Player focus: Six players whose draft stocks increased during the U18 Championships

Pat Kerr marks inside 50 for Vic Metro.
Pat Kerr marks inside 50 for Vic Metro.

After the Division One Under 18 Championships saw the two teams widely thought to have been the most talented instead finish last, a number of outside prospects have suddenly shot into draft calculations.

Vic Metro were undefeated through the carnival, whilst their home town rivals Vic Country were unable to win a game.

Here are six players whose draft stocks have risen, with a strong showing in the Under 18 carnival.

Zac Fisher
Inside Midfielder (Perth/Western Australia)
15/06/1998 | 175cm | 61kg
Honours: Under 18 All Australian Midfielder and Western Australia MVP

At 175cm and just 61kg, Zac Fisher is a fair way off from the so-called 190cm modern prototype midfielder. Nonetheless, Fisher can play. The Western Australian averaged 21 disposals across his four matches in the championships, being at his most impressive against the Allies in round three. Fisher accumulated 30 touches but also won the ball on the inside with 11 contested possessions. Fisher has shown an outstanding work rate, utilising his zippy pace to stay involved with handball receives and using fast hands to find players on the outside while he’s in congestion. While Fisher’s size will most likely see him slide a little on draft night, he does have exposed form against ‘men’ having played eight games in the WAFL for Perth. At WAFL level, Fisher has averaged 19 disposals and hasn’t looked out of place suggesting he may have an easier time translating to the AFL than his height may imply.

Andrew McGrath
Outside Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
02/06/1998 | 179cm | 74kg
Honours: Under 18 All Australian Defender, Vic Metro co-captain and Vic Metro MVP

There is every chance you’ve already heard quite a bit about Vic Metro co-captain Andrew McGrath, who has leapt up draft boards since his round two performance against Vic Country. A rebounding and instinctive half-back, McGrath is unlike a lot of other smaller defenders. His game is already quite well rounded, being just as capable defending as he is when attacking and running with ball-in-hand. His blanketing of Vic Country forward Ben Ainsworth in the final quarter was integral to Vic Metro’s win. Despite being matched up on Ainsworth, McGrath still offered attacking runs up the field including a passage of play that saw Metro move the ball from full back to full forward in 15 seconds. McGrath also demonstrated that he can run through the midfield, picking up six clearances and 12 contested possessions against the Allies in round four. Given how highly clubs value the half-back position in modern football, don’t be at all surprised if the classy and speedy ball-user’s name is called very early on draft night.

Tim English
Ruckman (South Fremantle/Western Australia)
10/08/1997 | 203cm | 86kg
Honours: Under 18 All Australian Ruckman

In a year where there are seemingly few highly-rated tall prospects, a promising four games from Western Australian Tim English makes him a very intriguing player ahead of this years draft. At 203cm, English is suited to several positions and though he was awarded the All-Australian ruck spot it was often around the ground that he looked at his most comfortable. According to AFL Media’s Ben Guthrie, English grew 20cm in the space of three years, which explains how for such a lanky and tall player he can cover the ground as well as anyone. English was particularly noticeable against the Allies in WA’s victory at Domain Stadium, where his tidy ball use in spite of his frame was best on display. His work at ground level at stoppages too was a highlight. Clubs will be excited by English’s raw potential and the fact that he is essentially a blank canvas, being capable of playing wherever he’s needed.

Tim Taranto
Inside Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
28/01/1998 | 186cm | 82kg
Honours: Under 18 All Australian Forward

Named in a forward pocket for the All-Australian team, Sandringham Dragons’ own Tim Taranto is a hybrid forward-midfielder who showed throughout June that he was a threat with ball-in-hand. Adept at getting his teammates involved, Taranto’s creativity around goals was further illustrated by his standing as the leader for score involvements among all teams over the entire championships. Yet Taranto saved his best performance for last, with his round five effort against Western Australia. Taranto relished the opportunity for extra time in the midfield, gathering 24 disposals of which eight were contested. Taranto showed across the carnival that he was one of the better contested marks for a medium sized player. Given Taranto’s ability to play numerous roles, he presents as a versatile option for AFL clubs.

Jack Graham
Inside Midfielder (North Adelaide/South Australia)
25/02/1998 | 183cm | 83kg
Honours: Under 18 All Australian Midfielder, South Australia captain, South Australian MVP and Larke Medalist

South Australian captain Jack Graham led his team well and capped off a strong championships by winning the Larke Medal for the most valuable player in Division One. As that might suggest, Graham was one of the better inside midfielders across the carnival, using his already well-developed build to absorb hits in the clinches of stoppages and to stand up in tackles. 43% of Graham’s disposals from all four of his matches were contested, while he also managed to compile an average of five clearances and 25 disposals a game. Though not the quickest prospect around, Graham is a hard-worker who strives to get the most out of himself and wills himself to get to as many contests as possible. AFL clubs are always interested in players with leadership skills, and Graham is someone with those skills in abundance.

Patrick Kerr
Key Position Forward (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
31/07/1998 | 194cm | 93kg
Honours: Under 18 All Australian Forward

Perhaps the only Key Forward across the Division One championships to have definitely improved his draft stocks, Kerr arrived in round three and had an immediate impact, helping Metro to another comeback win against South Australia with four goals in the last quarter. Kerr compiled nine goals and eight behinds across his three games, averaging five and a half scoring shots a game. Though Kerr is a capable contested mark having averaged three a match, he is more often found leading up at the ball-carrier where his smarts on the lead can make him a difficult matchup. After a quiet start to the year in the TAC Cup with just five goals from his first three games, Kerr chose a good time to hit his straps. With key forwards always seen as a hot commodity, if he can continue in a similar vein to his championships form, he could find himself close to the first round.

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