Tag: christian petracca

Toohey enjoys fresh Eastern challenge

ON a scorching afternoon in Beaconsfield, new talent manager Sean Toohey — a former homicide squad detective and Sergeant with Victoria Police — witnessed his first game as part of the Eastern Ranges TAC Cup program; a win for the girls’ squad in the first round of the season against the Greater Western Victoria Rebels.

The vibe around the ground, and in the rooms after the match, was buoyant. Despite the Rebels challenging, the match always felt in the Ranges’ control. It is an attitude born of confidence, of knowing things are done the right way to ensure their players will be at their best, week in week out.

It is an environment that Toohey knows well, having come through the Eastern Ranges under-15s and 16s program; but coming back in a difference capacity has still provided a decent learning curve.

“I’m just getting used to a new environment, new people, new structures and just different ways of doing things. Which I find really exciting, and a good challenge,” Toohey said. “I’m a people person, and there’s so many good people working within our club and within our region — so that’s really exciting for me.”

Even though the 2018 season has yet to officially begin for the boys’ program, there are already whispers about players to look out for this year.

Inside midfielder Ben Cardamone, Defender/Midfielder Kye Quirk as well as forward Cody Hirst and midfielder Adrian Kalcovski are early front-runners to attract attention from AFL recruiters. This level of interest, at such an early point in the season, is nothing new for the Ranges, and Toohey’s role in keeping the players level-headed is vital.

“I’ll just try and continue that really good work of Len (Len Villani, former Eastern Ranges talent manager),” Toohey said. “I’ll aim to keep the players balanced, and help them understand what they’re striving for, and keep them focused on doing that. “I’m not here to reinvent the wheel, hopefully I can value-add to the programs with my different experiences. We do have a great record in this region for producing talent, and people, so I’ll really just try and continue on with the great work that Len has done over the last few years.”

In the last 10 years, the Eastern Ranges have consistently produced a decent sized crop of AFL quality players. This recent crop includes All-Australian calibre players Kade Simpson and Rory Sloane, as well as young guns Jonathon Patton, Tom Boyd and Christian Petracca.

The 2017 draft was no different, with a total of 10 Ranges players ending up on an AFL list. This production line of talent has not come about because of sheer luck, or some sort of geographical oddity that makes the eastern suburbs of Melbourne a breeding ground for young talent. It is because of a commitment from the club to helping young footballers become the best they can be.

“We obviously have people that identify talent very well, and get them into our programs, and once they’re in our programs our coaches and our high performance staff, our welfare staff, trainers, medical staff, all play their role and really just surround these young people with a great environment for producing talent,” Toohey said. “The players know that they can just come and concentrate on either; if they’re injured, getting their bodies right; or concentrating on what their individual program says they need to work on. “They have the confidence to be able to do that, and from what I’ve seen so far, it’s as good a program as you’ll find for this age group.”

Toohey hopes to impart some of his professional knowledge from the SANFL and Victoria Police into his work with the Eastern Ranges.

“I’ve had a pretty diverse range of life experience, due to the fact that I did work in Victoria Police,” he said. “I was seeing things that people in every day life don’t see…I suppose it’s really just trying to help guide our young athletes in the right direction, and steer them into making good choices. “Hopefully I’ll help them a little bit to influence their good decision making. We don’t want to just produce the best footballers that we can…we’re really about producing good people as well.”

Eastern Ranges will open their TAC Cup 2018 season against the Oakleigh Chargers on Saturday, March 24 at Ikon Park from 11am.

End of season draft power rankings

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Grading draft hopefuls is a very subjective process. What one person may like in a player, may be seen as a flaw by another draft watcher. As a result it is very difficult to compare players as many people will have different perspectives and ratings of players. As a way to combat this I have devised a statistical rankings formula, similar to Dream Team and Supercoach points, where players are ranked according to their statistical output with higher weightings given to particular stats depending on their position, and games played in senior or reserve grade given a weighting to allow for the step up in class. This is by no means my personal rankings of the players, nor is it where I expect them to land on draft day but it does provide an insight into the seasons of the players. My Champs rankings can be found here.

Here are the end of season rankings for 2014, with scores taken from after the Champs:

  1. Reece McKenzie (Northern Knights) – 156.2
  2. Jack Hayes (Woodville-West Torrens) – 131.6
  3. Taylor Grace (Sandringham Dragons) – 125.0
  4. Tim Jones (Western Storm) – 124.5
  5. Christian Petracca (Eastern Ranges) – 124.5
  6. Jack Steele (Belconnen) – 123.6
  7. Damien Cavka (Calder Cannons) – 123.4
  8. Isaac Heeney (Cardiff) – 122.3
  9. Caleb Hislop (Burnie) – 117.3
  10. Patrick McCartin (Geelong Falcons) – 117.0
  11. Liam Dawson (Aspley) – 114.7
  12. Brett Turner (West Adelaide) – 111.0
  13. Brayden Maynard (Sandringham Dragons) – 109.6
  14. Tom Read (Sturt) – 109.0
  15. Jayden Foster (Calder Cannons) – 108.6
  16. Nick Dixon (Geelong Falcons) – 108.2
  17. Angus Brayshaw (Sandringham Dragons) – 108.2
  18. Jackson Nelson (Geelong Falcons) – 107.7
  19. Jack Sinclair (Oakleigh Chargers) – 107.3
  20. Jayden Short (Northern Knights) – 106.8
  21. Kade Answerth (Oakleigh Chargers) – 106.4
  22. Michael Mattingly (Corowa-Rutherglen) -106.3
  23. Lachie Weller (Broadbeach) – 106.0
  24. Liam Duggan (Western Jets) – 105.6
  25. Tyler Keitel (East Perth) – 105.3
  26. Harrison Wigg (North Adelaide) – 104.5
  27. Will Fordham (Sandringham Dragons) – 104.4
  28. Nathan Drummond (Murray Bushrangers) – 104.2
  29. Nick Mellington (Murray Bushrangers) – 102.6
  30. Jared Hardisty (Claremont) – 102.0
  31. Kyle Langford (Northern Knights) – 101.7
  32. Jarrod Garlett (South Fremantle) – 101.6
  33. Jayden Laverde (Western Jets) – 101.4
  34. Toby McLean (Oakleigh Chargers) – 101.0
  35. Alex Carr (Gippsland Power) – 101.0
  36. Ethan Haylock (Woodville-West Torrens) – 99.6
  37. Sam Switkowski (Northern Knights) – 99.4
  38. Peter Wright (Calder Cannons) – 97.4
  39. Billy Evans (Bendigo Pioneers) – 97.2
  40. Billy Stretch (Glenelg) – 96.8
  41. Jack Cripps (East Fremantle) – 96.5
  42. Billy Frampton (South Fremantle) – 96.0
  43. Tom Wilkinson (Sandringham Dragons) – 95.8
  44. Peter Bampton (Norwood) – 95.7
  45. Connor Menadue (Western Jets) – 95.6
  46. Harris Andrews (Aspley) – 95.6
  47. Zac Ballard (Northern Knights) – 95.2
  48. Connor Blakely (Swan Districts) – 94.3
  49. Touk Miller (Calder Cannons) – 94.2
  50. Jordan Cunico (Gippsland Power) – 94.0

Reece McKenzie, the powerful key forward from Northern Knights, tops the rankings on the back of a blistering finish to the season where he recorded two scores of over 200 points. To put this massive achievement into perspective, only five scores of 200 points have been awarded since I have used this ranking system – Christian Petracca’s 215 against Geelong Falcons last season, Jack Steele’s 202 against Calder, Jack Hayes’ 214  for Woodville-West Torrens and McKenzie’s 209 against Northern Territory and 240 against Eastern Ranges.

Versatile South Australian tall Jack Hayes came in second, compiling huge numbers in the SANFL Under 18s after returning from the Championships where he played as a key defender. However he played a different role for his club roaming around the ground as he pleased and pinch hitting in the ruck.

Sandringham overager Taylor Grace finished third after a fantastic season where he accumulated possessions with ease. Tasmanian midfielder Tim Jones had a fantastic series of matches in the TAC Cup and came in fourth while many people’s tip to be the number one selection, Christian Petracca came in fifth after a move into the midfield.

Notable players to miss out on the top 50 include promising tall Sam Durdin (109th) who dominated in the finals for West Adelaide Under 18s but struggled against the bigger bodies as a key defender in the SANFL seniors, Collingwood father-son prospect Darcy Moore (100th), Murray utility Caleb Marchbank (60th), Oakleigh star Jordan De Goey (62nd), Geelong’s versatile swingman Hugh Goddard (67th), Calder excitement machine Paul Ahern (137th) and speedy Western Australian Jarrod Pickett (53rd).

Top players by position:

Key defenders

  1. Harris Andrews (Aspley)
  2. Caleb Marchbank (Murray Bushrangers)
  3. Hugh Goddard (Geelong Falcons)
  4. Oscar McDonald (North Ballarat Rebels)
  5. Bailey Jordan (Northern Knights)
  6. Adam Creeper (Subiaco)
  7. Nick Jackson (Aspley)
  8. Dan Howe (Murray Bushrangers)
  9. Darcy Moore (Oakleigh Chargers)
  10. Dylan Winton (Peel Thunder)

Running defenders

  1. Harrison Wigg (North Adelaide)
  2. Kyle Langford (Northern Knights)
  3. Dan McKenzie (Oakleigh Chargers)
  4. Brenden Abbott (Claremont)
  5. Teia Miles (Geelong Falcons)
  6. Jason Castagna (Northern Knights)
  7. Clem Smith (Perth)
  8. Michael Manteit (Sandringham Dragons)
  9. Dillon Viojo-Rainbow (Western Jets)
  10. Edward Vickers-Willis (Sandringham Dragons)

Tall forwards

  1. Reece McKenzie (Northern Knights)
  2. Jack Hayes (Woodville-West Torrens)
  3. Patrick McCartin (Geelong Falcons)
  4. Jayden Foster (Calder Cannons)
  5. Tyler Keitel (East Perth)
  6. Peter Wright (Calder Cannons)
  7. Jack Cripps (East Fremantle)
  8. Abe Davis (UNSW Easts)
  9. Jeremy Finlayson (Sydney Hills Eagles)
  10. Sam Bevan (Claremont)

