Ben McKay (Gippsland Power)
Position: Key defender/forward
Strengths: Contested marking, strength, agility, versatility
Weaknesses: Offensive game, kicking, positioning, disposal efficiency
Player comparison: Cale Hooker
First year impact: Long term prospect
Ben McKay is an interesting draft prospect. He’s come from nowhere this year to be a top 25 draft contender. You can read all about his story here.
Ben is the identical twin brother of top 15 draft hopeful Harry McKay. They’ve got similar physical attributes, although Ben is a bit more physical and looks better as a key defender, where as Harry plays more like Drew Petrie.
McKay’s best asset is clearly his contested marking. He took 17 contested marks in 10 games, including five against Oakleigh. At this stage, he seems to purely a lockdown defender, but he has the physical assets to expand into a two-way presence.
He’s not the type to leave his man and come over the top for an intercept mark. He’s got the closing speed and length to be able to do that, but he’s probably a bit too worried about leaving his man and also he’s not the best reader of the flight as of yet.
McKay is pretty strong, although his frame is still probably two or three years off being the right size for playing on AFL level key forwards. Once he gets into the right spot, he’s pretty hard to stop, and he protects the ball drop well and he’s got long enough arms to make it hard to spoil.
He wins plenty of free kicks, particularly when he plays as a forward. The issue is, if he gets out of position – which is too often – he struggles to impact the contest without infringing. It’s not a massive issue, and with the little amount of high level football he’s played, it’s understandable and will come with experience.
McKay started the year as a backman and then moved into the forward line. 14 goals from five games as a forward isn’t too bad. He kicked four goals straight against the Northern Knights in the final round of the season, which was clearly his best game as a forward.
Besides that though, he never kicked more than two goals in any other game. You wouldn’t draft him as a pure forward, at this stage anyway.
McKay lacks an offensive drive when he plays as a defender. He’s a solid kick for goal, with just four behinds for the year, but that doesn’t translate to his rebounding.
McKay had games where he ran at 50% kicking efficiency as a key defender. He’s not the type to take risky kicks, so missing the target more than 40% of the time is a huge issue.
He’s definitely got to try and run and work on that short kicking. Cale Hooker was once a maligned kick, but now he’s a genuine rebounding threat who gets plenty of the ball through work rate.
McKay is definitely agile and plays with the speed of a smaller defender. He’s not clumsy when the ball hits the deck and he doesn’t lose his feet, which is really crucial for a key defender.
Rarely do you find a 200 centimetre player who has the agility of a midfielder and can take a contested mark. What’s more exciting is that he doesn’t turn 18 until the 24th of December, so he’s just made it into this year’s draft class.
He’ll take time to develop, but he’s got plenty of assets that recruiters will love.