Tag: Jack Graham

Team Building 101: From Tiger Turmoil to Tiger Time

REIGNING premier Richmond has historically been poor at team-building and drafting. From the mid-2000s until the mid-2010s, Richmond’s record of drafting players was horrific. Richmond supporters who are “twenty-something” or older, will remember the constant “trolling” by opposition supporters through this period.

The most infamous draft decision, being the selection of Richard Tambling at pick three, in front of the future Hall of Famer Lance Franklin. The forward from Western Australia, turned into the greatest athlete the game has seen, and was selected pick four by Hawthorn, one selection after the now-delisted Tambling. This however, was one of many errors that Richmond made at the time. They simply could not get anything right at the list management level. But now that has changed.

A NEW ERA OF DRAFTING

As soon as the cup is held aloft on the podium of the Grand Final, all other football departments immediately turn their attention to the winning clubs’ list. These football departments run the microscope over the winning clubs’ list to see what lessons they can learn, so that they can be on that stage as soon as possible. 

But this was Richmond. The club who are terrible at drafting! Or were they?

The fact is that Richmond’s football department absolutely nailed every draftee and trade over the past three seasons. Richmond had their fair share of first round draft selections, however this premiership was won on the back of being aggressive at the trade table and finding talent outside the first round of the draft. 

Here is a breakdown of Richmond’s premiership winning side, using the draft pick cost in selecting them or trading for them as the key.

FIRST ROUND PICKS.

Jack Riewoldt (Pick 13 – 2006), Trent Cotchin (Pick 2 – 2007), Alex Rance (Pick 18 – 2007), Dustin Martin (Pick 3 – 2009), Brandon Ellis (Pick 15 – 2011), Nick Vlasutin (Pick 9 – 2012), Daniel Rioli (Pick 15, 2015), Dion Prestia (2016 – Traded In for Pick 6).

Richmond drafted their “Big 4”, Riewoldt/Cotchin/Rance/Martin, across three drafts (2006, 2007 and 2009). The “Big 4” were undeniably crucial in the Premiership winning side. Dustin Martin, the Norm Smith Medallist and Brownlow Medallist in 2017 was selected at pick three, and the Demons who had picks one and two in the draft (Tom Scully and Jack Trengove) would be heartbroken as neither of their draftees are still at the club. Richmond’s ability to draft well in the first round in the past 10 years set up the spine for their Premiership, and for success in the years to come.

SECOND ROUND PICKS.

Shane Edwards (2006 – Pick 26), Kamdyn McIntosh (2012 – Pick 31), Josh Caddy (2016 – Traded In for Pick 20).

Only three of Richmond’s premiership players cost Richmond a second round draft pick. Shane Edwards, a 200-gamer and one of the games best handballers, has had a terrific career. A fan favourite and widely loved by his teammates, Edwards is one of the games most underrated footballers. He is a terrific decision maker, and although he is not a prolific ball winner, he is a beautiful kick of the ball. Caddy, a first round draft pick in 2007, was traded to Richmond after never finding his feet at Geelong. Caddy was traded in the same year his best mate, Dion Prestia was traded to the Tigers for their first round pick. 

DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH (Rounds 3 onwards or Rookie selections).

David Astbury (2009 – Pick 35), Dylan Grimes (2009 – Rookie Draft), Bachar Houli (2010 – Rookie Draft), Kane Lambert (2014 – Rookie Draft), Dan Butler (2014 – Pick 67), Nathan Broad (2015 – Pick 67), Jacob Townsend (2015 – Traded In for Pick 70), Toby Nankervis (2016 – Traded In for Pick 46), Jack Graham (2016 – Pick 53)

Nine of Richmond’s 22 premiership players cost the Tigers a third round draft pick or less. That’s an incredible 41 per cent of their Grand Final side. The players listed above were not just making up the numbers either. Astbury and Grimes form the pillars of Richmond’s defence that allow Rance to play off his opponent. Houli and Lambert both had huge final series, with the former unlucky not to win the Norm Smith Medal. Nankervis had an incredible year that placed him in the top five ruckman in the league, while Graham and Townsend had remarkable rises to stardom in a short period of time. Graham kicked three goals in the AFL Grand Final while Townsend kicked 11 goals in two weeks at the end of the Home and Away season before taking that form into the finals where he kicked another five goals over three matches. 

STRONG AND BOLD

Richmond’s list managers nailed the 2015 and 2016 drafts. They selected Broad in the fourth round, and traded their fifth pick to GWS for Townsend who had a remarkable end to the year. However, it was their bold moves in 2016  that was the difference between winning the Grand Final and being stuck in relative mediocrity. 

At the end of the season, Richmond had picks 6, 42, 60, 78 to work with. The media believed that Richmond were going backwards and that they needed to trade their star players out for more picks to start a rebuild. Deledio, Rance and Riewoldt all would apparently not be a part of Richmond’s next premiership, and that Richmond should trade them while they had value. Richmond had other ideas. They traded Deledio, whose body had been wrecked by injury, for future draft picks, and lost Restricted Free Agent (RFA) Tyrone Vickery, for which they received a pick at the end of the first round.

Richmond had in essence lost Deledio and Vickery and had gained Dion Prestia, Shai Bolton, Josh Caddy, Toby Nankervis and Jack Graham. Remarkably, four of those five were premiership players within 12 months time. 

MODEL OF SUCCESS

Richmond have proven that huge rebuilds are not required if you have elite top end talent. It is crucial however, that elite talent must be there. As good as Richmond’s drafting and trading was over the past two years, they knew they had four elite players under the age of 30, that they could build their team around. Other clubs at the conclusion of 2016 who had elite talent but poor depth, such as Essendon, Port Adelaide and Melbourne, have copied Richmond’s aggressive trading model and are primed for their shot at the premiership in the coming seasons.

Melbourne looked to free agency to solidify their defence poaching promising defender, Jake Lever, from the Crows. However, I worry that Melbourne’s elite talent isn’t quite at the level of other clubs. Melbourne do have a terrific young midfield and one of the games best young forwards in Jesse Hogan and will rely heavily on them performing if they are to contend this season. 

Essendon used their selections to bring in pace and a bit of “X-Factor” in Adam Saad, Devon Smith and Jake Stringer while holding onto their early draft selections. Essendon now are extremely damaging on the counter attack, and have a terrific mix of young talent and experienced leaders. Essendon’s forward line of Joe Daniher, Stringer and Smith will put opposition defences under pressure and set them up for a big season.

Port Adelaide rolled the dice, losing some of their experienced depth players to bring in three mercurial players in Steven Motlop, Tom Rockliff and Jack Watts. Port Adelaide’s best 22 on paper is terrific, but must remain healthy. Their depth is now poor, but as Richmond showed last year, that depth can stand up if there is competition for places and the chance at a premiership.

On the other hand, sides like Carlton are in a different phase of the premiership rebuild. They lost their best midfielder in Bryce Gibbs but went to the draft with three picks inside the top 30 to add to their current bank of young stars in Patrick Cripps and Charlie Curnow. Carlton are in the process of building that platform of elite blue-chip players like Richmond were in the late 2000’s. Although a “ten year plan” would sound like a nightmare for many Blues fans, Cripps has the potential to be as damaging as Dustin Martin, but not for another five years. As good as Cripps is, it takes a long time for players to reach their full potential. Carlton has a rich history of success and could be tempted to sell the farm prematurely to have a shot at the premiership. However, I think Carlton have learned valuable lessons from their mistakes over the last decade and are committed to a proper rebuild this time. Carlton fans should be excited but patient and trust the job that Stephen Silvagni is doing.  A premiership is surely worth it.

B:

5 Brandon Ellis

2011 – Round 1

Pick 15

18 Alex Rance

2007 – Round 1

Pick 18

2 Dylan Grimes

2009 – PRESEASON

Rookie Draftee

HB:

14 Bachar Houli

PRESEASON 

Rookie Draftee (Essendon)

12 David Astbury

2009 – Round 3

Pick 35

1 Nick Vlastuin

2012 – Round 1

Pick 9

C:

33 Kamdyn McIntosh

2012 – Round 2

Pick 31

9 Trent Cotchin

2007 – Round 1

Pick 2

21 Jacob Townsend

2015 – TRADE 

Pick 70

HF:

23 Kane Lambert

2014 – PRESEASON

Rookie Draftee

4 Dustin Martin

2009 – Round 1

Pick 3

22 Josh Caddy

2016 – TRADE

Pick 20

F:

40 Dan Butler

2014 – Round 4

Pick 67

8 Jack Riewoldt

2006 – Round 1

Pick 13

17 Daniel Rioli

2015 – Round 1

Pick 15

Foll:

25 Toby Nankervis

2016 – TRADE

Pick 46

3 Dion Prestia

2016 – TRADE

Pick 6

6 Shaun Grigg

2010 – TRADE

Andrew Collins 

Int:

10 Shane Edwards

2006 – Round 2

Pick 26

34 Jack Graham

2016 – Round 3

Pick 53

35 Nathan Broad

2015 – Round 5

Pick 67

 

46 Jason Castagna

2014 – PRESEASON

Rookie Draftee

 

Key:

GOLD – Round 1

GREY – Round 2

BLUE – Round 3,4,5 or PS

Young stars Rising up to AFL challenge

EVERY club is excited with the young talent in their team and with round one approaching we have taken a look at which players could step up and progress from the under 18s – or their first season in the AFL – and be the standout young talent at the elite level. From an already premiership player to a few top five five draft picks, there is no shortage of contenders for the 2018 AFL Rising Star Award and here are a few to look out for this year.

Jack Graham

The Richmond young gun was picked at number 53 in the 2016 AFL National Draft and has already had one year of experience in the AFL, remarkably winning a premiership with the Tigers which will help him to thrive and play to his absolute best in the Richmond midfield. He was a standout in the Grand Final, kicking three goals, while keeping Adelaide star Rory Sloane quiet. Graham is one of the favourites to take out the 2018 AFL Rising Star award, and it would be surprising not to see him at least poll some votes from the judges at the end of the season.