Small forwards

  1. Jayden Laverde (Western Jets)
  2. Toby McLean (Oakleigh Chargers)
  3. Jack Lonie (Dandenong Stingrays)
  4. Bailey Dale (Dandenong Stingrays)
  5. James Rose (Sturt)
  6. Jake Johansen (Port Adelaide)
  7. Declan Hamilton (Port Adelaide)
  8. Aidan Anderson (Swan Districts)
  9. Henry Carey (Sturt)
  10. Josh Hone (Sturt)

Ruckmen

  1. Tom Read (Sturt)
  2. Billy Frampton (South Fremantle)
  3. Isaac Muller (Murray Bushrangers)
  4. Rowan Marshall (North Ballarat Rebels)
  5. Sam Baulderstone (Norwood)*
  6. Mark Kovacevic (Calder Cannons)
  7. Sam Tagliabue (Essendon)*
  8. Marc Pittonet (Oakleigh Chargers)
  9. Braydon Preuss (Mt Gravatt)
  10. Sean McLaren (Sandringham Dragons)

*denotes mature age

Midfielders

  1. Taylor Grace (Sandringham Dragons)
  2. Tim Jones (Western Storm)
  3. Christian Petracca (Eastern Ranges)
  4. Jack Steele (Belconnen)
  5. Damien Cavka (Calder Cannons)
  6. Isaac Heeney (Cardiff)
  7. Caleb Hislop (Burnie)
  8. Liam Dawson (Aspley)
  9. Brett Turner (West Adelaide)
  10. Brayden Maynard (Sandringham Dragons)

Some handy mature age prospects

  1. Nick Newman (Frankston)
  2. Matthew Panos (Norwood)
  3. Josh Glenn (Central Districts)
  4. Sam Baulderstone (Norwood)
  5. Adam Marcon (Williamstown)
  6. Sam Tagliabue (Essendon)
  7. Michael Hartley (Coburg)
  8. Jack Johnstone (Williamstown)
  9. Adam Saad (Coburg)
  10. Dylan Nelson (Swan Districts)

TAC Cup review: Round 14

Dandenong Stingrays 12.15 (87) defeated Bendigo Pioneers 2.10 (22)

Dandenong goals: L.Williams 4, T.Joyce 4, D.Kempster, J.Holden, A.Wilson, J.Weitering

Bendigo goals: C.Oliver, J.Ryan

Dandenong best: L.Williams, A.Wilson, S.Geurts, B.Mullane, D.Kempster, M.White

Bendigo best: L.Barrett, J.Ryan, J.Brain, B.Evans, T.Cole, M.Chisari

Round 14 of the 2014 TAC Cup season opened with the battle between cellar-dwellers Bendigo and the high-flying Stingrays at Shepley Oval. Dandenong returned to their home ground confident of a good result after a 20 point win against the Murray Bushrangers while their opponents were downed by 50 points against the Sandringham Dragons.

When the ball was bounced, the Stingrays were shocked, not least by the sunny conditions on what was predicted to be a poor Melbourne day. Bendigo bounced out of the blocks, dominating the game and had it not been for inaccurate kicking in front of goal, they would have taken a much larger lead into quarter time; the Stingrays were riddled by mistakes and were lucky to only trail by five points. Clayton Oliver kicked the first goal for the Pioneers while Lachie Williams opened the scoring for Dandenong.

The home side’s poor opening quarter continued into much of the second term, compounded by a red card to key forward Keegan Downie. Grey overtook the skies as Tom Lamb started to dominate off the half back flank, doing no harm to his claim of being a highly rated draft prospect. His rebounding opened the door for Lachie Williams to kick two goals in just five minutes. Williams’ great spring was seen as he took an impressive mark to slot his second goal and as an underage player should he bulk up and continue his development, he looks to be a decent prospect. Taylor Joyce chimed in with one goal but the Stingrays looked for the big sticks at most opportunities, contributing to their poor scoreline Despite this, they still managed to take a 19 point lead into the main break.

From then on, Dandenong didn’t look back as they extended their lead to 48 points before the final term. Taylor Joyce, Jack Holden and Aaron Wilson all kicked goals in quick succession, with the latter showcasing his booming kick and terrific marking ability. Bendigo, led by Thomas Cole, applied body work to the opposition with the ball in their forward 50 for large parts of the term, however the composure of Blake Mullane shone through as he worked his way with the ball up the ground. Jacob Weitering, who has played down back for the majority of the season, was placed up forward and managed to kick one before Lachie Williams added his fourth towards the end of the term.

The last quarter started well for the Pioneers with Josh Ryan slotting a goal home early. Big man Connor Toohey experienced a poor day in the ruck but he took a good mark close to goal and looked almost certain to add to Bendigo’s tally. Unfortunately his kick skewed off the side of the boot and there was no score. Jack Lonie was in the thick of things for the majority of the quarter and helped Taylor Joyce kick two more goals before Daylan Kempster finished it off, handing Dandenong a 65 point victory.

Williams with four goals and 17 disposals was best on ground with Tom Lamb a close second collecting 33 disposals and 8 marks. For Bendigo, Billy Evans disposed of the ball 31 times, the most on his team. The Stingrays travel to Trevor Barker Beach Oval this week for a clash with Sandringham while the Pioneers return home to face the Northern Territory.

BFGN Rising Star Medal Votes
5. Lachie Williams (Dandenong Stingrays)
4. Tom Lamb (Dandenong Stingrays)
3. Aaron Wilson (Dandenong Stingrays)
2. Blake Mullane (Dandenong Stingrays)
1. Billy Evans (Bendigo Pioneers)

 

Geelong Falcons 12.12.84 defeated Gippsland Power 8.8. 56

Geelong Goals: P. McCartin 6, P. Bright 2, H. Kol, R. Mathieson, M. Augerinos, D. Hodge

Gippsland Goals: T. Papley 2, C. Stockdale, A. Carr, C. Buykx-Smith, A. Di Ciero, T. Beck, D. Keilty

Geelong Best: J. Nelson, H. Goddard, P. McCartin, T. Miles, P. Bright, D. Parish

Gippsland Best: D. Keilty, L. Nash, G. Low, A. Di Ciero, T. Beck, T. Papley

In bleak condititions, the Falcons took the four points on the back of the workload of their superstars. It was a day out for number one draft hopeful Patrick McCartin, who finished with six goals, but could have easily had eight or nine. The key forward finished with 6.4 along with 10 marks and 17 disposals. His work on the lead was incredible, as he burned off his opponent time after time. McCartin also displayed Nic Naitanui-like x-factor, as his roved the opposition ruckman’s tap to snap a wonderful goal from inside a tight pack.

At the other end, Hugh Goddard had a game of two polar opposite halves. He struggled to have an impact early, but after half time he won every single contest that came his way, as his marking was as good as it’s ever been. His 12 disposals and six marks don’t seem great on paper, but he was nearly best on ground.

Under age stars Rhys Mathieson and Darcy Parish dominated both on the inside and out, with many influential bursts forward stemming from their work. Workhorse Jackson Nelson was valiant too, with 12 tackles and 23 disposals highlighting his effort. Nelson suffered a heavy knock midway through the game, but continued on like nothing ever happened.

There wasn’t much to like about the Power. Josh Dunkley was sensational with a ridiculous 18 tackles and 15 disposals, but aside from that, their stars were well held and it was clear that the Falcons were far superior on the day.

BFGN Rising Stars Medal Votes
5. Patrick McCartin (Geelong Falcons)
4. Hugh Goddard (Geelong Falcons)
3. Rhys Mathieson (Geelong Falcons)
2. Darcy Parish (Geelong Falcons)
1. Josh Dunkley (Gippsland Power)

 

Sandringham Dragons 10.6 (66) defeated Calder Cannons 7.8 (50)

Calder Goals: Wright 4, Ahern, Miller, Cavka

Sandringham Goals: Clayton, Brayshaw, Wilkinson 2, Kelly, Dear, Grace, Neiwand

Calder Best: Wright, O’Kearney, Smith, Miller

Sandringham Best: Grace, Clayton, Brayshaw, Neiwand

The Sandringham Dragons have stunned top of the table prospect Calder Cannons away from home at Highgate reserve, in what could be a season defining win in their 2014 TAC Cup season.

The Dragons continued on their mid-season form, notching up their third win in a row in convincing fashion after leading by 36 points at the main break and keeping the Cannons goalless in the final term.

The Dragons didn’t have it all their way though, having to weather a spirited Cannons fight back in a third quarter where star draft prospect Peter Wright shone, kicking three of the Cannon’s five goals to reduce the lead to just 8 points.

In an intriguing first quarter and what would later prove to be the theme of the day, the Dragons got numbers around the contests and pressured Calder into rushed possessions to force consistent turnovers.

Despite leading by just four points in the first quarter, it was clear that the Dragons had come to play, and Calder looked a shadow of their best.

The second quarter proved to be a pivotal one. After Wright kicked the first to put the Cannons into the lead, the Dragons piled on six unanswered goals through six individual goal scorers to leave the Cannons reeling at the half time break.

The Dragons charge was led by Taylor Grace, who amassed 32 possessions, seven marks, and kicked a goal of his own in the second quarter onslaught.

The Cannons struggled to move the ball with confidence from defence, as the Dragons’ defensive structures that shut down the Falcons two weeks ago proved too much of a hurdle for even one of the best teams in the competition to handle.

Josh Clayton and Angus Brayshaw provided the x-factor for the Dragons, creating goal scoring opportunities in attack, while the midfield brigade in Grace, Will Fordham, Brayden Maynard, Malcolm Neiwand and father-son prospect Tyler Roos opened up the Calder defence through run and carry and precision disposal under pressure.

Despite the major deficit the Cannons switched on after half time and completely turned the game around, dominating possession and generating nine scoring opportunities to just 1 in the third term.

The Cannons got on top in the midfield and locked the ball in their forward half with Nick O’Kearney and Roarke Smith finding space and penetrating the Dragons defence with repeated inside 50’s.

Touk Miller slotted his first goal, rewarding the endeavour he showed to keep Calder in the game in the first half, before Peter Wright took three important marks and nailed the last three goals of the quarter to give Calder a sniff.

The Cannons appeared to have all the momentum going into the final quarter and the Dragons looked unsettled early, with some fumbles that almost gave Cannons the opportunities they were looking for to take the lead.

