IN one of the most recognisable draft crops in some time, the 2018 AFL National Draft is heating up to be one of the most talked about in the lead-up with so many tall and small prospects who are already looking like genuine AFL stars. As with last year, on the first Monday of the month, we take a look at the top 20 prospects and where we see them throughout the season. Some will rise and drop depending on performances, while others will remain steady throughout. Keep in mind that the Power Rankings are an opinion-based ranking system, without taking into account AFL club finishing positions or needs – ie. not a Phantom Draft. It is purely measuring players on our opinion of their ability. Without further ado, here are our current top 25:…#1 Jack Lukosius
Lukosius starts the season as the consensus number one after jumping on the scene as a 17-year-old for WWT Eagles in the SANFL Preliminary Final, booting four goals and clunking eight marks on his League debut. He has continued his form into this season, booting seven goals from five matches, including an 18-disposal, 11-mark and three-goal game against Glenelg. He also showed his versatility collecting 25 disposals, 14 marks and six inside 50s from centre-half back in a South Australia Under 18 trial match at the beginning of the year. For the AFL Academy he was utilised at both ends, looking most at home as a forward, finishing the match with 12 disposals and two goals. The thing that separates Lukosius from other talls is his foot skills, where you could argue he is one of the best kicks in the entire draft pool, hitting targets at ease off his right foot around the ground. A genuine franchise player.
Lukosius is averaging almost 12 disposals and two goals a game for the Eagles, which is remarkable for a 17 year-old key forward. He can play at either end, but expect him to play forward at the National Under 18 Championships. He put any doubts to bed with an impressive performance in his opening National Championships game against Western Australia yesterday, taking 14 marks and booting four goals from 17 disposals.
#2 Max King Key Position Forward (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro) 07/07/2000 | 201cm | 86kg
May rank: #2
The tall forward is one of the best tall prospects we have seen in recent years and is most certainly in the mix as a top five pick, despite the fact that King will not play another game this season. After booting a few goals in the opening quarter for Haileybury College at school football, King’s knee buckled from underneath him in the second quarter and he was stretchered off. Scans later confirming that the talented forward suffered a torn ACL. Nevertheless, King is a superb prospect who is outstanding in the air (thanks to a big wingspan) and a goal-kicking option, having booted 8.5 against Oakleigh Chargers earlier in the TAC Cup last month. A real strength of King’s is his ability to collect the ball when it hits the ground, with a strong recovery helping the 201cm tall. While some say he could slip down the order due to injury, he won’t be falling outside the top 10, or even maybe the top five due to his impressive skill set.
Recovering from an ACL injury which will see him miss the rest of the 2018 season.
The best midfielder in the 2018 AFL Draft pool has started the season exceptionally well at TAC Cup level. Walsh’s smarts help him around the ground and it is very hard to keep him quiet or out of a game. Against the North Melbourne VFL team, Walsh had 22 disposals, nine marks and four clearances, working through the midfield and booting the opening goal of the game. His spread on the outside is good and he has shown he can win the footy in both contested and uncontested situations. He leads from the front and is probably the safest player in this draft pool for a club to draft. The knock was his disposal at full speed last season, but he is as consistent as they come across all areas.
Walsh shone in the trial game against the Allies recently, playing two and a half quarters and being the clear best on ground – including 21 disposals and two goals in the first half. In the TAC Cup so far this season he has averaged a massive 33.4 disposals (ranked number one) as well 4.8 marks, six tackles, 3.4 clearances, four inside 50s, 2.6 rebounds and booted four goals – elite numbers and a well balanced midfielder.
#4 Ben King Key Position Defender/Forward (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro) 07/07/2000 | 201cm | 85kg
May rank: #4
The twin brother of Max King has started the season very well, used at both ends at all levels. While Ben is a natural key defender, he has shown at school level that he can be a valuable forward, booting 18 goals in the first two school games. Like brother Max, he is very mobile and has an outstanding leap. He recovers very well when the ball hits the ground and when he flies to mark or spoil the ball and it falls to the ground. Is one of the best tall defenders and competes exceptionally well. Reckon we might see him more as a forward as the season goes, could become a genuine ‘swingman’ if he isn’t already. After a good AFL Academy game, Ben King won the Melbourne Cricket Club’s President’s Medal as the best player.
He has booted 29 goals in five games in the APS competition as a key forward in the absence of brother Max. Can genuinely play at either end, and it is anticipated he will play majority forward at the National Under 18 Championships, but will likely spend some time in defence as well. A real number one contender if his form continues, especially at the national carnival.