Paddy Dow

Carlton’s prized number three draft pick in last years draft, Paddy Dow from the Bendigo Pioneers is another one of the favourites tipped to win the 2018 AFL Rising Star Award. The young blue has the full package in he is a powerful, classy midfielder who can impact the scoreboard. He is a huge accumulator of the ball and knows how perform on the big stage. He showcased some of what he has to offer during both AFLX and the JLT Community Series. Dow’s long repertoire of skills will be on display, and is primed to play and be a young leader in a young up-and-coming side.

Jaidyn Stephenson

Collingwood have found themselves a player that has some X-factor with pick six in last year’s draft. The former Eastern Ranges enigma is a great runner who is both quick and has the tank to run out four quarters of footy . He was a playmaker during the TAC Cup in 2017, averaging 5.2 inside 50s and 3.9 clearances, and was a danger every time he went up forward, something Collingwood is hoping he can do in 2018. His X-factor trait is the explosiveness in Stephenson game style, which will likely see him up in the top 10 of the AFL Rising Star Award.

Oliver Florent

Oliver Florent was picked by Sydney Swans in the 2016 AFL National Draft with pick 11. After only playing a handful of games in 2017, Florent is still eligible to win the Rising Star in 2018. The former Dragon is a lively half-forward who can make something out of nothing. At the 2016 AFL Draft Combine he recorded the equal highest beep test (15.1)  Florent will fit in nicely to a regenerating Swans side, and add another dimension to an already star forward line with Buddy Franklin and Isaac Heeney. 

Luke Davies-Uniacke

North Melbourne’s Luke Davies-Uniacke from the Dandenong Stingrays, was picked with the fourth pick in the 2017 AFL National Draft. He is a classy player with all the characteristics of an contested ball winning and game breaking midfielder. Davies-Uniacke wins the ball similar to Sydney’s Josh Kennedy and models his marking on Luke Parker. North Melbourne’s Recruiting Officer Ben Birthisel, said Davies-Uniacke is “really good at accumulating the footy around the ground and his ability to consistently stand-up in big games has really made him stand-out amongst this year’s group. His elimination final against Eastern Ranges was super, and he’s another who’s gone forward and hit the scoreboard and is strong overhead.”  Look to see him in the top three in the Rising Star award.

Cam Rayner

Brisbane’s prized number one draft pick, Cam Rayner from the Western Jets, is another who will see plenty of game time in the 2017. His game style is compared to Richmond star Dustin Martin. Andrew Hamilton from the Courier Mail compares Rayner to ‘Dusty’ “because of his explosiveness and brutal fend-off.”  Rayner had the nickname “Hollywood” at his Junior football club, Hillside, because of his “goalkicking flair”.  So with his ability to impress, expect him at seasons end to be in the top three vote-getters of the AFL Rising Star Award.

Alex Witherden

Lions young gun Alex Witherden was selected by Brisbane with pick number 23 in the 2016 AFL National Draft. Witherden played nine of the final ten games for the season, only missing Round 21 because of injury. He was a standout in his first season in defence at the Lions, and especially in his debut match against the GWS Giants in Round 14 “where he collected 20 disposals, 12 kicks and seven marks.” In his impressive debut season, Witherden “averaged 23.6 disposals, 15.9 kicks and 5.3 marks” and therefore he was 17th “on the 2017 Rising Star Nomination tally.”  In 2018, he is tipped to finish in the top two of the AFL Rising Star award. If Witherden plays the whole season and continues with his great form in defence from 2017, he will take out the AFL Rising Star Award or at least in the top five because he will be playing against other very young talented superstars.

Andrew Brayshaw

Sandringham Dragons’ Andrew Brayshaw was taken by Fremantle with pick two in last year’s National Draft. Brayshaw’s is renowned for being “a hard worker, neat user of the ball and a superb decision maker.” His kicking is top notch and in the TAC Cup he averaged nearly seven tackles a game. Brayshaw is a versatile player who can have a significant impact whichever position he plays in, as he can not only play in the midfield, but can play as a half-back flanker and move forward when required. He had a great AFL National Draft Combine, where he showcased a rare mix of speed and elite endurance capping off an outstanding 2017 season. Look to see Brayshaw in the top five of the AFL Rising Star award, due to his versatility as a player and his incredible footy IQ .

Matt Balmer’s 2016 Final AFL Draft Power Rankings Part 1

EVERY month since May, Matt Balmer has ranked his players from the 2016 AFL Draft pool. With less than three weeks until the November 25 National AFL Draft, he counts down the players ranked 50-1 over the next two weeks. Today will be 50-26, before next Monday’s final rankings from 25-1.

Well what a year it has been. Looking back at May’s rankings, it’s amazing how things can change after Sam Petrevski-Seton was #1 all those months ago. We have had injuries such as Jy Simpkin and Alex Witherden breaking their legs in separate school game incidents, while names have jumped up with strong performances throughout the season and in finals.

Having seen just under 100 games throughout the season, it is always hard to come to a final order and I have ranked the players how I would if I was an AFL club going into the draft come November, ticking names off the list as they are called out.

#50 Zac Fisher
Inside Midfielder (Perth/Western Australia)
15/06/1998 | 175.2cm | 70.3kg

Bite sized inside midfielder who jumped onto the radar with a big performance against the Allies in the first television game of the National Under 18s Championships on Fox Footy. Fisher’s awareness is one of his strengths and it is highlighted in the final quarter of the Western Australia game against the Allies, where he pulls the kick from the half forward flank into the centre 45 metres out from goal. His run and carry work through the midfield is good and he using his quick hands to clear the ball from the stoppages which is a strength. Kicking efficiency needs work and it was below 50 per cent in the WAFL this season. He played senior football all season for Perth and is not worried by bigger bodied opponents. Probably starts up forward in an AFL environment, before playing through the midfield if he can add to his frame.

#49 Josh Begley
General Forward/Inside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
03/07/1998 | 185.5cm | 96.1kg

Josh Begley is one of the bolters of the draft who begun the year playing at Upper Ferntree Gully, before Eastern Ranges added him to their squad where he bagged six goals on debut against Tasmania. Coming off no preseason, Begley bagged 27 goals this season playing up forward. He did move into the midfield, where he used his strong frame to good success. His work in close at the stoppages is very good and is willing to tackle hard to win the ball back. Will need a few preseasons under his belt to work on his body shape, but fits in as a likely Christian Petracca type of player. Skinfolds have reduced dramatically in the last few months and looms as a likely second rounder.

#48 Harry Morrison
Outside Midfielder (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
12/11/1998 | 181.5cm | 77.6kg

It’s been a tough two-year block for Harry Morrison. Morrison suffered an ACL injury in 2014 that resulted in him missing the Under 16s carnival, before an injury to his back saw him miss the Under 18 carnival this season. His form throughout the season at the Murray Bushrangers has been solid, without starring in any particular games. He looks best suited to playing across half back or on a wing – thanks to his outstanding kick and his decision making. Morrison is composed with the ball in hand across half back, reading the play well before disposing of it well off his right boot. Morrison is not the quickest player out on the ground and it may be an area of focus if he can get a run at it without injuries.

#47 Corey Lyons
Inside Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
31/05/1998 | 180.5cm | 77.1kg

The brother of current Gold Coast Sun Jarryd could not have done much more to be drafted in 2016. He continued to give it his all, right up until the final game of the TAC Cup season after a steller finals series. Lyons is an inside midfielder who is not blessed with speed, but tackles hard and wins the clearances. A knock on him has been his kicking efficiency which has been 57 per cent in the TAC Cup. Chances were limited in the National Under 18 Championships in a strong Vic Metro side, but his best position will be on the inside at AFL level despite his small size. Has the running ability to play outside and across half forward.

#46 Brennan Cox
Key Position Defender/Forward (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)
13/08/1998 | 192.6cm | 91.6kg

All Australian Brennan Cox has had a strong season playing virtually in every position. Cox held down the fort for South Australia at full back in the National Under 18 Championships and often floated between forward and back, with some stints in the ruck for Woodville-West Torrens in the SANFL. He played both Reserves and Under 18s football in South Australia, where he showed off his good leap and marking up forward and his intercept marking and one-on-one work in defence. Despite his early season testing results, he at times can appear slow moving around the ground. Is one of the handful of best defenders in the draft pool.

#45 Callum Brown
Inside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
27/04/1998 | 177.0cm | 72.2kg

Callum Brown is the son of Collingwood great Gavin and begun the Under 18 championships with a big performance. His work in close is very good and he picks the ball up as well as anyone from ground level. After playing mostly as a small forward for the Ranges in 2015, Brown spent most of the season on the inside. Whilst his aggression and work rate is very good, he can let down with his kicking. He is a player that tends to kick short and does not have much hurt factor when he disposes of the ball. His kicking efficiency can also be affected at times when he goes to kick the ball on either side of his body. Expect a bid in the 30 plus region for Brown.

#44 Declan Watson
Key Position Defender (Aspley/Queensland)
17/09/1998 | 191.4cm | 82.8kg

Declan Watson is a strong one-on-one defender who does not lose too often to his opponent. Watson intercepts well in the back half and kicked the ball out of for Queensland in the Under 18 championships. Whilst he isn’t a big ball winner, his work stopping his opponent is very good. Watson will need some time to develop with a light frame, but all signs point to him being the first Brisbane Lions academy member being bidded on come November 25.

#43 Ryan Garthwaite
Key Position Defender (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
30/06/1998 | 192.0cm | 83.2kg

Ryan Garthwaite finished the year outstandingly well as the Murray Bushrangers’ best defender in their TAC Cup Grand Final loss to Sandringham Dragons. Garthwaite collected 24 disposals, nine marks and six rebound 50s in one of his best games of the season. Garthwaite is a strong lock down defender that is also mobile enough to play up the ground across half back. His intercept mark work is some of the best in the Under 18 system (averaged 6.5 marks in the TAC Cup) but injuries meant an underdone Under 18 carnival. His kicking action can appear strange with both hands dropping the ball onto his foot, but the ball does get to where it needs to go, more often than not.

#42 Jack Graham
Inside Midfielder (North Adelaide/South Australia)
25/02/1998 | 180.3cm | 81.1kg

South Australian inside midfielder Jack Graham won All-Australian honours and was the Larke Medalist for the best player in Division One in the National Under 18 Championships. Has had a few injuries that has meant he missed a few games across the season, including a quad injury which kept him out of finals for North Adelaide. Graham is a contested ball winning hard nut and is strongly built from the waist down. My only concern is, will his body shape be able to adapt for AFL level where he likely trims off a little to work on endurance? His ball winning ability on the inside is very good and should appeal to clubs with a late second round pick.