But a strong defensive effort from the Dragons to get numbers back to kill the contests and support their defence saw them snuff out any chance of a Cannons comeback.

Clayton sealed the victory with a 50 metre long bomb that sailed through the middle to cap off a major upset.

BFGN Rising Stars Medal Votes
5. Taylor Grace (Sandringham Dragons)
4. Josh Clayton (Sandringham Dragons)
3. Peter Wright (Calder Cannons)
2. Angus Brayshaw (Sandringham Dragons)
1. Nick O’Kearney (Calder Cannons)

 

Oakleigh Chargers 13.15 (93) defeated Northern Knights 9.6 (60)

Oakleigh goals: J. De Goey 3, T. McLean 3, B. Crocker 2, L. Waddell, L. Patterson, A. Urban, K. Answerth, D. Moore
Northern goals: K. Malone 4, J. Gresham, L. Hunt, B. Fiorini, Z. Ballard, R. McKenzie
Oakleigh best: J. De Goey, H. Beasley, A. Urban, T. McLean, L. Waddell, B. Crocker
Northern best: K. Malone, B. Jordan, Z. Ballard, L. Hunt, J. Short, W. Murphy

Oakleigh Chargers enjoyed a 33-point win over the Northern Knights on an overcast day in Preston. Conditions weren’t ideal but the slickness of the Chargers saw them home in an inaccurate performance. Jordan De Goey was sensational in the middle and up forward, finishing with three goals, while Hugh Beasley was sensational off half back. For the Knights it was harder to find winners but Kieran Malone was as dominant as he could be considering the delivery inside 50, booting four goals and almost had a fifth late. Another underrated performance was that of Bailey Jordan who held All-Australian forward Darcy Moore to just one goal for the day. Other contributors for the winners were Alex Urban, Toby McLean and Lachlan Waddell.

It was far from a complete performance from the Chargers who did enough to keep ahead, missing gettable shots on goal which ultimately humbled the final score for the Knights. Disposal from both sides was ordinary with DeGoey being a rare exception. By far the highlight of the day was a hanger taken by Toby McLean, sitting on top of a pack for what seemed like an eternity. It was a disappointing performance from the Knights who could never quite get within reach after the Chargers booted the first five goals. Both sides get a week off next week as the Chargers will have one eye on finals and a top two spot. Northern Knights will need a lot of luck to play finals this year, sitting two wins outside the top eight.

BFGN Rising Stars Medal Votes:
5. Jordan De Goey (Oakleigh Chargers)
4. Hugh Beasley (Oakleigh Chargers)
3. Kieran Malone (Northern Knights)
2. Alex Urban (Oakleigh Chargers)
1. Bailey Jordan (Northern Knights)

 

Murray Bushrangers 11.10 (76) defeated Western Jets 8.13 (61)

Murray Goals: L.Smith 2, M.Waite 2, J.Carroll 2, I.Muller, N.Coughlan, J.Schache, N.Mellington, C.Marchbank

Western Goals: J.Laverde 3, L.Duggan 2, C.Menadue, P.Manivong, J.Volpato

Murray Best: K.Ellis, B.Hodgson, C.Marchbank, N.Mellington, I.Muller, L.Smith

Western Best: B.Myers, J.Volpato, J.Laverde, L.Duggan, D.Viojo-rainbow, B.Monk

In a match between two sides filled with returning representative players, it was Murray Bushrangers that found themselves coming away with the four points after the final siren. It was an enthralling back and forth contest for the whole game, as both teams traded the lead at different stages.

Early goals to Pete Manivong and Liam Duggan saw the Jets out to a 13-point lead before Josh Schache replied for the Bushies. From then on both teams traded goals until the quarter time break where scores were level at sunny Wangaratta.

Murray came out firing in the second quarter and raced to a 17-point lead after goals from Murray Waite, Caleb Marchbank and Luke Smith, who kicked two in a matter of minutes. Dillon Viojo-Rainbow lifted for Western and began to take control in the midfield and they went into the long break facing a 13-point deficit after a late goal from Jayden Laverde.

Few highlights followed in the third quarter as both teams turned the ball over repeatedly, with neither team able to get the ball past halfway without making skill errors. Western were able to gain the ascendency later in the quarter but couldn’t take advantage of their dominance and kicked the only goal of the quarter after a Jayden Laverde hanger, which was unfortunately overshadowed by Toby Mclean’s mark for Oakleigh, who passed off to Liam Duggan who goaled from long range.

Western continued their dominance early in the fourth and it looked like they might run away with the game, after Connor Menadue kicked truly from outside 50 to put them in front by seven points. However Murray lifted again and the midfield of Brydan Hodgson, Nick Mellington and Murray Waite saw the ball continually being pumped inside 50, where Nick Coughlan, Jim Carroll and Nick Mellington kicked goals to take them out to an eight point lead with not long to go.

Both teams sensed this and the game lifted again, as defences on both sides played exciting kamikaze footy, running from end to end trying desperately to score. Ultimately it was the Bushrangers getting the win, as a late snap from Isaac Muller sealed it for them but it was an exciting and tough game of football.

Billy Myers, Dillon Viojo-Rainbow and Jayden Laverde stood out for Western while Nick Mellington was super for Murray in his return from VFL duties and he was ably supported by Caleb Marchbank and Brydan Hodgson.

BFGN Rising Stars Medal Votes:
5. Nick Mellington (Murray Bushrangers)
4. Billy Myers (Western Jets)
3. Brydan Hodgson (Murray Bushrangers)
2. Caleb Marchbank (Murray Bushrangers)
1. Dillo Viojo-Rainbow (Western Jets)

Eastern Ranges 13.10 (88) defeated North Ballarat Rebels 7.7 (49)

Eastern Goals: C.Petracca 5, B.Hardwick 4, R.Phillips, S.Weideman, A.Cotte, D.Crocker

North Ballarat Goals: J.Palmer 2, T.Taurau, D.Butler, O.McDonald, J.Wheelahan, T.Templeton

Eastern Best: C.Petracca, A.Cotte, S.Weideman, L.Hannon, R.Harvey, B.Mitchener

North Ballarat Best: O.McDonald, R.Marshall, J.Palmer, J.O”Beirne, T.Templeton, L.McLeod

It was the Christian Petracca show at Box Hill Oval as Eastern Ranges tried to take down the North Ballarat Rebels and end their spectacular winning streak.

In an arm wrestle early, it was moments of class from Petracca that allowed Eastern to pull away. Petracca has 12 touches and a goal in the first quarter and continued to dominate but North Ballarat had all the answers and responded each time Eastern tried to pull away.

He kicked five for the day and was ably supported by Blake Hardwick who bagged four goals, as Eastern finally pulled away from a gallant North Ballarat team in the final quarter. The margin was just thirteen points at the final change but a five goal to one final term saw them kick clear to a big lead and more importantly, bounce back from a loss last week to remain in the top eight with Murray Bushrangers breathing down their necks.

Petracca was the star for Eastern but Aaron Cotte, Liam Jeffs and Sam Weideman also impressed for the victors. Oscar McDonald continued his great form for North Ballarat and was their best once again while Rowan Marshall dominated in the ruck, compiling 52 hitouts as well as 18 possessions.

BFGN Rising Stars Medal Votes:
5. Christian Petracca (Eastern Ranges)
4. Oscar McDonald (North Ballarat Rebels)
3. Rowan Marshall (North Ballarat Rebels)
2. Aaron Cotte (Eastern Ranges)
1. Sam Weideman (Eastern Ranges)

North Ballarat rebelling in 2014

David-Loader

The North Ballarat Rebels have won their last eight games to leap to third on the TAC Cup ladder. That streak in itself would be impressive for a team in any league, but there’s just something more to account for when it has been earned by this young team from Western Victoria. After a dismal 2013 season in which the Rebels won only two games, they started out this season in similar fashion, losing their first four games. These losses included games against the currently 12th-placed Bendigo Pioneers and the ninth-placed Murray Bushrangers.

By round six, everybody in the league would have written the team off for yet another year, however there was resurgence from within the club. With the Rebels facing off against the ladder leaders and unbeaten Oakleigh Chargers, the then-12th placed Rebels were adamant their side needed to turn things around quickly. Four debutants were brought in for the May 4 clash – James Gow, Sam Dunstan, Joel Cowan and Billy Lloyd. This had brought the total number of first-year players for the season to 13. In a low-scoring affair, much like the games the Rebels were used to in recent times, they eventually sneaked home to knock off the ladder leaders by three points.

Magical? Perhaps so. But as we’ve come to learn from the club, it was definitely not a fluke of any sort. The Rebels have gone on to win every game since while also keeping the blood of young players flowing through the club. It’s a testament to the organisation that they were able to manage and overcome the major difficulties of what appeared to be a road leading to yet another unsuccessful season.

There are plenty of things to celebrate at the moment but for rising star and Rebel Darcy Tucker, there’s one accolade that he will be cherishing the most. The young star from Horsham was named across the back line in the 2014 Under 18 All-Australian team. He is the only player to make the side from the Rebels and he is one of five players from across the nation to make the side as a bottom-aged player. Tucker, born in 1997, has become a revelation for the Rebels this season, averaging 18.6 disposals, 4.9 marks and 3.1 tackles across the eight games he’s played for the side this season.

The Rebels will face the Eastern Ranges this round, who are the reigning premiers, and it is a game where they would be expected to extend their streak further. The Ranges currently sit eighth on the ladder with five wins and seven losses. Looking forward after this game, the Rebels run home consists of a clash with part-time competitors, Queensland, Tasmania and then two very tough matches against the Calder Cannons and Oakleigh Chargers, again. Oakleigh and Calder close out the top two on the TAC Cup ladder, but with the strong momentum that’s sure to cultivate with should-win games, the Rebels are a force to be reckoned with themselves.

The Rebels will welcome co-captain Keegan Mason back into their side, who was a late omission from last week’s performance against the Geelong Falcons down in Warrnambool. The Eastern Ranges hold one of the most exciting young prospects for this year’s AFL Draft in Christian Petracca. He will be a player to watch after his inclusion into the Under 18 All-Australian side and being awarded the Larke Medal for being the best player in division one of the AFL Under-18 Championships.

The North Ballarat vs. Eastern clash takes place tomorrow at Box Hill City Oval at 1pm.