#5 Izak Rankine Small Forward/Balanced Midfielder (West Adelaide/South Australia) 23/04/2000 | 180cm | 76kg
May rank: #5
Probably the most exciting prospect in the 2018 AFL Draft pool, Rankine can do some special things that a majority of others cannot. He is a lively forward who can push into the midfield and win his own footy, with his agility a key trait. Rankine was so good in last year’s NAB AFL Under 17 All Stars match that they made him switch teams at half-time! He missed the opening few weeks through suspension, but has since returned back to SANFL League footy with West Adelaide, booting four goals from 12 disposals. At this stage he is more of a forward/midfielder than a pure midfielder – and it will be interesting to see how he goes throughout the year, working on his craft with more midfield time for the South Australian side in the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships.
After an impressive internal trial game for South Australia, he was quieter in the most recent practice match, but is still holding his own at League level. He has averaged 2.3 goals from 13.3 disposals and 3.7 marks for West Adelaide and just looks at home against the more experienced players. Rankine was one of South Australia’s better players with a classy 14-possession, one-goal game against Western Australia yesterday.
#6 Nick Blakey Key Position Forward (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies) 27/02/2000 | 195cm | 80kg
May rank: #6
Up until this time last week, Blakey had multiple options as the son of former North Melbourne and Brisbane player John. Blakey also fell into the Sydney Swans Academy, while he could have opted for the open draft. However – Blakey has made a decision to stick with the Sydney Swans Academy and the Swans are going to get a ‘goodie’. Blakey is a natural forward, with a good goal sense and marks well overhead. He glides around the ground and can play in defence if required, while there is midfield potential should some of his coaches see fit. Blakey has dominated in the AFL Under 18 Academy Series against some average opposition, but he booted an exceptional goal off a few steps in the AFL Academy match against North Melbourne’s VFL side. While injuries kept him out of a lot of football last year, expect Blakey to warrant an early bid inside the top 10 at this stage.
Played his first NEAFL game recently and did not look out of place against Southport in the NEAFL. He booted two goals from 10 disposals that day and took a couple of marks alongside his future Sydney Swans teammates. Blakey sat out the trial games against Victoria, but no harm done to his chances.
Thomas is a really exciting player whose glimpses over the last few years suggest he is going to be a special player in the future. The Tasmanian falls into North Melbourne’s Next-Generation Academy and therefore the Kangaroos will have first dibs on Thomas who will likely command a first round bid. Thomas is an outside midfielder who has a good burst of speed and agility, using it well off his right foot. He can also push forward and hit the scoreboard. One of the cleanest players in the draft crop, Thomas is a one-touch player and turns an inch into a mile.
Thomas becomes the first player in the list to move up, and it is easy to see why, winning the Under 18 Academy Series Most Valuable Player (MVP) award and was best-on again for the Allies when his side had a loss to Vic Metro in the recent trial games. For a lighter body, he wins a truckload of contested possessions and while you expect him to be outside leaning, which he is the majority of the time, he wins his own ball and it showed in the trials with 18 contested possessions from 25 disposals.
#8 Ian Hill Small Forward (Perth/Western Australia) 09/02/2000 | 175cm | 76kg
May rank: #7
Ian “Bobby” Hill is an exciting small forward similar to Rankine in the way that he can make recruiters and fans go “wow” at certain moments. While at this stage, he’s far from the finished product – he has produced plenty of glimpses that suggest he’ll be a strong player for the future. He has superb speed and agility, while his goal sense is very good. So far in the WAFL Colts for Perth he has been very good – having overcome a concussion earlier in the season. Hill is Western Australia’s best draft prospect and the second cousin of Fremantle pair Brad and Stephen Hill. He will be one to watch at the National Championships.
Had a solid start to the National Championships against South Australia, showing his class on a number of occasions, but not quite having the consistency over four quarters. Expect him to be better on the run and excel on his home turf against Vic Metro next week.
#9 Bailey Williams Key Position Forward/Ruckman (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country) 17/04/2000 | 198cm | 95kg
May rank: #9
The red-haired Williams burst onto the scene last year with some eye-catching displays for the Dandenong Stingrays, while he was also able to represent the Vic Country Under 18 team as a bottom-ager, where he mostly played in the ruck. While Williams is a strong ruck, he is probably a better forward at the moment – in the mould of Gold Coast’s 2014 draftee Peter Wright. Williams has an outstanding leap and marks well overhead. He is a capable set shot for goal and booted a stunning bag of seven against the Western Jets in Round 4 of the 2018 TAC Cup.