#41 Louis Cunningham
Outside Midfielder (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
24/02/1998 | 181.8cm | 76.6kg

Little known Oakleigh Charger Louis Cunningham impressed in 2016. Showing his dash across half back, Cunningham stood out not only for his bright orange boots, but his pinpoint left foot pass that could break the game open rebounding out of defence. His attacking flair impressed me on multiple occasions when he would have the ball sprinting out of the back half and kicking it long forward. Deserves a chance on an AFL list.

#40 Willem Drew
Inside Midfielder (North Ballarat Rebels/Vic Country)
01/10/1998 | 188.0cm | 79.3kg

Willem Drew is one of the best pure inside midfielders in the TAC Cup. Averaging 7.4 tackles and 6.9 clearances per game, Drew was a crucial cog in the North Ballarat Rebels midfield alongside Hugh McCluggage. Whilst his ball winning is great, he has not had inside form at National Under 18 Championships level or in the NAB U18 All-Stars game, making it hard to judge where he sits in the draft overall. Drew does have some areas of improvement, where he can just hack the ball out of a stoppage at times – this resulted in a kicking efficiency of 55.7 per cent in the TAC Cup. He is slow to accelerate and isn’t blessed with pace, meaning the clear a stoppage he often needs to handball to ball out to a teammate.

#39 Myles Poholke
Inside Midfielder/General Forward (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
10/07/1998 | 183.7cm | 81.9kg

Strong midfielder Myles Poholke has the ability to push forward and hit the scoreboard. Poholke had 18 disposals and two goals for Vic Country in their narrow loss to Vic Metro in the National Under 18s Championships. Whilst he is not a huge disposal winner, he played in a team that had one of the lowest disposal averages as a team week in week out. Poholke’s bursts can see him collect six disposals in as many minutes, before fading as he did at times throughout the year. His consistency does need work but his running ability and endurance has improved from what they were earlier in the season. His strength at the contest is very good and that can help him win one-on-one contests.

#38 Kobe Mutch
Balanced Midfielder (Bendigo Pioneers/NSW-ACT)
18/03/1998 | 186.1cm | 83.6kg

One of the best ball winners in the 2016 draft pool is Kobe Mutch, but just where does he play his best football? He has multiple traits that make him so attractive, but without being elite in one category. His work rate around the ground is very good and he spreads very well from the stoppages and looks to get involved. Mutch is a good clearance player when he plays through the centre of the ground and is able to link the ball up with teammates on the outside. An average kick can see Mutch lean back at times and float the ball when going forward, allowing for it to be intercepted by opposition. He is willing to kick the ball on either side of his body and is a smooth mover.

#37 Jack Maibaum
Key Position Defender (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
27/03/1998 | 191.9cm | 91.0kg

Key defender Jack Maibaum won All-Australian honours after a great National Under 18 Championships playing as Vic Metro’s number one tall. Maibaum has floated between forward and back at both Melbourne Gramamr (school) and Eastern Ranges (TAC Cup). Up forward he is mobile enough to lead further up the ground, whilst in defence he has played mainly a role shutting down the opposition best forward. Not a big disposal winner, but his efforts in one-on-one situations are very good and he gives his all week in week out. At 192cm, is he big enough to play as the number one key back?

#36 Josh Daicos
Outside Midfielder/Small Forward (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
26/11/1998 | 177.8cm | 72.2kg

Josh Daicos is the highest ranked Father/Son prospect in my rankings. The son of Peter has had a good year in the TAC Cup providing X-Factor when playing up forward. At times he has pushed through the midfield and played across half back, but looks most at home. Against the Northern Knights, Daicos played in defence for the first half before moving forward- providing deadly booting a couple of goals to get the Chargers over the line. Some of his moments up forward are eye catching and looks agile on the field, wearing bright boots as he has for most of the season. His footy brain is very good but he can fade in and fade out of matches very quickly. Expect a bid in the 30-45 range.

#35 Luke Ryan
General Defender (Coburg/VFL)
07/02/1996 | 185.7cm | 82.9kg

Luke Ryan is the best state league prospect across Australia and seems likely to be a first round pick. Upon watching him, he looks to be ‘skinny’, but up close and testing wise he sits at a touch under 83kg. The general defender rebounds the ball and isn’t afraid to intercept mark. He is very good athletically, but from the games I have seen him play- he does collect a lot of the ball uncontested due to dropping off his man. A shoulder injury saw his season end early but was still able to win the Fothergill-Round medal as the best Under 23 player in the VFL.

#34 Sam Walker
Medium Defender (Glenelg/South Australia)
16/03/1998 | 185.1cm | 79.2kg

I’m a big fan of rebounding defender Sam Walker. The South Australian has an exquisite left boot and hits targets at will when steaming from defence. Walker’s National Under 18 Championships saw him average 14 disposals and was named in the All Australian side. His disposal efficiency was elite from the carnival and continued his form back in the SANFL. Walker has pushed further up the ground at times, but looks most suited in defence with his great rebounding ability. Had the match up on Will Hayward in the SANFL U18 Grand Final in the wet and performed well.

#33 Isaac Cumming
Outside Midfielder (North Adelaide/NSW-ACT)
11/08/1998 | 184.2cm | 73.8kg

Someone mentioned to me back in June to keep an eye out on Isaac Cumming – and sure enough he was right. Cumming finished the year outstandingly well after a quiet performance in the under 18s carnival for both the Allies and NSW-ACT. Cumming provided a spark coming from defence in the NAB AFL U18 All Stars game on Grand Final Eve and was able to break the lines. Not a big disposal winner but uses the ball well and can be damaging across half back or on a wing.

#32 Jonty Scharenberg
Inside Midfielder (Glenelg/South Australia)
28/08/1998 | 183.2cm | 80.6kg

Jonty Scharenberg is the brother of Collingwood’s Matt, but is a completely different player. The Glenelg midfielder is an inside midfielder who is a good decision maker will ball in hand. His handballing to opponents out of a stoppage is outstanding and one of his best traits. Scharenberg collected 34 disposals in his only SANFL U18 apperance for the season in the Grand Final and was Glenelg’s best on the day. His clearance work in the Under 18 championships was very good, but kicking is a major knock on him with a kicking efficiency of 49 per cent in the carnival. Scharenberg doesn’t have a burst of speed either to get away from opponenents, often relying on his football IQ to dispose of the footy.

#31 Zach Sproule
Key Position Forward/Defender (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
15/05/1998 | 195.6cm | 88.5kg

GWS Academy member Zach Sproule has played multiple roles in 2016. He played up forward alongside Todd Marshall, kicking seven goals in the Under 18 championships for NSW-ACT. Sproule played a similar role for the Allies but played the second half of the season in defence for the Bushrangers, playing on opponents such as Josh Battle throughout the year. A strong mark, Sproule has the running capabilities to play furthur up the ground as a roaming half forward thanks to outstanding endurance. Is still lightly framed but his set shot kicking routine is very good. His mobility should appeal to clubs looks for a tall at either end with plenty of development left in them.

#30 Dylan Clarke
Inside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
06/09/1998 | 185.7cm | 83.4kg

Dylan Clarke is the younger brother of North Melbourne 2015 draftee Ryan. Clarke has had a stellar season for both Eastern Ranges and Vic Metro. The competitive midfielder is a hard nut at the ball and averaged just under eight tackles and seven clearances per TAC Cup game for the Ranges. Has a good endurance base which means he can play on the outside if required, but his strong build will allow him to transition into senior football rather quickly through the midfield. Clarke’s knocks have been hit kicking technique and it was under 50% in both the TAC Cup and the Under 18 championships for Vic Metro. Likely second round pick.

#29 Jordan Gallucci
Outside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
04/05/1998 | 180.0cm | 77.5kg

The athletic Jordan Gallucci has fluctuated around in my ratings all season. He showed plenty of promise in 2015 with many expecting him to have one of the better kicks in the draft pool. Unfortunately Gallucci could not find his feet as to where he best played his football, mixing between half back, midfield and periods up forward. For me I think he is best suited on the outside, rebounding across half back or on the wing. His kicking has struggled at times this year, at the 61 per cent (when combing TAC Cup & Under 18 championships). His athletic traits in speed and agility are outstanding, where he can burn opponents off running forward. Can win his own football in the midfield and his clearance work when on the inside has been strong.

#28 Patrick Kerr
Key Position Forward (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
31/07/1998 | 193.4cm | 93.2kg

The grandson of Carlton’s Laurie Kerr is one of the best key forwards in the 2016 draft. Kerr was at his best booting four final quarter goals to get Vic Metro over the line against South Australia in the Under 18 championships. Kerr has terrific hands overhead and marks well on the lead. When Kerr is on, he’s hard to stop and can really take the game away from opposing sides. Kerr is a strong leader and works hard on field & is a great character, speaking well to all those who have a chat with him. His speed over the first 5-10m is good which allows him to get distance between him and opposition. Kerr has worked hard on his agility, but it still was one of the worst at the National Combine. May appeal to the Blues at Pick 25 due to the family history.

#27 Jarrod Berry
Medium utility (North Ballarat Rebels/Vic Country)
05/02/1998 | 191.0cm | 81.8kg

A large majority have Berry in their top 10-15 names, but not for me. Berry has left me wanting more all season with each game I have seen him play. Multiple injuries did not give Berry an ability to be consistent across the season and play constant football. Berry has the best leadership abilities out of any player in this draft, his vocal work out on the ground is clear and it will hold him in good stead in the AFL. But where does he play his best football? He has the size to play inside midfielder, showed his good capabilities overhead up forward at stages late in the season as well as rebounding the ball out of defence. His kicking does need some work and for me I would be playing him in the attacking half of the ground. The utility will have plenty of suiters and should be a first round selection.

