid. And at times, he was.
The WA side was so lacklustre inside that he was forced to play a game unnatural to him. It would be rough to judge him based on his championships form – as he was not playing his natural game. Instead, the specific things he showed in the champs and after them highlight much of a steal he could become.
While there were issues with the composition of the WA lineup, Ah Chee is a player who normally adjusts to the standard pretty well. At colts level this year, he averaged 19 disposals and five marks a game playing in the midfield. However, when he finished the season in the league side he averaged 15 disposals and four marks a game playing across half forward.
Most players who averaged less than twenty touches a game at under 18 level wouldn’t be able to fit into a state league side, but Ah Chee could. His style of play is reactive to what’s around him – so how he plays is very much relative to who’s giving him the ball and the teammates he’s got around him. He averaged more disposals in senior WAFL football than he did the championships. Despite the standard jump, he still thrived.
As a player, Ah Chee is an exciting, creative and composed indigenous half forward. He has got the game to play through the middle but also to play as a deeper forward. While most indigenous half forwards are considered goalsneaks and livewires, that’s not Ah Chee. He is very quick, running about a 2.9 second 20 metre sprint last year, but doesn’t use it to break the lines like you’d expect. When he receives the ball, he looks to use it quickly and take the game on by foot, not run the ball and break the lines. By foot Ah Chee is excellent, being able to kick well off both feet and nail penetrating passes, especially over short to medium distance. Range is a slight concern, with his potency and accuracy falling as he kicks beyond 40 metres.
Aerially Ah Chee excels. As his mark earlier in the season indicates, he’s got an excellent vertical leap as well as clean hands and a good read of the ball in the air. He is the kind of player that could win mark of the year one day. It also allows him to be a handy link up target up the field and a difficult matchup when forward – as his opponent will need to be able to go with him athletically but also curtail him aerially.
While an outside player when playing through the middle, he possesses the basics of an inside game. He’s very clean below the knees and has good spacial awareness. With ball in hand he’s able to distribute effectively out of traffic. His ground level pickups are solid.
When an inside midfielder wins a ball and feeds it to him while still under pressure, Ah Chee is very good at consolidating that ball win and retaining possession. While he will always be an outside midfielder, there is scope for him to be capable of playing inside not dissimilar to how Cyril Rioli and Harley Bennell are outside midfielders but can still win their own ball. Ah Chee plays a lot narrower to the contest than a Lewis Jetta type – so while he’s outside, he is not a pure seagull who only receives the ball in acres of space; he also receives the ball under pressure.
However despite all those positives, he does have some weaknesses. When picking up the ball, he likes to attack the ball side on instead of putting his body over the ball. He reaches for it instead of attacking it – at times this does look a little soft.
He has also got a questionable work ethic. At times he looks like he’s running around chasing the ball, but even on offence he can look laconic at times, as if he’s not working hard for the receive. While he can tackle and be accountable defensively, he’s far from polished in this regard too, occasionally letting his opponent off the chain.
While Ah Chee is the kind of player who only needs 15 touches to cut the opposition up, he has struggled to really rack the ball up. Through the champs and his WAFL career across all three grades, he rarely gets more than 20-25 touches a game; that is his absolute peak.
The best outside players are able to rack up 25-30 on occasion and really tear the game open. When playing midfield, Ah Chee has not developed that yet. Part of this is due to offensive work rate.
Likewise, when playing forward – despite looking excellent in every regard, he rarely kicks bags. At this stage he is a little in that ‘tweener’ bracket where he’s good but not elite forward, and good but not elite in the middle.
As a player Ah Chee has some real similarity to Chad Wingard. He is not as good a junior as Wingard was, and not as prolific in the midfield as Wingard was, but he’s classy and composed style of football combined with speed, aerial ability and his aptitude at winning hard ball for a predominantly outside player all match up to what Wingard has produced. While it’s unlikely that Ah Chee reaches the same heights, it is possible that he becomes a similar style of player.