WITH only a couple of days until the TAC Cup season kicks off, the Under 18 season is back. Sydney will hold the 2016 draft, after Adelaide hosted last years draft. There are plenty of names to watch and here at AFL Draft Central, we’ll take you through their strengths/weaknesses and draft chances throughout the season. This is a list of 15 names to keep an eye on, they aren’t all necessarily top 15 picks but will be important players to watch at the Under 18 Carnival.
Gippsland Power/Vic Country
Strong midfielder Ben Ainsworth will be a highly touted draft prospect in 2016. With many recruiters feeling he could have been an early prospect even in last seasons draft, all eyes are on Ainsworth to see if he can continue the strong performances from 2015 into 2016. Kicking 15 goals in the Under 18 Championships, indicated he can perform at the big stage earning him selection in the Under 18 All Australian team. Ainsworth will spend a large chunk of the season in the middle of the ground, playing as an inside midfielder. The Level 2 AFL Academy member is a strong mark overhead and will be looking to improve on his endurance to become an AFL midfielder.
At 193cm, Jacob Allison will appeal to multiple clubs come November. With Allison falling under the Brisbane Lions academy they will have first crack at the highly talented youngster who will likely feature in the top 10 on draft night. At his height, Allison is versatile enough to play in multiple positions and was good enough to make the U18 All Australian team as a bottom-ager. Allison has one of the longest kicks in this years draft crop and is expected to play a role in the Queensland midfield in the Under 18 Championships. Allison moves well in traffic and with his long kick, he is someone you want to have the ball in their hands. With Brisbane collecting two top 25 academy picks in 2015, expect Allison to be a name hotly contested on draft night.
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country
190cm/87kg Key Position Forward
Athletic forward Josh Battle will likely be one of the first forwards drafted in 2016. His movement inside 50 is superb and finds plenty of space on the lead. Battle kicked 16 goals in 11 games at the TAC Cup and the Hayliebury College student will be looking to improve to fill a hole left by Josh Schache in the Vic Country U18 team this year. At his height, Battle will unlikely be pigeon holed for the Number 1 forward at AFL level in the future, but his athletic nature means he can give you time up the ground or in the ruck. His strong hands give him the ability to take good contested marks, it wouldn’t surprise me if he lands somewhere in the top 15 on draft night if he can perform well at TAC Cup and Under 18 level in 2016. An interesting fact to note for Battle, is that he is currently in Year 11 and will be drafted with Year 12 still to be completed (similar to Jack Watts) whether this will affect Battle is his draft year at all, it remains to be seen.
Gold Coast will finally have a chance to collect a top academy player at the 2016 draft, with midfielder Jack Bowes. Bowes missed the Under 18 Championships with a knee injury in 2015, but managed to play a match in the Suns NEAFL team where he collected 22 disposals and kicked a goal. The 187cm midfielder is excellent at the stoppages and marks well overhead, giving him the durability to play forward. Although Bowes doesn’t have exceptional speed, his movement around the ground is good and now past his knee issues which plagued him in 2015 will see Gold Coast draft their first high academy player.
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro
Dylan Clarke is the younger brother of North Melbourne draftee Ryan. The midfielder was Melbourne Grammar School’s Best & Fairest in Year 11 and performed well in the TAC Cup finals, where his 26 disposals in the Preliminary Final ensured Eastern Ranges would reach the Grand Final. Clarke will play an important role in the Vic Metro midfield, where they will be looking to improve on last season where they won two games. Clarke has been named as the captain of the Eastern Ranges this year and they will be expecting to feature heavily in finals once again.
In a time when ruckman have been scarce at the top of the drafts in the last few seasons, expect Jeremy Goddard to be around the first round in November. The beast of a ruckman stands at 202cm and had a fantastic carnival for a weak Western Australian side in the 2015 Under 18 Championships. At his height, Goddard doesn’t lose many taps in the ruck and is a midfielders dream where he places the ball at their feet. Goddard has a strong physicality and tackles well following up his ruckwork around the ground.
Patrick Kerr gathers the ball in the 2015 TAC Cup Grand Final
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro
190cm/85kg Key Position Forward
Pat Kerr jumped out of the blocks in Round 16 of the TAC Cup against Geelong, where I was lucky enough to witness Kerr kick four goals. Kerr kicked two more bags of three goals in the following two weeks, finishing on the year on a high being apart of the Oakleigh Chargers TAC Cup premiership team. Kerr leads well from the goal square and has a safe pair of hands overhead and will spend plenty of time inside 50 for Vic Metro this season.
GWS NEAFL/NSW ACT Rams
Another year and yet another year of high draftees for the Giants. Some experts believe that Macreadie is the consensus for the number one pick at this stage and GWS will need to pay top dollar to hold onto him. Macreadie reads the player exceptionally well in defence and despite his light frame isn’t afraid to crash into packs taking marks and spoiling the ball. Macreadie uses the ball with his strong kick and will appeal to many clubs, whether we see the first pick in a national draft to be used on an academy player bid- it remains to be seen. It will be interesting to note whether Macreadie moves up the ground at stages throughout 2016 or is pigeon hole as a key defender in 2016.
