Ben Keays (Queensland/Redland)
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Position: Midfielder/medium forward
Strengths: Workrate, stoppage work, scoreboard impact, marking
Weaknesses: Point of difference, right foot
Player comparison: Luke Parker
First year impact: High
Kicking: Above average
Marking: Above average
Endurance: Above average
Queensland (TAC Cup): four games, 20.3 kicks, 13.3 handballs, 33.5 disposals, 11.3 handball receives, 66 per cent disposal efficiency, seven marks, 4.5 tackles, 0.5 goal
Queensland (under 18 championships): three games, 16.3 kicks, 12.3 handballs, 28.6 disposals, 81 per cent disposal efficiency, five marks, 2.3 tackles, 1 goal
Brisbane have a bargain in this kid. Ben Keays is a dominant inside ball winner who has shown on multiple occasions that he can go forward and create havoc. Keays is a member of the Brisbane academy who is an instant replacement for Jack Redden and James Aish.
Last year Keays was an unknown quantity. He came out of practically nowhere to dominate the under 18 championships as an bottom-ager. He averaged 23 disposals, five tackles, five marks and two goals a game in the under 18 championships. This statline was unprecedented in the Queensland side, which lead him to be selected into the under 18 All-Australian team and the Queensland MVP. This form he carried into the NEAFL and in the TAC Cup. Later in the year, he was selected into the AFL Academy level two after his dominant performances through last year.
This year he has made a statement this year with his performances with the AFL academy. In the first game against Werribee he had 21 disposals in a losing side against the bigger bodies. In the very next game he had 24 disposals against the Northern Blues and kicked a goal. These performances were important in order to lay the foundations for an important year ahead.
Keays then went on to impress at TAC Cup level in his first outing with a 43 disposals and 15 handball receives effort – his best for the season. He continued that form throughout his TAC Cup campaign to average 34 disposals, 11 handball receives, five tackles and seven marks.
Keays carried this strong form into the championships and impressed thoroughly. He was smart, clean, composed and lead by example, helping them collect the division two title. He played more midfield minutes this year compared to last year and it shone through on his statline. He averaged 29 disposals, five clearances, six inside 50s, five marks at an outstanding 81 per cent efficiency. This championships gave him a second under 18 All Australian guernsey, division two title and the Queensland MVP. An impressive CV if you consider he was not in the AFL Academy program before 2015.
Where Keays stands out is his workrate. He is the type of player who will make sure he can get the most out of himself on the field and make the extra effort most people won’t.
He has also shown glimpses of what he can do forward of centre. Keays has an innate ability to go one-on-one forward. He is strong in a one on one contest and can take a grab. This allows him to play deep and be a key target for a team or maybe a potential match winner Dustin Martin style. As a high half-forward he creates drive and can have moments where you think he could tear a game apart. This was on full display in his bottom-age year where he dominated the forward line for the Queensland side.
His marking is one of his best features and allows him to make an impact around the ground. With his contested marking excellent for his size.
Although the previously mentioned traits are important, his stoppage work is pivotal to his game – Keays is a extremely smart player. He does not bully players out of the contest like other contested ball winners, he uses his great agility and weaves through the stoppages taking the ball with him.
Keays at his best can win massive amounts of the ball by ripping it from the other players arms and racking up clearances. This was evident in the first game of the under 18 championships when he had 11 clearances and a game-high 16 contested possessions.
Even though Keays’ strengths are all good, he lacks an elite trait. He is not an elite ball winner, he is not particularly athletic and he does not have elite skills. He’s a jack-of-all trades in sense. This is not to knock on how good he is, but it is a reality check for those expecting a superstar.
Keays is also remarkably one sided kicked. Keays uses his left foot kicking extremely well but in situation where he could easily go onto his right instead tries to weave his way around opponents or use his left foot when there’s an opponent coming from the left. If Keays can start using his right foot, it would add another string in his bow as a player.
Keays as a whole is an exciting prospect who can play round one and make an impact. He’s a hard-working, goal-kicking, marking, stoppage specialist who is going to play a big role for the Lions in 2016.
Under the guidance of midfield coach and club legend Simon Black, we could see a 150 plus gamer who will be apart of the next phase of the Lions’ rebuild. Luke Parker is someone to compare Ben Keays to, as a solid midfielder who can impact stoppages, take marks, go forward and potentially be a match winner down the track. As much as the other 17 clubs would like, Keays will be a Brisbane Lion and become a key player in the future.