#26 Shai Bolton
Outside Midfielder (South Fremantle/Western Australia)
08/12/1998 | 174.7cm | 68.8kg

Excitement machine Shai Bolton has one of the best highlight packages in 2016. His fast side step is Cyril Rioli-like and he moves as well as anyone when getting around opponents. His speed is outstanding and is a hard match up when playing up forward. Bolton’s first half in the NAB AFL U18 All-Stars shows he has the capabilities to play up on a wing and his eye-catching moments make you take notice. What does need to be improved on is his kicking, which thanks to a high ball drop and style it can result in some bad kicks. Will need to work on his endurance in an AFL environment where he could well become a very damaging playing on the outside.

So that’s my players ranked 50-26, if you want to know more: Send me a Tweet @MattBalmer7 before my final 25-1 is released next Monday night.

Stars to shine bright at the National AFL Draft Combine

ben-jarman

FOR the draft crop of 2016, the National AFL Draft Combine is the first sign that their AFL dreams are a step closer to fruition. An invitation to the AFL Draft Combine means that at least five AFL clubs have expressed interest in the player. The AFL Draft Combine is a way for clubs to determine the players’ physical strengths as well as getting one-on-one time through combine interviews.

Draftees take on each other in a series of tests that challenge their speed, endurance, reflexes and skills to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Combine results are taken into account by clubs when deciding between players and whether they believe they can take the next step into the AFL. A total of 81 players have been invited to the 2016 AFL Draft Combine.

Matt Balmer takes a look at who might be the standouts in the testing which runs from Friday to Sunday.


Thursday:

Players will begin to arrive at Etihad Stadium before a welcome will be held for all 81 players in attendence. Not all players will be able to test due to injuries, but they will sit in on interviews and medicals with clubs early in the combine.

Thursday also sees heights and weight taken, along with all the body sizing and measurements such as skin folds and tricept sizes. My spies have told me Ollie Florent will be a likely winner for the biggest hands at the combine.

The media will also be in attendance on Thursday afternoon with Kevin Sheehan speaking alongside Jonty Scharenberg, Jy Simpkin and Sam Powell-Pepper.

Friday:

More medicals and interviews for players when they arrive for another day. Friday night from 7pm-9.30pm will be the hand balling, kicking and goal kicking tests.

The Matthew Lloyd clean hands/handpassing test measures how well a player collects the football and is able to dispose of it using a handball. There are three targets set up on both the left and right side at distances of 6m, 8m and 10m. An official will roll out or throw a ball at the player and instruct them where to handball the ball to. This is done six times and a score from 1-5 is allocated to each handball depending on how good it is.

Who could win? Hugh McCluggage‘s hands in stoppages are outstanding, whilst Andrew McGrath has the highest TAC Cup handball efficiency with 93 per cent of his handballs hitting the target.

The Brad Johnson goal kicking test will measure a players accuracy kicking for goal. Four kicking points are designated with players taking five kicks in total; two set shots (35m out in either pocket), two snaps (20m out, one left foot and one right foot) and one kick on the run (40m out directly in front). The player has 70 seconds to complete the test. A score is then worked out from the amount of goals and behinds a player kicks.

Who could win? Vic Country forward Josh Battle has a superb kick on him from short or long range distances in front of goal. Again, Hugh McCluggage has shown he can push forward and hit the scoreboard throughout 2016.

The Nathan Buckley kicking test measures players kicking efficiency over six kicks. Six targets (three on each side) are set out at distances of 20m, 30m and 40m. An official will call out a target at random to the kick, who will then to proceed to hit the target. Each kick is given a score from one to five, with five being a perfect kick.

Who could win? West Australian Josh Rotham is one of the best kicks in the draft pool, his teammate tall ruckman Tim English is another who uses the ball well. Harry Morrison, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Alex Villis and Harry Perryman are others that should perform well in this test.

Saturday:

The biggest day of the carnival will see sprints, agility, jumps and the beep test held on the purpose built floor on Etihad.

Sprints will be held in the morning , whilst the afternoon will conclude with the beep test.

Who could win in the sprints? Exciting WA midfielder Shai Bolton will test extremely well in both the 20m sprint and the agility test. Back in 2014, Bolton ran a sub 3s 20m sprint and under 8s for the agility test, considered elite.

Brandan Parfitt and Cedric Cox are among others who has shown off their speed at times this season while Jordan Gallucci should perform well in the agility test. Vic Country teammates Ben Ainsworth (8.00 seconds) and Jarrod Berry (7.80 seconds) were superb in TAC Cup preseason testing, while Stingrays defender Bailey Morrish was just behind Berry running 7.81 seconds. Queenslander Josh Williams showed a remarkable dash of speed in a division two National Under 18s Championships game earlier in the season.

Murray Bushrangers tall Esava Ratugolea is another who tested well in the past (2.92s) as has South Australian excitement machine Kym Lebois.

The vertical leap test is always an interesting test with vertical jump and running vertical jump (left and right foot) measured.

Who could win in the jumps? South Australian tall utility Brennan Cox was superb in the preseason testing in the SANFL, recording over 90cm off either foot in the running vertical jump. Ruckman Tim English, Esava Ratugolea and Tony Olango could test well above their counterparts, but it was Stingrays defender Bailey Morrish who beat all comers in the TAC Cup preseason testing with a vertical leap of 81cm.

The shuttle run/beep test or multistage fitness test depending on where you’re from is another that is closely watched by clubs. Most are looking for kids to push out one last level on the test, rather than take the easy option and drop out early. Sometimes the dedication and commitment from players can lead to them ‘spewing’ up their lunch- but an effect that some clubs might put down as a big tick in their notebook.

Who could win in the beep test? Tim Taranto will be an early front runner, having run a 15.9 in the preseason. His Sandringham Dragons team mate Ollie Florent is another who might perform well. If Jack Graham tests, he could be South Australia’s best.

Sunday:

The final day of the combine will see the 3km time trial run in groups of 10-15. The 3km time trial is one of the most strutinised tests, players pushing themselves to the limit deserve a pat on the back- while those that cruse through without little effect might come under the eyes of recruiters when they pour over all their data.

The 3km time trial has gotten faster every season, with the record being broken for three years running.

Who could win the 3km time trial? Possible number one draft pick Andrew McGrath should run well, but will his heavy work load over the last few months affect him? Again Tim Taranto will be another who could perform well.


Invites:

Small Defenders/Midfielders/Forwards

Ben Ainsworth- Vic Country
Liam Baker- Western Australia
Shai Bolton- Western Australia
Callum Brown- Vic Metro
Cedric Cox- Vic Country
Joshua Daicos- Vic Metro
Zac Fisher- Western Australia
Ben Jarman- South Australia
Kym Lebois- South Australia
Andrew McGrath- Vic Metro
Brandan Parfitt- Northern Territory
Tyson Stengle- South Australia

Medium Defenders 

Jarrod Berry- Vic Country
Isaac Cumming- NSW/ACT
Taylin Duman- Vic Metro
Ben Long- NT
Bailey Morrish- Vic Country
Harry Morrison- Vic Country
Harry Perryman- NSW/ACT
Sam Walker- South Australia
Tom Williamson- Vic Country
Alex Witherden- Vic Country
Alex Villis- South Australia

Tall Defenders

Brennan Cox- South Australia
Ryan Garthwaite- NSW/ACT
Elliot Himmelberg- Queensland
Griffin Logue- Western Australia
Harrison Macreadie- NSW/ACT
Jack Maibaum- Vic Metro
Sam McLarty- Vic Metro
Jordan Ridley- Vic Metro
Joshua Rotham- Western Australia
Jack Scrimshaw- Vic Metro
Declan Watson- Queensland

Medium Midfielders

Jacob Allison- Queensland
Joseph Atley- Vic Country
Hamish Brayshaw- Vic Metro
Will Brodie- Vic Country
Jack Bowes- Queensland
Dylan Clarke- Vic Metro
Willem Drew- Vic Country
Judah Dundon- Vic Metro
Jordan Gallucci- Vic Metro
Jack Graham- South Australia
Matt Guelfi- Western Australia
Oscar Junker- Vic Metro
Hugh McCluggage- Vic Country
Kobe Mutch- NSW/ACT
Sam Petrevski-Seton- Western Australia
Myles Poholke- Vic Country
Sam Powell-Pepper- Western Australia
Luke Ryan- VFL
Jonty Scharenberg- South Australia
Will Setterfield- NSW/ACT
Daniel Venables- Vic Metro
Josh Williams- Queensland

Medium Forwards

Joshua Begley- Vic Metro
Benjamin Davis- NSW/ACT
Sam Fisher- NSW/ACT
Oliver Florent- Vic Metro
Will Hayward- South Australia
Mitchell Hinge- South Australia
Patrick Lipinski- Vic Metro
Quinton Narkle- Western Australia
Mark O’Connor- International
Brad Scheer- Queensland
Jy Simpkin- Vic Country
Tim Taranto- Vic Metro
Cameron Zurhaar- Western Australia

Tall Forwards/Rucks

Josh Battle- Vic Country
Sean Darcy- Vic Country
Timothy English- Western Australia
Jack Henry- Vic Country
Patrick Kerr- Vic Metro
Max Lynch- NSW/ACT
Todd Marshall- NSW/ACT
Mitchell McCarthy- Vic Country
Tony Olango- NT
Esava Ratugolea- Vic Country
Zachary Sproule- NSW/ACT
Jake Waterman- Western Australia

By the states:

International (1):
NSW/ACT (11):
Northern Territory (3):
Queensland (6):
South Australia (10):
Vic Country (18):
VFL (1):
Vic Metro (19):
Western Australia (12):

All-Stars picked for AFL Draft Central mock match

Allies - Todd Marshall

EVERY year as the AFL season comes to a close, potential future stars names are raised as to which players can help put clubs on the path to a premiership. But where do these players fit in a 22?

Yesterday, the AFL announced that the very best Under 18s talent will play off against each other at Punt Rd End on Grand Final Eve.

The two teams will be picked by the AFL and will be named after AFL legends Chris Judd and Michael O’Loughlin.

TOP TEENAGE TALENT ON SHOW FOR AFL’S BIGGEST WEEKEND

AFL Draft Central’s Matt Balmer & Peter Williams have taken the role as selectors and picked their very own teams.

Note: Only Under 18 players were considered, meaning that no 19-year-olds or mature agers feature in the pairs squad of 25 players.