Alex Takle’s Phantom Draft

Wright-Lever

1. Brisbane Lions – Peter Wright (Calder Cannons)
Height: 203 cm
Weight: 103 kg
Player comparison: Matthew Kreuzer

Peter Wright is a huge young man who is a genuinely good footballer. He may not have the explosiveness and ability to rip a game apart like Tom Boyd last year, but he is a strong marking forward and a very capable ruckman. Wright is not extremely fast but he has strong hands and is good on the lead, especially for his size, and possesses a good work rate to make multiple leads. His reach makes it very difficult for defenders to get hands on the ball and he takes his marks out in front. His goalkicking is very good and he kicks more than he misses, due to an uncomplicated action and a good follow through. He has played well as a ruckman, although he is more of a competitor rather than a guy who you could put in the ruck and expect to jump all over the opposition. His follow up on his taps is great for a big guy and he is usually lurking to put on a block or get a quick kick away. He is a good fit for the Lions here as he provides the extra flexibility McCartin doesn’t.

2. St Kilda – Patrick McCartin (Geelong Falcons)
Height: 193 cm
Weight: 95 kg
Player comparison: Taylor Walker

McCartin is possibly the best pure forward in the draft and the Saints would be pleased to add him as a long-term replacement for Nick Riewoldt. His marking is his best asset and he clunks marks on the lead, in the air and with defenders hanging off him. He shields his opponent from the drop of the ball and takes it with his arms outstretched. His goalkicking has improved from last year, where it was very hit and miss. He appears to have more confidence when kicking for goal now and is kicking through it which is delivering better results, although I’m still not completely confident in him slotting it every time. He doesn’t need a lot of opportunities to impact a game, but in saying that, his work rate needs to improve so he can get involved more often. McCartin is a diabetic and needs to come off to check his blood sugar but it hasn’t held him back, which shows how driven he is.

3. Greater Western Sydney – Christian Petracca (Eastern Ranges)
Height: 186 cm
Weight: 92 kg
Player comparison: Dustin Martin

Petracca is a highly intriguing footballer who has worked extremely hard to get where he is today. Last year, he was a dominant forward: a man-child who monstered his opponents through sheer size and strength, despite being severely undersized for a key forward. His game was effective at junior level but there were concerns over how it would translate to the AFL, with recruiters wanting to see him play in the midfield. Petracca worked hard over summer to drop weight and the results have been enormous. He has been arguably the best player in the Championships, running through the midfield, racking up possessions and winning clearances with ease. His agility is top class and he is very explosive which allows him to pick up the ball and get out of a sticky situation in a couple of quick steps, before delivering the ball forward. His kicking is accurate but not excellent. He hits targets but it isn’t speared in: instead, it tends to be kicked to an area of advantage for his teammate. His defensive game will need work, as will his running patterns as he is still new to the midfield, but there is plenty to work with.

4. Melbourne – Sam Durdin (West Adelaide)
Height: 197 cm
Weight: 87 kg
Player comparison: Lachie Henderson

Durdin came into this year with an injury and only returned to football at the beginning of the Champs, but he is beginning to show why he is so highly rated. His marking ability and versatility are his main strengths and his exposure to senior football for West Adelaide has only helped his development. He can take a great grab, as he reads the ball well in the air and hits the ball at pace, taking it at its highest point. He can play at both ends of the ground, as well as in the ruck, although I prefer him as a defender who can swing forward. His kicking is good for a big guy and he provides plenty of drive off half back, cutting off the ball with his excellent marking and moving it on accurately. His athleticism is excellent, which was highlighted in the Champs game against Vic Country where he beat his opponent to a bouncing ball on the wing and outran him, tapping it forward to keep it inside the field of play and then looping a handball over an opponent to set up a goal. This athleticism and x-factor, combined with his marking and skills, makes him a very good prospect, particularly when he puts on some weight.

5. Western Bulldogs – Caleb Marchbank (Murray Bushrangers)
Height: 193 cm
Weight: 85 kg
Player comparison: Brian Lake

After a wretched run with injuries, Caleb Marchbank has exploded onto the scene in 2014 with his form in the Champs and for the Bushrangers propelling him into top ten contention. His marking is his biggest strength, as he reads it so well and he has a good leap. He loves to leave his man and impact other contests, and isn’t afraid to take risks with the ball in hand. While the likes of Durdin and Goddard are versatile, athletic talls, Marchbank is more of a defender than athlete. He still has the versatility to go forward and chip in with a goal but his ability to shut down an opponent is very good.

6. Carlton – Angus Brayshaw (Sandringham Dragons)
Height: 187 cm
Weight: 86 kg
Player comparison: Travis Boak

Brayshaw is an excellent mix of inside and outside who has a really strong build and a tenacity on the ball which makes him stand out. He played exceptionally well for the AIS/AFL Academy team against Collingwood reserves, where his hardness and second and third efforts caught the eye. He doesn’t give up if he doesn’t get the ball: he fights for it and dives on it again or chases hard to give himself the best chance of winning the ball back. His tackling is fantastic as he runs really hard and barrels them, taking them to the ground. Despite this, he probably projects as more of an outside prospect because he doesn’t win a heap of his own ball and is not an excellent extractor, but he has good skills particularly by foot, so he is quite damaging on the outside.

7. Richmond – Connor Blakely (Swan Districts)
Height: 186 cm
Weight: 81 kg
Player comparison: Blake Acres

Blakely is a rangy inside midfielder, with a number of athletic attributes which make him stand out. He has fantastic agility which allows him to dance around footballers and helps him get the ball out, even when under pressure. He gets his hands free and fires it out to his runners.  Compared to other inside midfielders, Blakely is pretty good by foot and off both sides. He doesn’t really bomb it long out of packs, instead choosing to give it off by hand or burst out using his lateral movement and acceleration before spotting up a short target. He is a good tackler and a good clearance player who has been Western Australia’s best throughout the Champs. He has had exposure to senior WAFL football for Swan Districts where he has held his own, averaging 17 disposals and two tackles a game. He is a taller midfielder and is quite skinny yet still finds a way to have an impact as an inside mid, so when he adds some bulk to his frame, he will be a very good player.

8. West Coast – Jayden Laverde (Western Jets)
Height: 189 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Player comparison: Steve Johnson

Laverde oozes x-factor. He is tall, pacey and good with the ball in hand. He loves to take the game on and run, creating chances for his team off half back. He attacks the ball hard and hits it at pace, and combined with his fast moving sidestep, he is very hard to tackle. He has a booming right boot on him and he can really pierce open defences with it when given time. He has a big enough body to be able to go into the midfield and win clearances or act as a receiver. He can also play as a forward as he did against South Australia in the final Champs game. He is a good mark overhead but he can also use his pace to work his opponent up the ground and turn him around, and there are few defenders who will catch him when given a metre or two head start. A downfall in his game is he sometimes tries to do too much with the ball and doesn’t give the first option which causes trouble, especially given the vulnerability when running off half back as it leaves his team prone to turnovers.

9. North Melbourne – Jarrod Pickett (South Fremantle)
Height: 180 cm
Weight: 68 cm
Player comparison: Lewis Jetta

Pickett is an excitement machine who loves to run and carry. He is really damaging when he gets it on the outside because he is lightning quick and has the composure to be able to hit a target at pace, a skill few players have. He doesn’t win a lot of the ball – mainly because he is an outside user and doesn’t really win his own ball – but he is still an asset because he makes things happen. He is good by hand and releases players to run by. He draws players towards him when he runs and knows when to give it, rather than biting off too much. He is a goalkicker and loves to run forward. He is more suited to crumbing but has a good leap so he can fly, as he showed in the Champs game against Vic Metro when he flew from three back to pull down a great mark. I’d like to see him improve his consistency and play some senior football this year to put his name up there as a top selection.

10. Adelaide – Hugh Goddard (Geelong Falcons)
Height: 196 cm
Weight: 93 kg
Player comparison: Sam Day

Goddard is a jack of all trades but a master of none. He is so versatile in that he can play at both ends of the ground but he hasn’t torn a game apart at either end. He is a good forward, where he can use his athleticism and work rate to run his opponent around with multiple leads and is very good below his knees for his size. However, he isn’t a fantastic mark and doesn’t have the big physical presence most key forwards have so he is more of a second target. His field kicking is solid but unspectacular, and can be shaky at times when he pokes at the ball. His second and third efforts are excellent and he does all of the little things well like blocks, smothers and even dancing around when manning the mark. I prefer him as a defender because he is big bodied and strong enough to hold his own in a wrestle, but also quick and athletic enough to go with a quicker forward on the lead. He has done the job on some good forwards over his junior career and I think this is where his strengths can be best utilised.

11. Gold Coast – Paul Ahern (Calder Cannons)
Height: 181 cm
Weight: 77 cm
Player comparison: Harley Bennell

Ahern is a speedy outside midfielder who does a lot of damage across half forward. He is a real goalkicking midfielder who has a sense for the goals. He usually kicks at least a goal a game for Calder, and his three goal performance for Vic Metro against Western Australia highlighted what he can do. He is fast enough to get away from congestion, as well as being a good kick and strong decision maker. He doesn’t win much of his own ball and he doesn’t tackle, but this is not because he doesn’t chase or defend: rather, it is more because of his size and the way he gets buffeted off the ball in contested situations. He is well suited to a role across half forward where he can use his pace and skills to create, but he is also capable of having stints in the midfield.

12. Collingwood – Darcy Moore (Oakleigh Chargers)
Height: 199 cm
Weight: 93 kg
Player comparison: Drew Petrie

Collingwood supporters will tell you they are getting a steal here with their father-son pick, but I feel this is about right: Moore should go around this mark, behind the likes of Wright, McCartin, Durdin, Marchbank and Goddard. He is versatile enough to play at both ends but I prefer him as a forward. He reads the ball well in the air and takes it out in his hands each time. He is athletic and smart on the lead, and never runs underneath the ball. His second efforts when the ball hits the ground could improve and so could his competitiveness and consistency, but there is a lot to work with here. Moore will make a good second option for Collingwood behind Travis Cloke in a few years when his body matures.