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro
Despite missing out on making the AFL academy at both Level 1 & 2 stages, the Vic Metro U16 Best and Fairest winner from 2014 will be a name to watch for 2016. The talented athlete made the tough decision of choosing AFL over Athletics where McGrath won multiple events at schoolboy level and partaking in the difficult 400m hurdles event. In 2015, his best game came against Dandenong Stingrays where he collected 28 disposals. McGrath has dash from defence and often took the Dragons’ kick outs. Players with athletic traits often appeal to AFL clubs and an early string of form for the Dragons should be good enough to see McGrath selected in Vic Metro’s opening match in June against Vic Country. McGrath was also the Dragons’ best first year player in 2015.
Bendigo Pioneers/NSW ACT Rams
Midfielder Kobe Mutch is also another highly touted player aligned with an AFL Academy. The GWS academy member was recently named as captain of the Bendigo Pioneers after moving into the zone last year to further his footballing career. Mutch predominantly plays as an outside midfielder due to his light frame, where he averaged 16 disposals in the Under 18 championships playing for the Rams. Standing out as one of the Pioneers best players in 2015. Mutch will be expected to take it up another notch in 2016 and drive them to have a better season than they did in 2015 where they finished on bottom of ladder.
St. Marys/Northern Territory
Sudanese-born Olango is an intriguing prospect for many clubs to follow over 2016. Olango was a representative soccer player, even winning a trial for Glasgow Rangers in 2014. Olango’s talent was recognised once he was called up for the Level 2 academy squad in December and jetted out to the US with the academy in January. Osteitis pubis kept Olango out of the Under 18 Championships for Northern Territory, but special consideration rules allowed for Olango to represent the Under 16 carnival, where he dominated as a ruckman with his height and agility around the ground. Despite the soccer dream not working out, Olango is committed to AFL and will be closely followed throughout the year.
The last West Australian No.1 pick was David Swallow in 2010 and Sam Petrevski-Seton may be the next. The gem of a midfielder was the only West Australian in the Under 18 All Australian team, and he was bottom-age. A perfect kick on both left and right foot makes him appealing to multiple clubs, even at his height which many clubs have overlooked in recent seasons. A strong tackler and a strong set of speed also rounds the midfielder off and it will be interesting to see how he develops throughout 2016. Petrevski-Seton also kicked two goals on the MCG in the Under 18 curtain-raiser and the all-round skills makes him an exciting prospect to watch.
East Perth/Western Australia
Midfielder Sam Powell-Pepper will be one of two talented hyphenated players out of Western Australia in 2016. The inside midfielder played bottom age in the Under 18 championships last year, averaging 14 disposals. Powell-Pepper’s strength is his inside work, where he tackles hard winning a large amount of contested possessions. Powell-Pepper is the general on the inside, collecting multiple clearances each game in the middle of the ground. The inside midfielder needs to clean up his disposal efficiency, but in a similar mould to Josh Dunkley who was kicking at 50 per cent throughout 2015n- expect Powell-Pepper to be there abouts in the top 30 on draft night.
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro
If Jack Scrimshaw can stay fit throughout 2016, I have no doubt he’ll find himself drafted in the first round. Unfortunately, for Scrimshaw he has only managed to get himself on the park for a few games in 2015 and once again picked up an injury whilst in the US on the AFL Academy trip in January. Scrimshaw has shown plenty of signs in his games, a superb Under 16 championships in 2014 and performed well in the Grand Final curtain raiser playing against the Allies last year. The left footer has nice size about him and his athletic nature means he has the ability to push up the ground. Despite being listed as a defender, Scrimshaw will likely spend time forward at time for the Dragons and his school Haileybury College.
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country
Jy Simpkin burst onto the scene with an impressive Under 18 Championships for Vic Country in 2015. His successful carnival inside 50 (including kicking the winning goal vs Vic Metro), saw him elevated to the Level 2 academy squad. Simpkin’s strengths is he knows where the goals are and his pace makes him an elusive opponent for opposition defenders. Playing as a high half forward for the Bushrangers in 2015, Simpkin kicked 14 goals and will likely progress into the midfield throughout this year.
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country
Geelong Falcons defender Alex Witherden rounds out the ’15 names to watch.’ A solid 2015 saw him finish in the Top 10 for the Falcons as a bottom ager in their best and fairest. Witherden runs hard from defence and sets the play up as the general defender. Witherden’s strength is his long kick, which he can bomb the ball out of the defence and propel it deep inside 50 when running forward. Witherden’s kicking efficiency of was one of the best in the TAC Cup last year and it will be a strength of his for his draft chances.