Players such as Jy Simpkin & Alex Witherden were also not considered due to injury.

Selection order:

Pick 1: Peter Williams (PW)
Todd Marshall
Key Position Forward (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
08/10/1998 | 198cm | 87kg

While I do not think Marshall will go pick one in the National AFL Draft, when starting from scratch you always pick a big man over a small man, and Marshall is the best big man in the draft. A key forward who leaps at the ball taking big marks and kicking clutch goals, he is the man you want standing at full-forward in a best 22 competition.

Pick 2: Matt Balmer (MB)
Hugh McCluggage
Balanced Midfielder (North Ballarat Rebels/Vic Country)
03/03/1998 | 185cm | 75kg

It’s hard to turn down arguably the best player in the draft pool with my first pick. McCluggage applies like Scott Pendlebury in traffic, making everything appear in slow motion. Also uses his quick hands or his right boot to clear the ball from contest ball situations. He’s a man I couldn’t turn down with my first pick and is right in the mix for pick one overall in the National AFL Draft.

Pick 3: MB
Jack Bowes
Balanced Midfielder (Cairns/Queensland)
26/01/1998 | 187cm | 78kg

Jack Bowes is only narrowly behind McCluggage in my view as the best player in the draft pool. A silky smooth midfielder by trade, he moves well through traffic and doesn’t waste too many of his disposals. Also hitting the scoreboard recently for Gold Coast in the NEAFL.

Pick 4: PW
Andrew McGrath
Small Defender/Inside Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
02/06/1998 | 179cm | 75kg

I pride my team on two things: speed and footskills and Andrew McGrath has both. A talented midfielder who has primarily played as a half-back rebounding defender, McGrath is an excitement machine who just makes things happen. While he is sub-180cm, he makes up for it with his disposal and ability to burn opponents.

Pick 5; PW
Harry Perryman
Outside Midfielder (Collingullie-GP/NSW-ACT)
19/12/1998 | 184cm | 75kg

If foot skills are a premium, Perryman is a player that delivers in spades. Not a huge ball winner compared to other top 10 picks, Perryman rarely wastes a disposal and just glides around, making the right decisions more often than not.

Pick 6: MB
Jack Scrimshaw
General Defender (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
04/09/1998 | 193cm | 80kg

A hybrid defender who will fit in well across the half back flank. Nice long left boot and has the ability to push further up the ground on the wing. His disposal efficiency is great and makes good decisions, so far he appears to be over his injury issues which plagued him earlier in the season.

Pick 7: MB
Patrick Kerr
Key Position Forward (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
31/07/1998 | 194cm | 93kg

In my eyes, the second best key forward behind Todd Marshall. I’m a big fan of Kerr and when he’s on, he’s hard to stop. Kerr speaks extremely well and he’ll be leading the forward line for my side. His strong overhead mark and speed over 10 metres makes him hard to stop one-on-one.

Pick 8: PW
Will Brodie
Inside Midfielder (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
23/08/1998 | 189cm | 82kg

To pick up Will Brodie at pick eight is daylight robbery. Brodie is in contention for the number one pick and is the clear standout inside midfielder. At 189cm and 82kg, he is ready made to play round one if needed. An absolute bull, he is a steal here and is very welcome to be the leader in the midfield.

Pick 9: PW
Harrison Macreadie
Key Position Defender (Henty/NSW-ACT)
11/04/1998 | 196cm | 89kg

Harrison Macreadie has had a quieter back-half of the year and certainly in the National Championships, but he is all class. At 196cm, he is athletic, a strong mark and versatile around the ground. He could play on a wing if required, but he will line-up for my team at centre half-back making it a “delicious” half-back line filled with precise kickers.

Pick 10: MB
Sam Petrevski-Seton
Balanced Midfielder (Claremont/Western Australia)
19/02/1998 | 181cm | 76kg

Touted as a possible number one draft pick earlier in the season, I’m extremely pleased to pick Petrevski-Seton here. He’s comfortable to turn on either sides of his body to dispose of the ball and has a touch of x-factor about him. Ball winning numbers have been strong since returning to the WAFL.

Pick 11: MB
Tim Taranto
Inside Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
28/01/1998 | 186cm | 82kg

The second St Kevin’s College lad in my side. Taranto hasn’t put a foot wrong in the last two months and continues to improve as the year goes on. He’s very good in traffic, aided from a basketball background and can hit the scoreboard when needed. A great overhead mark also helps him win one-on-one and he’s one player that I’m happy is in my side.

Pick 12: PW
Griffin Logue
Key Position Defender (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
13/04/1998 | 193cm | 92kg

There are not too many prime key defenders in this draft, and I have snared the top two. Logue is smaller than Macreadie, but good one-on-one and is more of that intercept mark, lockdown KPD rather than the creative Macreadie type. In saying that, he impressed at the National Championships and could be moulded into a number of different defensive roles at AFL level.

Pick 13: PW
Josh Battle
Key Position Forward (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
01/09/1998 | 192cm | 90kg

There’s no secret I’m a Josh Battle fan and he just adds a point of difference to any forward line. While he will not become a number one forward at AFL level, he is strong overhead, a super high footy IQ and a reliable set shot. In my opinion the second best tall forward behind Marshall, handing my team the two best KPF and two best KPD.

Pick 14: MB
Ben Ainsworth
Small Forward (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
10/02/1998 | 179cm | 74kg

Every side needs a crafty small forward and that’s exactly what Ben Ainsworth can be. A great overhead mark for his size and can change the game in a blink of an eye. Also has the ability to push into the midfield, but will prove his most valuable inside 50 where he’s a tough match up for any opponent.

Pick 15: MB
Josh Rotham
Medium Defender (West Perth/Western Australia)
25/02/1998 | 192cm | 79kg

Having missed out on arguably the two best tall defenders (Logue & Macreadie) we’ll take Josh Rotham in the back pocket. Rotham can play both tall and small, but looks most at home rebounding the ball out of defence. Did play as a tall in defence against VFL sides earlier in the year but will fit in well in defence.

Pick 16: PW
Alex Villis
Outside Midfielder (Norwood/South Australia)
20/08/1998 | 182cm | 70kg

Footskills and speed. I’ve said it earlier and I’ll say it again. Villis has both and is the best South Australian in the draft crop. With most of the other South Australian midfielders working on the inside, Villis finds space and chops teams up when going forward. Fantastic user of the ball and will be deadly on my wing.

Pick 17: PW
Will Setterfield
Inside Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/NSW-ACT)
05/02/1998 | 190cm | 79kg

With so many talented inside midfielders in this draft, I deliberately left my second inside mid until now. Having committed daylight robbery with Brodie at pick eight, Setterfield is a very good pick up at 17. A big lad, Setterfield will win the hard ball and is a solid user of the footy too.

Pick 18: MB
Zachary Sproule
Key Position Forward (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
12/05/1998 | 197cm | 84kg

Happy to partner Pat Kerr with Zach Sproule inside 50. Sproule plays in the Nick Riewoldt mould getting up the ground on long leads and will test his opposite number as to whether they can go the distance around the ground. A large chunk of his marks are up the ground, but has enough tricks inside 50 to hit the scoreboard when he hasn’t worked up the ground.

Pick 19: MB
Brad Scheer
Inside Midfielder (Palm Beach/Queensland)
31/08/1998 | 184cm | 83kg

Strong hardnosed inside midfielder will slot into a midfield well that already boasts names such as McCluggage and Bowes. Scheer is a good clearance winner and shoud be able to help the ball move forward. His numbers of late in the NEAFL have been outstanding.

Pick 20: PW
Oliver Florent
Balanced Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
22/07/1998 | 183cm | 74kg

Arguably the last of the top 25 outside midfielders, Florent is another classy ball user who can win his own ball too. A medium midfielder, Florent does not win a ton of the ball like his teammates, but uses it well and makes the right decisions by hand or foot.

Pick 21: PW
Jordan Gallucci
Medium Defender (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
04/05/1998 | 183cm | 75kg

Jordan Gallucci was probably my favourite player coming into this year to watch, but he has been below his standards albeit for a game or two. I’m tipping he will bounce back for the finals and hopefully find his deadly kicking game again, something that has unfortunately disappeared in his top-age year. A back pocket for my side.

Pick 22: MB
Sam Walker
Medium Defender (Glenelg/South Australia)
16/03/1998 | 187cm | 80kg

Rebounding defender who will join Scrimshaw as the second left footer off half back for my team. A good ball user, Walker hits targets at will. Could be the game where he really pushes his name up rankings.

Pick 23: MB
Jack Maibaum
Key Position Defender (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
27/03/1998 | 193cm | 90kg

All-Australian defender slots in at Centre Half Back for my side. A true shut down defender who was a strong performer for Vic Metro in the Under 18 Championships. Solid in one-on-one contests and one that probably hasn’t got enough credits for his season.

Pick 24: PW
Daniel Venables
General Forward/Inside Midfielder (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
19/11/1998 | 186cm | 81kg

Daniel Venables is a tough inside midfielder who spends more time forward than most others in this crop. He hits the scoreboard consistently and is strong overhead. Had a few niggling injuries earlier in the year, but will rotate through the midfield in my team.

Pick 25: PW
Kobe Mutch
Balanced Midfielder (Bendigo Pioneers/NSW-ACT)
18/03/1998 | 184cm | 79kg

Kobe Mutch is a huge ball winner who has tasted a fair bit of NEAFL action lately and therefore missed out on games in the TAC Cup. A midfielder who can play inside or out, he will work well with the other midfielders on my team, primarily playing an inside role, shoveling it out to the silky outside players.

Pick 26: MB
Declan Watson
Key Position Defender (Aspley/Queensland)
17/09/1998 | 194cm | 80kg

Two Key Defenders in two picks. I’m looking for Watson to match up on Todd Marshall. A good kick for a player his size and was entrusted with the kick out duties for Queensland in the Division Two championships earlier in the season. My highest rated Brisbane Lions academy member, one to watch.

Pick 27: MB
Jonty Scharenberg
Inside Midfielder (Glenelg/South Australia)
28/08/1998 | 186cm | 80kg

Elite clearance player and an elite tackler according to Champion Data statistics. His clean hands is a real strength at the stoppages and can clear the ball well through those means. Not blessed with elite pace but will find the ball at Under 18 level.