A huge third quarter against the Allies in the recent trials had plenty of eyes on the big man, with his cleanliness and agility impressive for a player his size. Williams finished with seven disposals, three marks, 13 hitouts and two goals – most of which all came in the ‘premiership quarter’. He booted six goals in the Dandenong Stingrays’ 126-point win over the Western Jets, and has the ability to turn a game with a couple of goals in quick succession. From six TAC Cup games, Williams is averaging 14.3 disposals, 4.3 marks, 10.5 hitouts and 1.8 goals.
Jackson Hately is one of the few pure inside midfielders in the top half of the rankings list. While he still has some size to put on, the 192cm midfielder is strong in the contest, where he can win the contested ball, tackle hard and win clearances. Hately can also hit the scoreboard when required. The Central District product has had a taste of SANFL League footy, recording 21 disposals and seven tackles against Glenelg a few weeks ago. Hately was one of the standouts for the AFL Academy in their match against the North Melbourne VFL side, where he had 17 disposals, eight tackles and kicked two goals.
A ready-made AFL player, Hately is an inside midfielder who has averaged 18.5 disposals, 3.5 marks and 5.8 tackles at League level for Centrals. In his first National Championships game for South Australia, Hately racked up 10 clearances from 28 disposals and justified his place in these rankings.
Bailey Smith had a great finish to the 2017 season which saw him elevated to the NAB AFL Academy Level Two group. Smith played mostly across half back last year, but did show his ball winning capabilities on the inside for Xavier College and the Dragons, including a huge 44 disposals (22 contested) at 72 per cent efficiency, 13 inside 50s, 10 clearances, six marks and four rebound 50s match against Western. The Dragons 2018 captain is a strong leader and has really transitioned into an inside ball winning midfielder, having collected 37 disposals (22 contested) in the opening match of the season this year. In his most recent outing for the Dragons against the Jets, Smith had 28 disposals, 11 clearances and booted two goals, where he used his quick and clean hands to effectiveness on the inside. The right footer is a capable target around the ground and runs very well.
Smith has been playing a key role for Xavier College in their strong season thus far in 2018, captaining the school as well as the Dragons. With his school football commitments he has not been sighted at TAC Cup level, but will be the number one Metro midfielder at the National Carnival.
Rozee is another of South Australia’s top draft prospects and in recent weeks has pushed into the SANFL League side for North Adelaide. The midfield has smarts around the ground, getting to the right positions and has shown his capabilities as a good runner. He rarely wastes a disposal and moves well in and around the stoppages. While he has spent some time playing as a half forward in recent times, he will likely end up as a pure midfield with his strong skill set. Rozee has made his SANFL League debut, booting two goals in both appearances in the last fortnight. Rozee played all four games as a bottom-ager for South Australia in the 2017 Under 18 Championships, averaging 14 disposals and seven tackles.
Has made appearances at senior level in South Australia and averages 10.5 disposals and 3.3 marks for North Adelaide. A very lightly framed midfielder, he works hard and has good scope going forward, especially with his disposal. Was not as prominent in the opening National Championships match against Western Australia, but does not need to win a heap of the footy to impact a game.
#13 Curtis Taylor Medium Forward/Inside Midfielder (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro) 06/04/2000 | 186cm | 79kg
May rank: #13
Taylor might be earlier than many others have him – it is based on the potential that the Calder Cannons product has. Taylor has plenty of X-Factor, which he showed in past years at school football for PEGS, playing alongside top draftees Cameron Rayner and Daniel Venables. Taylor at this stage is far more comfortable across half forward than as an inside midfielder, but has plenty of opportunities across the year to improve his midfield calibre. He has a good skill set and can mark well overhead.
Taylor has been in ripping form in the TAC Cup over the past fortnight, finding more of the ball with extra midfield minutes. He did not capitalise on his opportunities against the GWV Rebels, booting 0.5, but his talent and upside is hard to ignore.
McHenry’s super 2017 season saw him elevated to the National AFL Under 18 Academy Level Two squad and is a player that gives his all in every game. Despite his light frame, McHenry starts at the centre bounces and can win the contested football. The Falcons midfielder is a great character and you really need to check out his work on the Geelong Falcons Facebook page and watch the ‘Ned’s Falcons files’ videos. McHenry impressed in the National AFL Under 18 Championships for Vic Country last year as a bottom-ager, averaging 18 disposals at 75 per cent efficiency and laying 5.5 tackles.
A clearance machine, McHenry has only played the three TAC Cup games, but averaged eight clearances to go with his 23 disposals, 3.7 marks and six tackles. He also covers the ground well with 4.7 rebounds and three inside 50s per game. He has also been a standout player for Geelong College this season, with an ability to play anywhere on the field, inside or out. Will combine well with Falcons teammate Sam Walsh in the Vic Country midfield.