13. Geelong – Lachie Weller (Broadbeach)
Height: 181 cm
Weight: 71 cm
Player comparison: Steele Sidebottom

Weller is the brother of St Kilda’s Maverick but he plays completely differently. He lacks the hardness of his brother but he is much more classy and skilled. He is good off both sides of the body and his hands are good, particularly at releasing runners. He is more outside than inside because of his light frame but he can win his own ball at times: however, he is simply better suited to the outside where he can use his long, accurate kicking.  He is unlikely to be found at the bottom of the pack, but he is still a good clearance player, using his smarts to position himself where he will be able to get the ball and slamming it forward to a teammate. He often looks like he is under pressure but he is a smart player with good vision, as well as being a step ahead, so his kicks usually go to a teammate and making few clangers. Weller will continue to develop as he grows and becomes bigger bodied, allowing him to win more of his own ball.

14. Gold Coast – Jordan De Goey (Oakleigh Chargers)
Height: 187 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Player comparison: Tom Rockliff

De Goey is primarily a big bodied inside midfielder, however I also like him roaming across half forward. He is very clean by hand, picks it up with one grab and is hard to move off the ball which makes him a solid inside mid. He is quick off the mark and hits the ball really hard, and he is really aggressive at the stoppages. I like him as a half forward because he is athletic and has a good work rate, which allows him to play that high half forward role really well. He can take a good grab for his size and is a one grab player. His kicking is good, and he puts it to a spot where it will be to the advantage of his teammate rather than trying to pinpoint a pass. He has a good set shot technique and really kicks through it and he has the ability to kick goals from anywhere in the forward half, including outside the arc. His work rate is super and he works really hard up and down the ground, as shown in the Champs game against South Australia where he pushed hard up the ground to start and finish a slingshot scoring chain.

15. Port Adelaide – Liam Duggan (Western Jets)
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 76 kg
Player comparison: Matt Suckling

Duggan is a superb ball user with a lethal left foot. He roams around the half back line as the designated kicker, and for good reason because he can kick penetrating 50 metre passes off his left boot. Off his right side he is awkward – like any left footer – but his left is so good and when he gets time and space he is very dangerous. His actual defensive work is not fantastic and at times his pressure and tackling can be a little below par, and one on one he is a little vulnerable, but his attacking attributes make up for it. Duggan loves a give and go, and is usually seen lurking on the outside calling for the handball because he can do damage with the ball in hand. He has shown an ability to go forward and kick goals too, as seen against Northern Knights when he kicked three last quarter goals to win the match for the Jets.

16. Fremantle – Tyler Keitel (East Perth)
Height: 194 cm
Weight: 86 kg
Player Comparison: Jarryd Roughead

Keitel, a former javelin thrower, is big, strong and explosive and can play at both ends. He is primarily a forward, where he can use his marking to advantage. He is good on the lead and his follow up efforts are pretty good for a big man too, as he has good skills below his knees for such a big guy. He keeps the ball in front of himself so he can feed it to runners. He has a nice set shot routine and I can’t see too much reason why he can’t kick 30 goals a year at AFL level. He is also a good defender, reading the flight of the ball well and taking big grabs in front of the forwards.

17. Sydney – Isaac Heeney (Cardiff)
Height: 186 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Player Comparison: Dayne Beams

Heeney is a competitive beast and one of the best midfielders in the draft, making him a steal for Sydney. He is strong and hard at the ball, and can win it himself. But he can also use his big tank to accumulate possessions on the outside. He has good vision and composure inside the contest and doesn’t make too many mistakes as a result, because he always seems to be a step ahead and his ability to kick off both feet should be noted as he can go both ways when breaking clear and still hit a target. When Heeney wins a hard ball, he bursts out of the contest and gets an easy possession with no pressure. He has the ability to go forward and can take a nice grab thanks to his leap but he is a midfielder first and foremost.

18. Hawthorn – Peter Bampton (Norwood)
Height: 182 cm
Weight: 83 kg
Player Comparison: Brad Crouch

When you are playing SANFL footy and being amongst your team’s best players at the age of 17 you are bound to have a good career. Bampton is an inside extractor who is the most AFL-ready prospect in the draft this year. He regularly racks up 20 or more possessions for Norwood and a number of them are won in contested situations. He is good below his knees and can pick up the ball and fire out a handball in one smooth motion. He has great endurance and it allows him to work hard over the ground and keep getting to contests. Injury stopped him from playing in the Championships but teams will know what he can do as he has runs on the board. The only problem he has is that he has no other strings to his bow. Other than being a very solid inside midfielder he doesn’t have anywhere else he can play, and has limited improvement left in him. Despite being nearly at his ceiling he is a ready to go player who would be among the rising star favourites for next year if he gets an opportunity.

19. Essendon – Jake Lever (Calder Cannons)
Height: 192 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Player Comparison: Troy Chaplin

Lever was talked about as a top three selection coming into this year before an ACL injury caused him to miss this season. But Lever has taken it in his stride, with his work ethic being up there with the best on the AIS Academy tour to Europe. He is a key defender who reads the play really well and takes a number of intercept marks. He loves to run and carry and link up as his team rebounds off half back and he is a composed ball user, especially for a big guy. He is probably best suited as a third tall defender where he can leave his man and ghost across into the dangerous areas and cut off forward thrusts.

20. Brisbane Lions – Matthew Hammelmann (Morningside)
Height: 198 cm
Weight: 88 kg
Player Comparison: Josh Jenkins

Hammelmann is a big, tall key forward who can go through the ruck and do a serviceable job in there. He is really strong on the lead, and hits the ball at top pace and takes it as far out in the hands as possible which makes it extremely hard to defend him on the lead. He needs to take advantage of his opportunities on goal as he seems to get a few opportunities a game but only kicks one or two goals. He is still skinny and not really a big physical presence but as he fills out he has a lot of potential to be a handy second forward.

21. St Kilda – Alex Neal-Bullen (Glenelg)
Height: 182 cm
Weight: 87 kg
Player Comparison: Luke Parker

Neal-Bullen is a really nice inside midfield prospect who has been playing senior football at Glenelg this year. He has a good turn of pace which helps him to accelerate away from the pack and he uses his hands well to get it out to his runners. He seems to have a knack for getting first hands on the ball at contests and sending kicks forward, although they often tend to be tumbling kicks that bounce end on end and are difficult to mark but that is because he is under so much pressure when he gets it. When he has time to use it he is a nice kick, although he generally takes low risk options. Rather than taking risks by pulling the trigger up the middle of the ground, he feeds it laterally to those with the skills to do so. He is a bit of a rough gem who has a lot of potential if he can clean up his work around the stoppages.

22. Greater Western Sydney – Harrison Wigg (North Adelaide)
Height: 179 cm
Weight: 74 kg
Player Comparison: Matt Suckling

Wigg is one of the better ball users in the draft. He has burst onto the scene during the Champs, as his play off half back has really been a big part of South Australia’s success. He took most of the kick ins and was involved in many coast to coast scores as he sent 55-metre bullets down the field. He only needs to have ten touches to make a real impact and cut a team open, as his kicking releases his team of pressure and piles it on to the opposition.

23. Melbourne – Ed Vickers-Willis (Sandringham Dragons)
Height: 190 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Player Comparison: Andrew Mackie

Vickers-Willis is a player who can play as a defender or midfielder and do a job, whilst still accumulating possessions. He is the type of player you don’t really seem to notice but he is quietly setting up across half back, chipping the ball around or giving quickfire handballs out. His kicking action is a little ugly and can be inconsistent but he doesn’t try to do too much with the ball so he gets away with it. He seems to lack a bit of composure and misses targets he shouldn’t when under small amounts of pressure but his defensive attributes make up for this. He is a willing tackler, who will throw himself at the ball carrier and at the very least, slow them down. He is quick over the first few steps which allows him to stay close to forwards on the lead and when he spoils he really thumps it clear. He can lose his man at times in one on ones and looks a little shaky when one out in the square. Overall, Vickers-Willis is a solid medium defender who can also play on smalls.

24. Western Bulldogs – Corey Ellis (Western Jets)
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 76 kg
Player Comparison: Jared Polec

Ellis is a great ball user with a raking left foot capable of piercing defences. He is a smart ball user and puts it to the advantage of his teammates, generally allowing them to run into the path of the ball and putting it where he wants them to run. He is light bodied and not really a major contested ball winner but he is still an effective clearance player as he is a guy who teammates like to give the ball to because of his disposal. He is a good tackler and chases hard, not letting them get out of the pack easily. There is a lot of improvement ahead for Ellis and he has a number of very draftable attributes.

25. Carlton – Sam Bevan (Claremont)
Height: 195 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Player Comparison: Jesse White

Bevan is a light-bodied key forward but he does some really nice things that make you think there is something to work with. He can mark well on the lead, as he gets separation from his opponent and bursts away, however he is rather poor in the air for a big man and doesn’t take many big contested grabs or have much of a physical presence. He is a good kick for goal and despite not getting many chances, he usually ends up with one or two goals a game.

26. Richmond – Aidan Anderson (Swan Districts)
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Player Comparison: Steven Motlop

Anderson is a small forward who has a great goal sense. He has been playing senior football this year for Swan Districts and averages a goal a game in senior company. He plays taller than he is and can take some good contested marks but his follow up when the ball hits the ground is excellent. He is quick and clean below his knees and a good kick for goal on the run, whether it be a snap or running directly at goal.

27. West Coast – Alec Waterman (Claremont)
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 87 kg
Player Comparison: Dom Sheed

Waterman is a father-son selection who is probably a late first round talent but the Eagles are likely to get him in the second round thanks to their finishing position. He is a hard at it midfielder with clean hands and a good ability to win the ball on the inside. He is more of an accumulator than a dominant ball winner, and he can get a lot of ball without you realising it. He is a little slow but his clearance work makes up for it. He gets it out of the contest by hand and then follows up and runs to the next contest. He is a little one paced but his endurance and work rate are very good allowing him to keep working to contests.

28. North Melbourne – Dean Gore (Sturt)
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 86 kg
Player Comparison: Luke Dunstan

South Australia usually seem to have one dominant, big bodied inside midfielder and this year that man is Dean Gore. He has been playing senior footy all year and has held his own, being possibly the best performed out of all of the juniors playing league football this year. He is a clearance machine who is continually sending the ball forward. He really clears the danger when he kicks it, booting it long down the line, but rarely takes the time to look for a better option which can cause problems. When he gives it off by hand he is really creative and chooses good options, also working hard to block and protect his man after he gives them the ball. He is big bodied and strong through the core and legs so he is rarely knocked off the ball and it helps him to be one of the best clearance players in the draft.