Pick 28: PW
Jacob Allison
Utility (Aspley/Queensland)
16/04/1998 | 194cm | 79kg

It is hard to believe this bloke is a midfielder. At 194cm, he is taller than two of my key position players, but Jacob Allison is the new prototype midfielder. A big bodied mid who primarily plays outside similar to Marcus Bontempelli. Once he develops an inside game further he will be a beast.

Pick 29: PW
Jarrod Berry
Medium Defender (North Ballarat Rebels/Vic Country)
05/02/1998 | 191cm | 80kg

We are getting to the stage of the draft where it comes down to preferences and I do not mind Jarrod Berry. He could tighten up his foot skills a little, but he has strong leadership, good in the air and pretty mobile, there is plenty to work with in the 191cm medium defender. Can also play midfield or forward too which helps.

Pick 30: MB
Shai Bolton
Outside Midfielder (South Fremantle/Western Australia)
08/12/1998 | 177cm | 67kg

If you’re looking for some spark in your side, Shai Bolton is your man. Elite speed and agility means he can get around his opponents at will. Needs to work on his consistency, but he can flash in a game and change it with a snap of the fingers.

Pick 31: MB
Ryan Garthwaite
Key Position Defender (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
30/06/1998 | 192cm | 84kg

Another tall we’ve managed to slot into the backline. A few injuries have kept him sidelined at stages this year but his work one-on-one has been very good. Fits in as a back pocket, but might be best suited to play on the last line of defence.

Pick 32: PW
Sam Fowler
Small Forward (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
02/11/1998 | 169cm | 66kg

As the only prospect in the draft that is smaller than me (quite a feat), it is hard not to pick him. A genuine crumber nicknamed “the Rat”, Fowler has been winning plenty of ball lately and developing his game further. Do not be put off by his height, he is a talented prospect.

Pick 33: PW
Josh Daicos
Small Forward (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
26/11/1998 | 178cm | 69kg

While this pick is a little high to take Daicos, with the midfield filled and defence looking good, we are now drafting for holes required and Daicos fits the bill as a small forward. Classy and knows where the goals are, the son of the Macedonian Marvel has plenty of improvement for when he arrives at the Holden Centre.

Pick 34: MB
Max Lynch
Ruckman (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
12/09/1998 | 200cm | 96kg

The first ruckman taken and it’s NSW/ACT tall Max Lynch. I wasn’t a huge fan earlier in the season, but the ‘raw’ Lynch looks better with each game I see him. Lynch grew up playing soccer as a goalkeeper, but has slotted into the ruck for the Bushrangers throughout most of the season.

Pick 35: MB
Myles Poholke
General Forward/Inside Midfielder (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
10/07/1998 | 184cm | 84kg

Was very happy to nab Poholke here. A strong body around the contest who certainly knows where the goals are. Continues to play well for the Stingrays and someone I’d expect to grab 20 disposals and kick two goals in my side.

Pick 36: PW
Sean Darcy
Ruckman (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
12/06/1998 | 201cm | 113kg

Who needs to move when you have others that do it for you? That is my motto with this pick as quite simply I had to pick the best ruck available. A monster at 113kg, Darcy will smash any other player his age in the hitouts, but given his frame it is no surprise mobility is his biggest deficiency. A strong contested grab and solid kick for a big bloke, he is the best ruck available at this pick.

Pick 37: PW
Reece Piper
Small Defender (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
30/12/1998 | 177cm | 75kg

I have only seen Reece a few times, but like his style and is a unique pick for my first bench place. I enjoy versatility in my team and he would relieve Jordan Gallucci or Andy McGrath, enabling them to play forward of the ball or through the middle. Has a few tricks for a smaller player and you can rely on him kicking out of the defensive 50.

Pick 38: MB
Lachlan Murphy
Small Defender/Inside Midfielder (Northern Knights/Vic Country)
04/12/1998 | 173cm | 74kg

One of the few selected for our “All Stars” match who didn’t score a national combine invite. Alas- I’ve been a big fan of Murphy’s work in the last month and a bit, whether it be at school or TAC Cup level. A nice left foot, who makes the ball spin perfectly off his boot each time he kicks it. Despite his size, he has rolled through the inside midfield- But looks best at home across half back. Begins on the bench, but can play anywhere.

Lachlan Murphy representing the Northern Knights in 2016. (Photo by Rob Prezioso/AFL Media)
Lachlan Murphy representing the Northern Knights in 2016. (Photo by Rob Prezioso/AFL Media)

Pick 39: MB
Jack Graham
Inside Midfielder (North Adelaide/South Australia)
25/02/1998 | 183cm | 83kg

The Larke Medalist for the best player in the Under 18 champs, finds a spot in my team. You could question why he isn’t in the starting 22, but his kicking needs some work to avoid bombing it out of a contest. Graham is one of multiple inside midfielders in the draft and should rotate on the ball in our match.

Pick 40: PW
Josh Williams
Outside Midfielder (Surfers Paradise/Queensland)
12/06/1998 | 189cm | 69kg

Skill and speed. Always circling back to those two factors and Williams has both. While he might not be put in the same boat as McGrath or Perryman, he is lightning quick and disposes of the ball cleanly. A future Gold Coast midfielder with a top surname.

Pick 41: PW
Dylan Clarke
Inside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
06/09/1998 | 187cm | 85kg

Brother of Ryan, Dylan Clarke is another bull who just attacks contests fearlessly. We have enough elite kicks of the footy, and Clarke will help us get it out to them. Buries himself under packs and will be an asset coming off the bench.

Pick 42: MB
Zac Fisher
Inside Midfielder (Perth/Western Australia)
15/06/1998 | 175cm | 61kg

Inside midfielder who had a huge game against the Allies (In the video below). Performing well since the champs over in Western Australia, using his left boot well. If he had an extra 5-10cms, you could make a real case that he’d be talked about much more than he is currently.

Pick 43: MB
Peter Ladhams
Ruckman (Norwood/South Australia)
14/01/1998 | 202cm | 95kg

Could he be the second ‘two metre Peter’ in the AFL? Ladhams work is solid and his ability to find the football around the ground gives him the nod over other suitors. Should complement Max Lynch well.

Pick 44: PW
Callum Brown
Inside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
27/04/1998 | 177cm | 69kg

Nuggety little midfielder who has developed his game massively since moving into the midfield from the forward pocket. Not the cleanest of skills, but you cannot fault his effort or intensity and when forward 50 tackles are ever so important, Brown provides them and four quarter intensity.

Pick 45: PW
Harry Morrison
Medium Defender (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
12/11/1998 | 182cm | 73kg

Harry Morrison is the forgotten man. After missing the bulk of the season through injury, he is likely to pick up and be a factor in the finals series for the Murray Bushrangers. A strong grab and rebounding defender, Morrison can play on a wing, adding to his versatility.

Harry Morrison in action for the Murray Bushrangers in the 2015 TAC Cup Finals. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/AFL Media/Getty Images).
Harry Morrison in action for the Murray Bushrangers in the 2015 TAC Cup Finals. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/AFL Media/Getty Images).

Pick 46: MB
Jordan Ridley
Tall Utility (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
20/10/1998 | 192cm | 79kg

A tall utility who has caught my eye last year playing forward for Oakleigh. This season he’s more filled in wherever the Chargers have required him and I think he could become a really good swingman. Usually a reliable kick on his right foot, he isn’t afraid to get up the ground further when needed.

Pick 47: MB
Esava Ratugolea
Key Position Forward (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
24/07/1998 | 194cm | 95kg

Exciting tall Ratugolea jumped into consideration after an eight-goal haul against Bendigo. Ratugolea will be off to the National Combine and it will be intriguing to see how he tests. Will play as a third tall forward and may pinch hit in the ruck when needed for my side.

ESAVA’S EIGHT PROMPTS VIC COUNTRY CALL

Pick 48: PW
Luke Bunker
Inside Midfielder (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
12/06/1998 | 185cm | 78kg

Another inside midfielder of good size who is often underrated in this draft crop. Will work well with Clarke, Brodie and Setterfield through the midfield and is another versatile player to round out the team.

Pick 49: PW
Joshua Begley
Medium Forward/Inside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
03/07/1998 | 187cm | 87kg

Every team needs a bit of X-factor and the unknown and this kid certainly is that. From kicking bags to racking up the ball in the middle, Begley has gone from strength to strength this year. A very good size at 187cm and 87kg, and will take the last spot on my team.

Josh Begley in action for the Ranges v Knights. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Media).
Josh Begley in action for the Ranges v Knights. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Media).

Pick 50: MB
Brandan Parfitt
Inside Midfielder (Nightcliff/Northern Territory)
27/04/1998 | 179cm | 78kg

With the final pick in the draft, I’ll take Brandan Parfitt. He’s been reasonably quiet this year, but I thought he begun the season well against VFL opposition for the AFL Academy. Can play multiple roles which makes him appealing for the final player on the list of 25.

Full teams:

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.50.02 PM

Last word: I am really pleased with my team as I feel I have the two best key position defenders, two best key position forwards, and a tantalising half-back line. With foot skills and speed a premium in my team, we would be able to move it at a frantic pace, get it forward and if our strong contested marking forwards don’t snare it, our crumbers will. A good mix of versatile players, many of whom will forge solid AFL careers.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.50.15 PM

Last word: I’m really pleased with the quality midfielders we’ve been able to score. I feel we’ve got enough depth with talls at both ends and two quality ruck combinations. A few left footed defenders coming out of defence might see us play a game plan similar to Hawthorn has in the past- Hopefully that is a sign of sure success for my side.


It should be noted too that there are many quality players not selected. For teams to remain balanced, we wanted to ensure that our sides were realistic and we weren’t left with 15 inside midfielders each. With a large contingent of inside midfielders in the 2016 draft pool, some unfortunately missed out on gaining selection.

Let us know you’re thoughts on who would win on Twitter, @AFLDraftCentral

80 players invited to the 2016 AFL Draft Combine

Oliver Florent- scored one of 19 Vic Metro national combine invites.
Oliver Florent- scored one of 19 Vic Metro national combine invites.