There is a little bit of Tim English in the way Riley Bowman moves around the ground. The athletic ruckman has a decent leap on him, he is also a good user of the ball by foot. While Bowman is very raw and will need developing by any club that takes him, he has shown enough this year to suggest he needs to be tracked closely during the season. He worked hard in the ruck for the AFL Academy against the bigger North Melbourne opponents, at times going up against big Brayden Preuss. Bowman is averaging 16 hitouts in the TAC Cup this season.
Stood up for the Stingrays against Sandringham Dragons in Dandenong’s big win yesterday. Bowman booted two goals from 15 disposals, five marks and 22 hitouts. He had six disposals, 13 hitouts and booted a goal for Vic Country in the trials against the Allies, sharing ruck and forward time with Stingrays teammates Bailey Williams and Bailey Schmidt.
Based on potential – Collier-Dawkins could well be a first round prospect come later in the season. He still has some work to do in order to reach this level, but the signs early in the season are very good. Collier-Dawkins was very good in the #57 last year as a bottom-ager for the Oakleigh Chargers winning the ball as a hybrid midfield, and ‘RCD’ has had a big growth spurt over recent years, seeing him jump to 193cm (and growing!). Collier-Dawkins looks most at home as an inside midfielder – using his clean and quick hands to effectiveness, but has played on the outside at times this year, including the Vic Metro trial game where he recored 13 disposals and four marks.
He had a big game for Vic Metro in the trial game recently, named one of the best on the ground, booting two goals from outside 50, with five clearances and seven inside 50s from just 16 disposals on that day. One to watch for his improvement throughout the National AFL Under 18 Championships. Collier-Dawkins is averaging 19.7 disposals, 2.9 marks, 3.4 clearances and 4.1 tackles per game in the TAC Cup this season.
The Gippsland Power captain is one of those players that in his bottom-age year looked like an outside midfielder, but won the majority of his possessions on the inside. In 2018, it has balanced out for him to impact on the outside and he is strong through the core despite being one of the lightest midfielders out there. He is a transition player who can give-and-go and can get forward and impact on the scoreboard. The biggest thing with Duursma is he has not got an obvious weakness, and while he does not win as much of the ball as other midfielders in the top end, he has both top skill and ability to gain meterage with each disposal.
After a strong month in the TAC Cup, Duursma stood out for Vic Country in the trial game against the Allies. Playing an unfamiliar role off half-back, his kicking was precise, and his ability to go back and take an important mark in defence by reading the play was noticeable. Could well be the second Country midfielder taken after Walsh if he continues his form this season. Duursma is averaging 22 disposals, four marks, 4.5 tackles and 4.7 inside 50s per game in the TAC Cup and is as balanced as they come. A big riser of late, and it will be interesting to see if he can retain his form.
Riordan is a player who flies under the radar a little bit, but continues to improve. While his numbers aren’t as big as some of the other Stingrays players, their game plan very rarely sees any player get above 25 disposals, with a team input seeing an even performance across the board. Riordan is strong in the contest and is a decent ball user off his right foot. He wins the contested ball and is a good tackler, working hard to win the ball back. Riordan averaged 16 disposals and three tackles in the TAC Cup at the start, but he will spend the month leading up to the National AFL Under 18 Championships at school level for reigning APS Premiers Haileybury College.
Riordan has not been sighted at TAC Cup level due to his school commitments, but his form for Haileybury has been strong, and it will be interesting to see how he fares at the National Championships and if he will retain his inside role, or play a more versatile role across the ground. Sat out the trial game with the Allies like many other top prospects.
Stocker is a player who could definitely find himself as a first round prospect by November. Stocker is a strong midfielder who wins the football on the inside and spreads well from the stoppages. His clearance work is very good, while he can play on the outside where he can use the ball very well off either his right or left foot. Stocker will have the entire season at TAC Cup level, having finished school at Haileybury College in 2017.
Stocker has played the five TAC Cup games so far this season, averaging 63.2 per cent by foot which is fantastic for an inside midfielder. He wins a remarkable 53.6 per cent of his possessions at the coalface, and lays five tackles per game to go with his 3.8 clearances and four inside 50s. Broke his jaw against Gippsland a few weeks ago and has been recovering since.
Bendigo Pioneers and Geelong Grammar product Jye Caldwell is a good midfielder who has some strong tricks. Injury forced him off the ground early in the AFL Academy match against the North Melbourne VFL team, but he has returned to football and is one who showed some talent in the Under 18 Championships last year for Vic Country, averaging 18 disposals. Caldwell tackles well and can win both the contested and uncontested ball.