29. Adelaide – Daniel Capiron (Dandenong Stingrays)
Height: 189 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Player Comparison: Heath Shaw

Capiron is a classy defender who is good in the air, can blanket an opponent but also provide plenty of drive off half back. He is a good decision maker and a good kick, although a lot of his kicks across the backline are safe, short passes and switches. He doesn’t often pull the trigger and try to take risks but it is not really necessary in his role as a defender. His defensive work is good and he has the ability to play on both talls and smalls due to his size and athleticism.

30. Gold Coast – Henry Carey (Sturt)
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 78 kg
Player Comparison: Luke Breust

Carey is an athletic medium forward with a fantastic leap. He is light bodied but he doesn’t let that stop him and when he can get a jump at the ball he is hard to beat. Even at his size, he can take contested marks, as seen in the Champs game against Vic Metro where he marked over the top of three Vic Metro defenders.  He is smart and works hard, making multiple leads and working his opponent over until he can find space. His set shot is okay but can be a little hit and miss, as he moves the ball around a lot in his run up which creates more margin for error. Carey has been playing some reserves footy lately and has been finding more of the ball, especially around the 50 where he can spot up targets or go himself. He has a lot of potential as a small to medium forward with a lot of improvement left in him and has a really high upside.

31. Collingwood – Billy Evans (Bendigo Pioneers)
Height: 189 cm
Weight: 87 kg
Player Comparison: Mitch Wallis

Evans is a hard as nails inside midfielder who has starred for Bendigo this year. He wins a lot of the ball, averaging 23 disposals for Bendigo and a large number of them are won in contests. He is big bodied which helps him dominate in clearance situations and his tackling is strong, as he picks up 3-4 each game. He is a goalkicking midfielder which teams love and works hard both ways. He has shown a lot of improvement this year after looking a long way off it last season and has a lot more improvement to come.

32. Geelong – Touk Miller (Calder Cannons)
Height: 177 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Player Comparison: Dion Prestia

Miller is small put he is an effective ball winner and a good user of it, especially by foot. He has a raking boot that allows him to kick it 55 metres to a teammate and he is very dangerous when hovering around the 50 as he is a threat from almost everywhere. He puts it to his teammates advantage most times but he can over-kick the ball. He will win a hard ball and burst his way out of the pack and then follow up on it and try to get it again. He is just such a hard worker and has worked hard to make sure his lack of size doesn’t affect him as a footballer. He shows leadership potential, as he was named captain of Vic Metro for the Champs. Miller is quite fast too, and puts a lot of pressure on the ball carrier and tackles hard when he catches them. He has the potential to be a good role player at AFL level.

33. Port Adelaide – Jarrod Garlett (South Fremantle)
Height: 179 cm
Weight: 67 kg
Player Comparison: Lewis Jetta

Garlett is incredibly quick and a real line breaker who seems to do something exciting every time he gets it. He is really clean by hand and gets his hands up to avoid being trapped. He has good lateral movement and gets himself out of trouble easily before turning on the speed and bursting away. He has the ability to pick the ball up off the ground at top pace and keep going at top speed and can dance around players while running at close to top speed. His kicking is fair but he tends to over-kick the ball a lot, possibly the result of trying to kick at top pace. He can kick off both feet equally well. If he can clean up his kicking he can be a really good player, as he is essentially a more consistent version of Pickett but a poorer ball user.

34. Fremantle – Clem Smith (West Perth)
Height: 178 cm
Weight: 67 kg
Player Comparison: Mitch Robinson (more defensive)

The negatives are often talked about more than the positives with Smith but I feel that is unfair on the kid. He may not be a good kick, rather he is a very poor kick, and he may be small but he is extremely quick and hard at the ball which is a lethal combination. He is exceptionally quick and this helps him chase down opponents and he averages a high number of pressure acts each game, because even though he may not catch his opponents he causes them to kick hurriedly. He loves to lay a crunching tackle or a big block and his teammates feed off that stuff. If he can learn how to kick he will be a very good defender, but due to his pressure and attack on the ball you can carry him in your team without the elite kicking skills many defenders possess.

35. Sydney – Jack Hayes (Woodville-West Torrens)
Height: 191 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Player Comparison: Jake Carlisle

Hayes is versatile enough to play at both ends and has played through the ruck at junior level and shown an ability to win a lot of the ball. He projects best as a defender, where he can use his closing speed and spoil. He doesn’t give his man an inch and is seemingly always there with a fist. He is brave enough to leave his man and kill the ball in dangerous contests, a trait that the good defenders have. He doesn’t seem to back himself much to mark the ball and prefers to punch but it could be a confidence thing as he had been playing up forward and in the ruck before the Champs and he is generally a good mark when playing up forward. He can play up forward where he uses his work rate to work around centre half forward and accumulate the ball, whilst bobbing up for a couple of goals but he is an in-between size at AFL level.  I’m interested to see where he plays when he goes back to the Eagles and I’d like to see if he makes the transition from reserves to senior SANFL footy.

36. Hawthorn – Jordan Cunico (Gippsland Power)
Height: 184 cm
Weight: 72 kg
Player Comparison: Mark LeCras

Cunico is a pacy outside player who has a real turn of speed and loves to use it. He is very dangerous when left alone because he can break the lines with his pace and use his excellent kicking to set up forward thrusts. He is light bodied and can be pushed off the ball but when out on the wing or flanks with more space and time he is very damaging. He likes to float around the forward line where he can really set up attacks and can impact the scoreboard.

37. Brisbane Lions – Liam Dawson (Aspley)
Height: 188 cm
Weight: 83 kg
Player Comparison: James Kelly

Dawson burst onto the scene last year as a defender for Queensland, with his form earning him plaudits and an AIS Academy invitation. He is a good user of the ball and can accumulate possessions through the midfield with ease. He can make some mistakes with the ball and put his teammates under pressure by being slow to make decisions but he is still learning to play in the middle at a higher level and he is generally a good decision maker when coming off half back. Injury ruined his chances of showing what he can do on the big stage of the Champs but it should allow the Lions to take him with a later pick. Whatever happens, it is hard to see the Lions passing on him.

38. St Kilda – Dylan Winton (Peel Thunder)
Height: 191 cm
Weight: 86 kg
Player Comparison: Lynden Dunn

Winton is an intriguing prospect as he has been playing as an undersized centre half back with average disposal but an ability to read the play well and cut it off in dangerous spots. However he is unlikely to play there at AFL level due to being a little short, but he is still a good medium sized defender. He is a poor kick and despite being able to play through the midfield and find the ball, I don’t like him there because his disposal is too hit and miss. He is rather slow and one paced, but is smart and knows where to go to get the ball and doesn’t let his lack of athleticism limit him.

39. Greater Western Sydney – Sean McLaren (Sandringham Dragons)
Height: 197 cm
Weight: 92 kg
Player Comparison: Jackson Trengove

McLaren is a versatile tall who can play through the ruck and at both ends of the ground. I like McLaren as a tall defender, who can hold down a key defensive post but can pinch hit in the ruck, like Port’s Jackson Trengove. While his defensive game is still developing, he has shown great promise here, using his long arms to reach in and spoil and reads the ball well in the air to take intercept marks. He doesn’t provide much when his team is attacking but as a defender you are more concerned with your players beating their man first, which is what McLaren does. He is quite a capable ruckman, and his taps are generally to advantage and he follows up well. He is a player for the future and one that can be developed a number of ways.

40. Melbourne – Billy Stretch (Glenelg)
Height: 182 cm
Weight: 71 kg
Player Comparison: Xavier Ellis

Stretch has copped a lot of attention this year and has found a lot of criticism coming his way which has been very harsh on a kid who has some great assets. He is a skinny kid who floats across half forward or on the wing and loves to get the ball in his hands and run. His kicking lacks polish but is not as bad as has been reported early in the Champs. He is a good linkman across the forward half, but I don’t see him as a real game changer. Stretch isn’t likely to be in and under, winning his own ball but he knows his limitations and positions himself in spots where he can be dangerous and help his side. He often sits 30 metres away from the play, sweeping up loose kicks and pumping it back into dangerous spots. His exposure to senior football at Glenelg can only help him. Demons fans have put a lot of pressure on Stretch to be a great player, and wanted to get a steal through the father-son system but Stretch is just a good solid second round prospect with one or two attributes that make him a good player – his speed and decision making, but not a whole lot else.

41. Western Bulldogs – Zaine Cordy (Geelong Falcons)
Height: 192 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Player Comparison: Andy Otten

Cordy has shown some real improvement this year for Geelong Falcons to the point where he is being talked about as a main draft father-son selection to the Bulldogs, when at one point it looked like they could pick him up in the rookie draft. Last year he was playing as a third tall, mopping up around the contests but not taking the best opposition forwards, despite his size but this year he has stood next to some quality players but come off better. He is athletic and moves well for a big guy, and is clean below his knees. He has a powerful kick and is a strong mark and has a lot of attributes which could lead to him being a solid AFL defender if he can continue developing and put it all together.

42. Carlton – Kyle Langford (Northern Knights)
Height: 190 cm
Weight: 73 kg
Player Comparison: Nat Fyfe

Langford is a versatile tall who can play at both ends. He plays as a forward for Northern Knights, where he can showcase his elite marking. Despite being a skinny kid, he is one of the best marks in the TAC Cup and rarely drops one. He protects the drop of the ball and hits it hard, not giving his opponent much chance. He has a good set shot technique and generally takes advantage of his opportunities. He wins a lot of ball working up the ground, and is often found floating up around the wings. He played as a defender for the majority of the Champs where he did jobs on a number of quality forwards. He is a little slow to make decisions, and can put himself under pressure leading to turnovers. His disposal is average and he doesn’t have any real weapons. His versatility makes him a good prospect and I see him as a third tall forward who may end up in the midfield as a tall midfielder with great marking ability in a couple of years.

43. Richmond – Brad Walsh (Peel Thunder)
Height: 180 cm
Weight: 79 kg
Player Comparison: Sam Mitchell

Walsh is a tough inside midfielder with great leadership qualities. The captain of the AIS Academy team leads by example and was the MVP for Western Australia in the Champs. He reads the ball really well off the hands of the ruckman and moves it on quickly. He is a good tackler and a really good clearance player. He has a good sidestep and can burst out of the pack to deliver the ball but doesn’t take the game on much. He accumulates the ball and can rack up big numbers at under 18 level and averaged 16 disposals in his three senior games last year. He is similar to Bampton in that he doesn’t have a lot of improvement left in him but he is a solid, AFL ready player.