FOR the draft crop of 2016, the AFL Draft Combine is the first sign that their AFL dreams are a step closer to fruition. An invitation to the AFL Draft Combine means that at least five AFL clubs have expressed interest in the player. The AFL Draft Combine is a way for clubs to determine the players’ physical strengths as well as getting one-on-one time through combine interviews.

Draftees take on each other in a series of tests that challenge their speed, endurance, reflexes and skills to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Combine results are taken into account by clubs when deciding between players and whether they believe they can take the next step into the AFL. A total of 80 players have been invited to the 2016 AFL Draft Combine.

Vic Metro lead the other Under 18 sides with 19 players selected to take part in October’s National Combine.

Metro went through the Division One carnival as the only side to go undefeated, winning their first title since 2012.

Their rivals Vic Country themselves weren’t far behind with 18 nominations despite a winless carnival, down on their 22 nominations from 2015.

Coburg’s Luke Ryan is the sole representative from the state leagues across Australia, with strong performances at VFL level averaging 21 disposals, seven marks and seven rebound 50s (to Round 15 of the VFL).

Father Son prospects Ben Jarman (Adelaide/Hawthorn), Callum Brown (Collingwood), Joshua Daicos (Collingwood) and Jake Waterman (West Coast) have all made the list and have caught recruiters eyes throughout the season.

Murray Bushranger tall Esava Ratugolea has made the cut and will be a name to keep an eye on throughout the Bushrangers final series.

ESAVA’S EIGHT PROMPTS VIC COUNTRY CALL

Vic Country injured trio Alex Witherden, Jy Simpkin and Mitchell McCarthy have made the cut and will be hoping to take part in some form of testing at the combine.

North Ballarat Rebels excitement machine Cedric Cox has been nominated and will be one to keep an eye on in the second half of the season. Cox is the cousin of possible top five draft selection Sam Petrevski-Seton, while his older brother Daniel is currently on the Fox 8 TV Show ‘The Recruit.’

Eastern Ranges forward Joshua Begley continues to rise in season 2016. After missing the original cut for the Ranges squad, 187cm Begley forced his way into the side and has kicked 23 goals in 11 games this season.

NSW-ACT led the way for the division two teams with 11 player picked, with only Todd Marshall and Benjamin Davis not eligible for academy selection. Queensland have six players nominated, while Northern Territory have three prospects nominated. Tasmania had no players nominated for the national combine.

Coburg’s Luke Ryan is the sole representative from the state leagues.

Clubs will now again nominate players for the state combine, which is for players that have at least two but up to four clubs that are interested in them. Similar tests are conducted at the state combine.

The National Combine will begin on Thursday, October 6 and go through to Sunday, October 9 and will again be held at Etihad Stadium.

Invites:

NSW/ACT (11):
Isaac Cumming
Benjamin Davis
Sam Fisher
Ryan Garthwaite
Max Lynch
Harrison Macreadie
Todd Marshall
Kobe Mutch
Harry Perryman
Will Setterfield
Zachary Sproule

Northern Territory (3):
Ben Long
Tony Olango
Brandan Parfitt

Queensland (6):
Jacob Allison
Jack Bowes
Elliot Himmelberg
Brad Scheer
Declan Watson
Josh Williams

South Australia (10):
Brennan Cox
Jack Graham
Will Hayward
Mitchell Hinge
Ben Jarman
Kym Lebois
Jonty Scharenberg
Tyson Stengle
Alex Villis
Sam Walker

Vic Country (18):
Ben Ainsworth
Joseph Atley
Josh Battle
Jarrod Berry
Will Brodie
Cedric Cox
Sean Darcy
Willem Drew
Jack Henry
Bailey Morrish
Harry Morrison
Hugh McCluggage
Mitchell McCarthy
Myles Poholke
Esava Ratugolea
Jy Simpkin
Tom Williamson
Alex Witherden

VFL (1):
Luke Ryan

Vic Metro (19):
Joshua Begley
Hamish Brayshaw
Callum Brown
Dylan Clarke
Joshua Daicos
Taylin Duman
Judah Dundon
Oliver Florent
Jordan Gallucci
Oscar Junker
Patrick Kerr
Patrick Lipinski
Andrew McGrath
Jack Maibaum
Sam McLarty
Jordan Ridley
Jack Scrimshaw
Tim Taranto
Daniel Venables

Western Australia (12):
Liam Baker
Shai Bolton
Timothy English
Zac Fisher
Matt Guelfi
Griffin Logue
Quinton Narkle
Sam Petrevski-Seton
Sam Powell-Pepper
Joshua Rotham
Jake Waterman
Cameron Zurhaar

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt Balmer’s July Power Rankings

 

AINSWORTH

In an AFL Draft Central feature, AFL Draft analyst Matt Balmer will update his Power Rankings on the first Monday of every month.

The National Under 18s Championships concluded on Wednesday with many players putting their hand up for selection in late November. Some have improved their draft stocks, while others have slid down the order with average carnivals.

You can read Matt Balmer‘s June edition of his Power Rankings here:


This list is purely how Matt rates the players at this current point of time and is not a mock draft. 

#1 Jack Bowes
Balanced Midfielder (Cairns/Queensland)
26/01/1998 | 187cm | 78kg
Previous Ranking: #1

Despite a quiet division one carnival, Jack Bowes remains as my number one player on my rankings. A stellar division two carnival for Queensland saw him average 25 disposals, win the Queensland Most Valuable Player (MVP) and the Hunter Harrison Medal for the best player in Division two. The step up in standard saw that number reduce, but he got better in each game. Bowes’ big workload saw him rested for the final clash against Vic Country, but against eventual winners Vic Metro he finished with 20 disposals and seven inside 50s. Bowes was also named in the Under 18 All Australian team. The Gold Coast Suns academy member is smooth around the contest and doesn’t waste too many of his disposals. I’d be very surprised if the bid on draft night isn’t in the Top five.

#2 Hugh McCluggage
Balanced Midfielder (North Ballarat Rebels/Vic Country)
03/03/1998 | 185cm | 75kg
Previous Ranking: #3

Hugh McCluggage was the biggest challenger to Bowes for the number one spot and if it was not for a quiet performance in the final round, I dare say he would be number one. Looking at his size, you would first think he is an outside midfielder, but his work on the inside has been one of his strengths throughout the championships. He averaged 20 disposals with 43 per cent of them contested. McCluggage also pushed forward booting seven goals (including two bags of three). In traffic, McCluggage is similar to Scott Pendlebury able to make everything appear in slow motion, where he makes good decisions by hand or foot to clear the ball from the pack. McCluggage was also the Vic Country MVP in division one and won All Australian honours.

#3 Will Brodie
Inside Midfielder (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
23/08/1998 | 189cm | 82kg
Previous ranking: #5

At this stage, in my view he’s the only other contender for the number one pick. Brodie should step into an AFL environment very quickly and I cannot see him having any issues stepping up at AFL level. His clearance work is superb on the inside and he hunts the ball back to try and win it. His good work at the stoppages allows him to find plenty of the football and was one of Vic Country’s best against Vic Metro in round two. Throughout the championships, Brodie averaged 21 disposals (10 contested) and five clearances throughout the championships. At stages Brodie can hack the ball out of a stoppage but his kicking was strong throughout the carnival.

#4 Harry Perryman
Outside Midfielder (Collingullie-GP/NSW-ACT)
19/12/1998 | 184cm | 75kg
Previous ranking: #6

Ever since the trial match in April I have been a big fan of Perryman. Perryman was one of the few from the Allies who performed well in both the division one and two carnivals. By numbers, Perryman averaged 20 disposals in division two and 16 disposals (55 per cent contested) in division one. Perryman does not have the speed of some of the other draftees, but reads the play well and makes good decisions. Perryman looked at his best across half back for the Allies, using his good kick on both feet to move the ball forward. As a member of the GWS academy, don’t expect GWS to overlook Perryman.

#5 Sam Petrevski-Seton
Balanced Midfielder (Claremont/Western Australia)
19/02/1998 | 181cm | 76kg
Previous Ranking: #2

The West Australian midfielder missed the opening two games of the Under 18 Championships before returning with a 19 disposal effort against the Allies. His output that day however was disappointing, going at under 50 per cent efficiency. Despite collecting 18 disposals in the final match, the agile midfielder still looked underdone with his speed and skills being down on what I expected. Petrevski-Seton does have the ability to kick on both feet which can help going forward, but he is not a huge disposal winner and needs to make his disposals count.

#6 Todd Marshall
Key Position Forward (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
08/10/1998 | 198cm | 87kg
Previous ranking: 9

There is plenty to like about Todd Marshall and I think he will be one of the few key position players in the top 10. The NSW/ACT forward is in the open draft after earlier being tied to the GWS Academy. Marshall took some eye catching marks throughout the carnival with his best match coming against Western Australia where Marshall had four contested marks and two goals. Marshall finished with seven goals in both the division one and two carnivals. With a few clubs crying out for a tall target inside 50, Marshall is one clubs will keep an eye on. Marshall does need to work on his set shot goal kicking, where he takes a late side step before his kicks with can cause him to hook the ball in front of goal.

 

#7 Andrew McGrath
Outside Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
02/06/1998 | 179cm | 74kg
Previous ranking: #11

Last month I posed whether McGrath could be the first Vic Metro player picked on draft night and at this stage it looks very likely. The athletic running half-back was Metro’s MVP for the carnival averaging 24 disposals and taking the most running bounces for the carnival. McGrath also had a disposal efficiency of 81 per cent and gained 284 metres on average in the carnival. McGrath was pivotal in Vic Metro’s win over Vic Country with daring moves from the backline late in the quarter. He was not just all attacking; he also moved onto Country’s dangerous small forward Ben Ainsworth and kept him to two handballs late in the contest. McGrath also has the ability to win his own ball on the inside, with 23 disposals (12 contested) and six clearances against the Allies. He also had a huge 44 disposals, 19 tackles and 14 clearances against Gippsland Power in the TAC Cup in May. Expect McGrath to find a home in the top 10 come November.