Caldwell has been promising in his matches for Geelong Grammar, with impressive performances despite Grammar’s slow start to the APS season. He sat out the Vic Country trial game against the Allies and should be ripe for the match against Western Australia, fitness permitting.
#21Rhylee West Inside Midfielder | Calder Cannons/Vic Metro 12/07/2000 | 180cm | 81kg
May rank: N/A
An inside midfielder with lightning hands, West has the ability to impact in close or in the air. He has a vice-like grip and is one of the best contested marks of the midfielders in the competition. Rarely beaten one-on-one, West’s next step is just working on doing the fundamentals perfectly as there have been times where he can over-use the football or overcomplicate a situation. No doubt Western Bulldogs fans will keep a close eye on him.
West has been a dominant force up forward for St Kevin’s in the APS competition, booting four goals against Melbourne grammar in a best on ground performance. Not a tall player, West plays with a competitive nature and that will come out in the National Championships where he is likely to rotate between midfield and forward for Vic Metro.
The Norwood midfielder has a nice balance of skills and grunt, able to play on the inside or out and is set to play a pivotal role for South Australia at the National Championships. Valente was nominated captain of the Croweaters and his leadership shines through on the field. Known for his ball-winning abilities and clearance expertise, Valente is not overawed by bigger bodies and would be one player who is AFL ready from round one.
Valente was one of South Australia’s best against Western Australia in the opening National Championships match yesterday. He notched up 26 disposals, seven clearances, five inside 50s and booted a goal, being everywhere when the iron was hot in the opening half. In his one game at Reserves level for Norwood, Valente had 22 disposals, seven marks and three clearances, while at Under 18s level, he is averaging 27 disposals, six marks, seven clearances and one goal per game – a class above.
#23 Isaac Quaynor Medium Defender (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro/Collingwood NGA) 15/01/2000 | 179cm | 82kg
May rank: N/A
Collingwood fans would be excited to see a Next Generation Academy Member come through the ranks next season. The AFL Academy defender is a run-and-carry player and despite being just 179cm, plays much taller and has even stood key position players before. Expect him to develop into a medium tall defender, and with no second round pick following acquisition of Sam Murray last off-season, the Pies will be more than happy to match a bid given it will come after their first round selection.
Quaynor sat out the Vic Metro trial game against the Allies, instead being on siren duty in the box. In his six TAC Cup games this season, the running defender has averaged 17 disposals, four marks, 4.2 tackles and 4.8 rebounds, and is effective by foot, running at 64.2 per cent.
A classy midfielder who can also hit the scoreboard, Jones has been going about his business very nicely. The Tasmanian was overshadowed by the efforts of top 10 pick Tarryn Thomas at the Under 18 Academy Series, but his ability to win clearances and burn off his opponents is eye-catching. He often gets forward and hurts opposition teams on the scoreboard, and is always dangerous at ground level. Just the 180cm, but is versatile and slot in anywhere.
Jones had 22 disposals, seven clearances, six inside 50s and booted two goals for the Allies in their trial game against Vic Country, one of the key midfielders that turned the tables on Country in the second half, including nine disposals in the final term as the Allies piled on eight goals to run away 27-point winners. Set to be a key playmaker for the Allies in the National Championships, and would be their most prominent full-time midfielder with Thomas and Blakey both spending time forward.
Barzen is one of the dark horses in the 2018 draft pool, and similar to Riley Collier-Dawkins in the sense that you draft him on potential scope. In his bottom-age year, Barzen showed his class up forward, with the ability to hit passes inside 50 that very few could. He plays that high half-forward role well, and with increased fitness and miles in the legs, Barzen could transition to more midfield minutes in the future. He is strong overhead and has an impact up forward, and only needs a dozen possessions to hurt the opposition.
There were some nervous moments early in the season when Barzen went down with injury in the first quarter of the Bushrangers’ Round 1 match. He missed a few games and returned slowly, but his last couple of matches have shown glimpses of his talent and what he is capable of. Excluding the opening game where he had just two disposals before injury, Barzen has averaged 11.3 disposals and four marks per game, and has booted two goals in each of his past two matches.
Keep an eye on:
Joseph Ayton-Delaney (Vic Metro)
Tom Berry (Vic Country)
Jack Bytel (Vic Metro)
Luke Foley (Western Australia)
Xavier O’Halloran (Vic Metro)
If you have any questions, tweet us at @AFLDraftCentral or leave us a comment on our Facebook page.