44. Essendon – Abaina Davis (UNSW-Easts)
Height: 193 cm
Weight: 90 kg
Player Comparison: Jack Riewoldt

Davis is zoned to Sydney through their academy but given their depth in the key forward position I’m tipping he will go to the highest bidder and he should garner plenty of interest. He does some really exciting things, and has a knack of making something out of nothing. He is athletic and fast for his size and uses his attributes to work his opponent around in the absence of a real marking game. He can jump and takes the ball at his highest point but at times can misjudge them in the air and I’d like him to clunk them a little more often. I feel that he can be a little selfish but that can be a good trait in a forward.

45. West Coast – Dan Howe (Murray Bushrangers)
Height: 191 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Player Comparison: Andrew Mackie

Howe is a 19-year-old skilled, running defender who is good off both sides and does some really exciting things. He is not afraid of getting hurt and his attack on the ball is fantastic, going back with the flight or flying into packs trying to outmark forwards. He backs himself to mark the ball rather than spoiling which is a good quality to have in a defender. By foot he is rather safe and takes the low risk options usually. He takes a lot of intercept marks because he reads the ball well in the air but then he goes back quickly and hits a short pass or a switch rather than pulling the trigger and going back up the line. He is a composed defender who has played up the ground as a forward and also in the midfield where he played a key role in the Bushrangers’ win over Sandringham. Howe can step in and play a role and will not disappoint fans, but probably won’t develop into a number one defender to man the big forwards.

46. North Melbourne – Tom Lamb (Dandenong Stingrays)
Height: 192 cm
Weight: 83 kg
Player Comparison: Marco Paparone (less disciplined)

Lamb is an interesting prospect because he is not quite tall enough to play as a tall forward but he plays as a quasi-tall who roams around on the wings, in a role similar to Matthew Richardson late in his career. He is extremely athletic and his agility is up there with the best. He does some things that make you get excited, like a one handed pick up and take off with the ball before delivering a pinpoint pass, but it seems as though he is more interested in doing the flashy things like this than doing the one percenters and the “boring” things on the field. He is quite inconsistent and not a huge possession winner or great ball user, especially considering the position he plays. He is very fiery and is noted to have a bad temper, and was kicked out of a prestigious Melbourne school. His marking is not good enough for him to play as a key forward at that size and he may not be able to make an impact in this sort of role at AFL level but he is picked on natural talent and potential.

47. Adelaide – Jake Johansen (Port Adelaide)
Height: 171 cm
Weight: 63 kg
Player Comparison: Brent Harvey

Johansen is a tiny midfield dynamo who has been playing senior football at Port Adelaide in the last two seasons. Whilst he plays as a midfielder for South Australia, he plays as a small forward, roaming around forward 50 and using his pace and skill to set up teammates. He is a smart player who knows where to run to get the ball and has good acceleration to get away from the contest. He is not a particularly penetrating kick and you don’t notice his kicking as being either good or bad, it just gets from point A to point B. He is clever around the contest and when he can’t pick it up one grab he will knock it on to his advantage and back himself to beat his opponent to it with his speed. He is small but strong and doesn’t get knocked off the ball as much as you would think due to his strong core and low centre of gravity. Despite being small he is a big time accumulator due to his workrate and can play a role as a small forward or high half forward working up the ground at AFL level, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him passed over due to his size.

48. Gold Coast – Jackson Nelson (Geelong Falcons)
Height: 187 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Player Comparison: Jasper Pittard

Nelson is a skinny outside ball user who roams around the backline or on the wing. He is quite fast and has good agility and a nice sidestep which helps him to get out of sticky situations. He is clean with the ball in hand and makes good decisions. He is beginning to win more of his own ball and his tackling is good as he is very tenacious and he picks up a few tackles a game. He has been beginning to run into some really good form after a slow start to the season so a shoulder injury suffered in the final game of the Champs will put a dent in his draft hopes but I feel that he has enough attributes to get picked up.

49. Collingwood – Lukas Webb (Gippsland Power)
Height: 186 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Player Comparison: Patrick Karnezis

Webb is a midfielder/forward who is good in the air and is good around the stoppages. He reads the ball really well in the air as a forward and protects the drop of the ball well. He is a good set shot for goal and is a good contributor to the Gippsland forward line. He is not a massive ball winner but he is good in traffic and has good composure. He is a good decision maker and loves to take the game on and keep it going forward. He has a lot of development to go but could be a handy midfielder and I’d like to see him continue his Champs form for Gippsland.

50. Geelong – Daniel Butler (North Ballarat Rebels)
Height: 181 cm
Weight: 79 kg
Player Comparison: Jarryd Blair

Butler is a small, elusive forward who applies lots of defensive pressure and hates to let the ball out. He is a good ball user and has good weighting to his kicks. He is quick and likes to take the game on before delivering the ball. Despite being small he can find the ball and win his own footy but he is better on the outside with his speed and acceleration. He needs to hit the scoreboard a little more but he is certainly draftable with a later pick due to his work ethic and pressure.

51. Port Adelaide – Jack Cripps (East Fremantle)
Height: 196 cm
Weight: 86 kg
Player Comparison: Rhys Stanley

Cripps is a big, athletic tall forward who can take turns through the ruck. He is a good mover and works really hard, covering more ground than most guys his size. He can take a good grab and has a good vertical leap. He plays in bursts at the moment but he has a lot of potential if he can put a few passages of play together and find more of the footy. He is an effective tap ruckman but more of a forward than ruckman.

52. Fremantle – Dillon Viojo-Rainbow (Western Jets)
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Player Comparison: Shannon Hurn

After Harrison Wigg, Viojo-Rainbow is probably the best kick in the draft. He has an excellent left boot which can send the ball to its target almost immediately. He kicks it low and flat and gives defenders little chance. Struggles a little defensively and seems to have trouble reading the play and predicting where his opponent is going to move to so I see him as more of a wingman who can use the ball effectively and be a real creative weapon.

53. Sydney – Teia Miles (Geelong Falcons)
Height: 179 cm
Weight: 68 kg
Player Comparison: Luke Ball

Miles is a half back who plays with no frills. He doesn’t care for the fancy stuff and he just attacks the ball really hard. He is a solid clearance player in the midfield for Geelong, throwing himself at the ball and getting in and under. His kicking needs work as it is neither long nor penetrating but he knows his limitations. He is a smart player who does the little things well and leaves the flashy stuff to others.

54. Hawthorn – Caleb Daniel (South Adelaide)
Height: 167 cm
Weight: 66 kg
Player Comparison: Trent Cotchin (smaller)

Daniel is tiny but he is so elusive and poised. He never gets tackled and dances in and out of contests with ease, shrugging off opponents and assessing his options before hitting low bullets to his teammate. He has terrific goal sense and kicks goals from anywhere, as seen in the Champs where he picked the ball up in a pack and kicked the ball over his head while facing the wrong way, resulting in a goal. He has a long penetrating kick but often chooses the short options which release his running teammates. Despite his size he is a fantastic player and I feel he deserves a chance, although if he isn’t picked up he will be one of the band of players deemed ‘too small for AFL’ that dominate at state level.

Under 18 National Championships player rankings

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The championships are over for another year and we witnessed another great series of matches, with some fantastic talent showing what they could do on the big stage. To analyse who the best performers were over the course of the carnival, I have applied my power rankings formula to every player after every game to come up with the top 50 players from the carnival. Players are rewarded for being clean with the ball, and gain points for specific attributes related to their position. For example, contested marks and goals are high point earners for a forward while clearances, tackles and inside 50s gain good point scores for midfielders.

Division one and division two were separated because division two played just three games: their scores were elevated because of a smaller sample size.

Here are the top 50 players from division one:

1. Caleb Daniel (South Australia) – 126.0
2. Christian Petracca (Vic Metro) – 124.0
3. Connor Blakely (Western Australia) – 111.3
4. Damien Cavka (Vic Metro) – 107.8
5. Angus Brayshaw (Vic Metro) – 105.8
6. Jake Johansen (South Australia) – 103.1
7. Ryan Burton (South Australia) – 100.0*
8. Dean Gore (South Australia) – 96.6
9. Peter Wright (Vic Metro) – 95.6
10. Jack Lonie (Vic Country) – 93.5
11. Touk Miller (Vic Metro) – 92.5
12. Rhys Mathieson (Vic Country) – 92.2*
13. Paul Ahern (Vic Metro) – 91.0
14. Ed Langdon (Vic Metro) – 90.0
15. Sam Switkowski (Vic Metro) – 89.8
16. Josh Hone (South Australia) – 89.6
17. Jared Hardisty (Western Australia) – 89.5
18. Brayden Maynard (Vic Metro) – 89.0
19. Alex Neal-Bullen (South Australia) – 88.5
20. Corey Gregson (South Australia) – 88.2
21. Joe Maishman (Vic Country) – 87.8
22. Jayden Laverde (Vic Metro) – 87.6
23. Lukas Webb (Vic Country) – 86.4
24. Alec Waterman (Western Australia) – 86.4
25. Billy Stretch (South Australia) – 85.3
26. Josh Dunkley (Vic Country) – 83.0*
27. Harrison Wigg (South Australia) – 84.0
28. Nick O’Kearney (Vic Metro) – 84.0*
29. Tyler Keitel (Western Australia) – 83.7
30. Nick Dixon (Vic Country) – 83.0
31. Jacob Dragovich (Western Australia) – 81.5
32. Dan Howe (Vic Country) – 81.0
33. Nathan Drummond (Vic Country) – 81.0
34. Darcy Tucker (Vic Country) – 80.6*
35. Declan Hamilton (South Australia) – 80.3
36. Marc Pittonet (Vic Metro) – 80.0
37. Kade Stewart (Western Australia) – 79.5*
38. Tom Wilkinson (Vic Metro) – 79.5
39. Liam Duggan (Vic Metro) – 79.4
40. Caleb Marchbank (Vic Country) – 79.0
41. Corey Ellis (Vic Metro) – 78.6
42. Jarrod Pickett (Western Australia) – 78.5
43. Daniel Capiron  (Vic Country) – 78.3
44. Aaron Wilson (Vic Country) – 78.3
45. Darcy Parish (Vic Country) – 76.8
46. Daniel Butler (Vic Country) – 76.6
47. Patrick McCartin (Vic Country) – 76
48. Aidan Anderson (Western Australia) – 75.4
49. Tom Cole (Vic Country) – 75.0*
50. Billy Evans (Vic Country) – 74.3

The tiny South Australian, Caleb Daniel, shot to the top of the rankings after two super games against Vic Country and Vic Metro to finish off the series. Larke Medallist, Christian Petracca, finished second after a very consistent carnival while agile Western Australian midfielder, Connor Blakely, finished third.

The talls were quite inconsistent, and there were a number of matches played in poor conditions which were not suited to tall players which led to some lower numbers for them. Number one pick chance, Peter Wright, was the best performed tall finishing ninth, with the next best tall being Western Australian swingman Tyler Keitel.

A number of underage prospects featured in the list (marked with an asterisk), with South Australian Ryan Burton the best of the crop. Burton, a marking third tall forward, averaged 100 points per game before glandular fever ended his carnival prematurely. Victorian midfielders Rhys Mathieson, Josh Dunkley and Nick O’Kearney all featured in the top 30.

A number of highly rated prospects fell short of the top 50, including Clem Smith (56th), Jordan De Goey (62nd), Ed Vickers-Willis (73rd), Darcy Moore (75th), High Goddard (85th) and Tom Lamb (92nd).

The top ten players in division two were:

1. Matt Keays (Queensland) – 137.0*
2. Isaac Heeney (NSW/ACT) – 121.3
3. Abraham Ankers (Northern Territory) – 116.3
4. Tim Jones (Tasmania) – 115.6
5. Callum Mills (NSW/ACT) – 111.6*
6. Jack Steele (NSW/ACT) – 110.0
7. Errin Wasley-Black (Northern Territory) – 106.6
8. Kieran McGuinness (Tasmania) – 102.0
9. Lachie Weller (Queensland) – 99.0
10. Darcy Cameron-Reeves (Queensland) – 98.0

The division two prospects were headlined by underage Queensland forward Ben Keays, who earned All-Australian selection and averaged 137 points per game. Highly rated Sydney academy member Isaac Heeney was second while Northern Territory’s Abraham Ankers finished third.

2014 Draft Profile: Christian Petracca

Christian Petracca (Eastern Ranges)
Height: 186 cm
Weight: 92 kg
Position: Midfielder/forward
Player Comparison: Chad Wingard/Josh Kennedy (Sydney)
Strengths: Contested marking, goal kicking, contested ball winning
Areas of Improvement: Disposal efficiency
Suitable Teams: Melbourne, Brisbane, North Melbourne, Richmond

In my mind, anywhere past pick seven or eight and Christian Petracca Petracca becomes a steal.

Talent wise, Petracca is worthy of a top five pick, and on output, he’s number one. He’s a strong bodied forward-cum-midfielder, but to pigeon hole him as one or the other is to misjudge him.

After kicking over 40 goals as an underager – keep in mind Tom Boyd, Michael Apeness and Dan McStay all played in that forward line at times – Petracca hired a running coach and dropped six kilograms over the summer. His dedication and professionalism is at the upper echelon.

Now he is the vice-captain of the Ranges and a full-time midfielder. He can do it all. His body is strong enough to dominate on the inside and his skills are good enough to damage on the outside. Don’t worry about his disposal efficiency, as many of his kicks come from contested situations.

He reminds me of Chad Wingard as every disposal he has changes the game. He often records five or more inside 50s per game and they are usually lace out. He is the best contested mark for his height and he could easily beat most key defenders in the air.

He is an absolute game changer and has the most x-factor in this draft class. He can rack up the ball consistently too, so he is an unquestionable prospect this year. You only have to look at his work for Vic Metro, where he has been in the top two ball winners in every game he has played.

His two Metro games so far have yielded him impressive stats:

– vs. Western Australia: 27 disposals at 85%, two goals, one behind, seven marks, four tackles, seven clearances, nine contested possessions and four inside 50s.
– vs. Vic Country: 31 disposals at 65%, seven marks, three tackles, four clearances, 11 contested possessions and six inside 50s.

In 2012, Petracca averaged 19.4 disposals as a half forward, with 2.4 goals per game and only two goalless games. In six of his 17 games, he had three goals of more, including hauls of six and five. His Preliminary Final performance against the Falcons had him score over 200 Champion Data points, as his five goals, five behinds, 11 marks – an incredible nine of those contested – and 23 possessions showed that he is indeed the most impressive player in this year’s crop.

In 2012, he displayed his ball-winning skills even more, with an average of 23.8 disposals in five games as well as 1.6 goals per game. He’s also averaged 4.2 tackles, and although he’s only averaged 4.6 marks per game this year, he highest total was 11 marks, and two of those marks per game have been contested.

The only ‘downside’ is that he is not a key forward, but any side which drafts him gets a strong forward and elite midfielder with the one pick. There is no player who can produce the numbers that he can. He is a once in a generation type of guy.

The five gamebreakers you must keep an eye on

Christian-Petracca

There is one simple fact about the 2013 draft – you cannot deny the amount of dangerous players who were taken. Players with explosive skills who change the game instantly were almost common in last year’s draft class. Ben Lennon, Jay Kennedy-Harris and Mitch Honeychurch are the type that come to mind.

In 2014, the TAC Cup hosts some of the most exciting talent, and although 2014 is supposedly the ‘year of the talls’ (and it certainly is), there are many guys who play more explosive, eye catching roles. The top five soon-to-be fan favourites look like this:

Christian Petracca – Eastern Ranges
Petracca is without a doubt my personal favourite player to watch and has been for a year now. I believe he is the most talented player of 2014 and on output alone he is well ahead of the likely number one pick, Hugh Goddard. Simply, I would not hesistate to take Petracca with pick one if I was a recruiter and here’s why:

He is 185 cm and 96 kg, yet he runs all day and puts in the effort every second of the game. He plays like a third tall forward, yet he dominates as a key forward and has no trouble being the main man, or the second or third option. He takes stronger contested marks than just about anyone and he is undefendable. The only AFL player I can think of who could adequately match up on each of his characteristics is Luke Hodge. Petracca has built his engine up to play far more midfield time, and after seeing him in early January, he looks imposing physically, yet also fit.

The new AIS recruit has spent this summer training with the Hawks, and after winning the Premiership at Eastern last year, Petracca lives for and understands the requirements for success. Petracca’s 2013 season can be summed up with his Preliminary Final against the almost unbeatable Geelong Falcons – five goals, five behinds, 23 possessions, 78% disposal efficiency, 11 marks (nine of those were contested) and a whopping 206 Supercoach points.

If 41 goals in 17 games in a forward line that hosted Tom Boyd, Michael Apeness and occasionally Dan McStay isn’t convincing enough, then go watch the Ranges play.

Angus Brayshaw – Sandringham Dragons
The 184 cm AIS midfielder looks to be a step above most midfielders in terms of polish and awareness. It was hard to judge him last year as a broken arm restricted him to just five games, in which he averaged 19 possessions. However, if you take out one game where he got the ball just three times, he averaged over 23 possessions a game.

Yet James Brayshaw’s nephew can hang his hat on other things too. In a midfield that boasted Josh Kelly, Christian Salem, Zach Merrett and Tom Langdon, Brayshaw was restricted to playing off a back flank. He showed promise though, as he averaged seven tackles a game. His defensive work was matched by his offensive running, with an average of over six handball receives per game and a bit over four uncontested marks per game.

The most impressive part about Brayshaw though would be the things that do not show up on the stat sheet. His awareness and ability to evade tackles is impressive. He is slick in traffic and dangerous with the footy in hand as his decision making is second to none. His disposal efficiency needs work, but do not be fooled – Brayshaw is not a bad kick, but rather a risky, take the game on sort of kick. He will create wonderful scoring chances with his great vision, but his execution can occasionally be poor.

Liam Duggan – Western Jets
180 cm and almost your typical classy, rebounding half back. Yet Duggan is more than just a tidy left foot kick. He is a risk taker with his long kicks, yet in 2013 his disposal efficiency was at 67%. Not incredible by any stretch, but when you look at other players disposal efficiency in TAC Cup, it is really not too bad. He is not one for cheap stats either. His 17 disposal per game average does not justify his AIS status but it is the quality of possessions that do.

Duggan is very quick and evasive. He should move up onto the wing this year and create offensive opportunities. Coming equal third at the Jets with 40 rebound 50s sums up his game style. He’s got a fair bit of bulking left to be done and it will take quite some time before he becomes a definite star, but Duggan is no doubt the key to the Jets’ success.

Patrick McCartin – Geelong Falcons
McCartin is the epitome of exciting. His contested marking and brute strength is incredible. Honestly, while Goddard and Wright look like fantastic key forwards, McCartin’s highlight reel and potential just seems to be that much more exciting than the other two. In the National Championships, McCartin bore a striking resemblance to early 2000’s Jonathan Brown, where his courage and reading of the flight were phenomenal. His 28 marks across four games was impressive, but what’s more was his 12 contested marks, an astounding second in the carnival.

With Goddard set to move down back, McCartin should own the forward 50 and aim to kick 45 plus goals for the year. Obviously his other commitments are going to see him miss a bit of footy, but his 21 goals in eight games this year is promising. His five goal haul against Western Australia was important, but if we are to use one game to show why McCartin is a game breaker, look no further than his personal demolition of the Bendigo Pioneers: seven goals, two behinds, 20 disposals and 13 marks. Yeah, not bad.

Darcy Moore – Oakleigh Chargers
Son of Collingwood great Peter Moore and an almost certain father-son selection, the towering and athletic Darcy remains an enigma. He’s 196 cm and fairly solid with a highlight reel to captivate all draft watchers. But the Carey Grammar key forward / back has so much to prove. Moore has only played six games in total with the Chargers due to injury. In those games, he struggled to impact the game at all. His athleticism is what makes him a game breaker though. Capable of flying for extraordinary marks as well as being able to evade tackles like a much smaller player, Moore is the type of guy who will stun crowds, but he will need to show it consistently as there are plenty of other talls who are ahead of him so far on output.