 

#8 Harrison Macreadie
Tall utility (Henty/NSW-ACT)
11/04/1998 | 196cm | 89kg
Previous Ranking: #4

The GWS academy member was one of the most disappointing players in the championships. However, Macreadie showed signs he was slowly coming back to what many saw in 2015, in the Allies’ final three games. Macreadie rebounds well out of defence and is one of the few defenders that can play tall and small. His best game came against Western Australia, where he had 15 disposals and four marks. By foot, Macreadie is solid and a real strength of his is his overhead marking. Some might have Macreadie outside the Top 10-15, but I think he showed in glimpses what he is capable and I still expect a bid to come for him within the first round.

#9 Josh Battle
Key Position Forward (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
01/09/1998 | 192cm | 90kg
Previous ranking: #7

Josh Battle had two moments of brilliance in the Under 18 championships for Vic Country. Battle bookended the championships well, with four goals in six minutes in the opening game and a four goal haul in final game against the Allies. At 192cm, he is not going to be the number one forward at AFL level but his football IQ and endurance base gives him the ability to roam further up the ground. Battle also showed a good burst of speed with a quick chase down off half forward gaining a holding the ball against the Allies. The one thing that Battle does very well is his set shot routine, Battle will kick the ball hard whether he’s 20m or 50m out and continues to show great promise inside 50. His marking too has been solid overhead and the leading goal kicker of the championships won All Australian honours.

#10 Ben Ainsworth
Small Forward (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
10/02/1998 | 179cm | 74kg
Previous ranking: #13

I find it hard to rank Ainsworth, on ability wise he could just be one of the best with his four goal haul in the third term against Vic Metro showing how damaging he can be. However, the season has seen Ainsworth miss games through injury and suspension earlier in the season. Ainsworth’s overhead marking is a strength, but I was disappointed in his final two games where I saw him miss multiple marks that he was normally capable of marking. The positive was to see him spend more midfield time against South Australia collecting 20 disposals and I’m hoping he does that more in his return to TAC Cup football this weekend against Sandringham. If McGrath once again gets the match up on him, it will be interesting to see if he has learnt from their last match up together.

#11 Jack Scrimshaw
Medium Defender (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
04/09/1998 | 193cm, 77kg
Previous ranking: 25

A great carnival from Jack Scrimshaw sees him jump into the first round of the rankings. Playing across half back for Vic Metro, Scrimshaw averaged 16 disposals and provided plenty of rebound with his good left boot. His efficiency for the carnival didn’t drop below 80 per cent and was an important figure for the title winners. Scrimshaw has the capabilities of playing tall as a key position defender or on the outside across half back or on the wing. Personally, I think the hybrid defender is best suited to play off half back where he can use his good left boot and football smarts to good use. The key for Scrimshaw over the next few months is staying fit, which is a must if he is to go first round and possibly push into the top 10 on draft night.

#12 Josh Rotham
Medium Defender (West Perth/Western Australia)
25/02/1998 | 192cm | 79kg
Previous ranking: #16

Rotham’s last two games confirmed to me that he’s one of the better defenders in the draft pool. Despite spending the AFL Academy games at full back against VFL opposition, for Western Australia in the championships he was able to push more up the ground and collect more of the ball. Similar to Jack Scrimshaw, he is another who I think plays better rebounding the ball. His numbers in the final two games were great with 15 disposals in each, playing well in the backline. Rotham is one to watch and I wouldn’t be surprised if he continues to rise over the next few months.

#13 Brad Scheer
Inside Midfielder (Palm Beach/Queensland)
31/08/1998 | 184cm | 83kg
Previous ranking: #12

Brad Scheer continues to get the job done and was one of the more consistent players for the Allies. Scheer works hard in the contested situations and his numbers in division two were superb. For Queensland, he averaged 24 disposals, seven clearances and seven tackles per game. Throughout division one he was solid, finishing with 21 disposals (14 contested), six tackles and a match winning goal against Vic Country. Scheer snapped from deep in the pocket to give the Allies the victory by two points (Video can be found here). At this stage, I think Scheer ends up a late first if not early second round bid as one of the few inside midfielders early in my rankings.

#14 Tim English
Ruckman (South Fremantle/Western Australia)
10/08/1997 | 203cm | 86kg
Previous ranking: N/A

SEN 1116 Inside Football draft analyst Brett Anderson went early on Tim English putting him into the spotlight in his Big Board in May. Since then, English has well and truly stamped his name as the first ruckman picked come November and could be the first picked in the first round since Brodie Grundy in 2012. At 203cm, English has a great leap giving him the advantage at the ruck contests. English did not have huge hitout numbers on the account of Western Australia using him in combination with Jeremy Goddard. What English does well is his kicking. Despite his height, English has one of the best kicks I have seen for a player over 195cm and uses it well to hit up teammates ahead. English’s kicking is better than many of the midfielders in the draft pool and you could make a case that English has the ability to play in more positions than just ruck. If not for registration issues last season (Read more here), English would likely already be on a clubs list this season and there will be plenty of interest for English when he returns to South Fremantle level in the WAFL.

#15 Will Setterfield
Inside Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/NSW-ACT)
05/02/1998 | 190cm | 79kg
Previous ranking: #8

There was plenty of promise after a solid NSW/ACT carnival for Will Setterfield. However, Setterfield didn’t reach great heights in division one and has such slipped down my rankings. Carrying a foot niggle through school football in June, before looking a touch off the pace in his games for the Allies saw him rested from the final match at Geelong. Setterfield averaged just the 12 disposals and will be looking to get a good run at the second half of the year battling injuries throughout the season. Setterfield should play an important role on the inside for Sandringham Dragons in their pursuit of a TAC Cup flag.

#16 Tim Taranto
Inside Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
28/01/1998 | 186cm | 82kg
Previous ranking: N/A

There isn’t much more the All Australian forward Tim Taranto could have done in June. A superb carnival saw him average 19 disposals and kick four goals. A basketballer background helps him move in traffic and has plenty of smarts inside 50. Taranto’s best position is across half forward where he can impact the contest and hit the scoreboard. Taranto also had the most score involvements for the carnival with 38 and is one that could rise into the top 10 with a good TAC Cup finals series.

#17 Jy Simpkin
Small Forward (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
05/03/1998 | 182cm | 72kg
Previous ranking: #17

Smart small forward Jy Simpkin booted seven goals in six games in the 2015 Under 18 Championships. He also booted the match winner against Vic Metro goaling after the siren down at Simonds Stadium. Unfortunately for Simpkin, he suffered a nasty broken leg in the opening round of school football for Scotch College and will miss the season. A secondary surgery was required a few weeks ago due to infection. Simpkin showed enough signs in 2015 to get him drafted where he played predominantly as a small forward. In his only TAC Cup game for the year, Simpkin had 18 disposals and four goals.

#18 Daniel Venables
Inside Midfielder (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
19/11/1998 | 185cm | 76kg
Previous ranking: #26

Aggressive midfielder Daniel Venables was a crucial figure in Vic Metro’s opening two wins with crucial passages in the final quarters. Venables is powerful at the contested and bashes through packs in an attempt to get the ball forward. He had a carnival that yielded an average of 13 disposals, six tackles and booted six goals in four games. Venables also made the All Australian team setting him up for a big second half of the season. Venables singlehandedly got the Western Jets over the line from the goal square nursing a knee injury in the opening TAC Cup round kicking three goals. The knee injury has hampered him during the early stages of the season but he looks in full swing and should be a key figure for the Western Jets in the last few rounds as they attempt to grab a spot in the TAC Cup finals.

#19 Alex Villis
Outside Midfielder (Norwood/South Australia)
20/08/1998 | 182cm | 70kg
Previous ranking: N/A

Alex Villis is my highest ranked South Australian and was awarded All Australian honours. Villis played off half back and the wing averaging 15 disposals. His decision making is superb and has a good kick off both feet where you wouldn’t be able to tell which is his preferred. Villis has even slotted in to Norwood’s senior team in the SANFL and held his own. Villis is definitely one to keep an eye on as we move into the second half of the year.

#20 Kobe Mutch
Balanced Midfielder (Bendigo Pioneers/NSW-ACT)
18/03/1998 | 184cm | 75kg
Previous ranking: #14

Kobe Mutch was very much so an outside midfielder in 2015 but has transitioned more inside this season. Mutch kicks well on both feet and his numbers at TAC Cup level averaging 36 disposals and seven marks are excellent. Mutch was also very close to winning NSW/ACT MVP in the division two carnival and was also superb for the Allies averaging 22 disposals. I’m not sure however where the GWS academy member fits in and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants overlook Mutch as I cannot see him breaking into their stellar Best 22. I am looking forward to seeing if Mutch can continue his dominance at TAC Cup level for the Pioneers and finish the season off well.

#21 Patrick Kerr
Key Position Forward (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
31/07/1998 | 194cm | 93kg
Previous ranking: N/A

I have been a big fan of Patrick Kerr’s since his great form in the second half of 2015. Kerr kicked 12 goals last year in the TAC Cup and showed plenty of promise. Kerr has been kicking bags for St Kevin’s at school football and earned All Australian honours at U18 level. Knocks on Kerr coming into the season were his athleticism and agility inside 50 but Kerr looks to have rectified these knocks over the last few months, collecting the ball better at ground level and showing he is not just a straight line runner. Kerr kicked 4.4 and 3.3 in two of the championships games and there is no doubt he could of kicked more if he’d brought his kicking boots with all the shots convertible. Kerr marks strongly on the lead and he can get space between him and his opponent. If Kerr can continue his good foundations from the championships there is no reason he cannot put himself into first round contention.

#22 Zachary Sproule
Key Position Forward (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
12/05/1998 | 197cm | 87kg
Previous ranking: #21

Zach Sproule is one of the better movers out of the key forward group. Sproule has a really good endurance base and it allows him to move further up the ground. Sproule played as a lead-up centre half forward for both NSW/ACT and the Allies. Sproule is agile inside 50 and has enough pace to get a solid distance between himself and opponents. Sproule kicked seven goals in the division two championships and six in the division one carnival. His marking was good for the Allies, averaging three per game with most of them coming further up the ground.

#23 Jonty Scharenberg
Inside Midfielder (Glenelg/South Australia)
28/08/1998 | 185cm | 78kg
Previous ranking: #18

A solid carnival from inside midfielder Jonty Scharenberg. Scharenberg averaged 24 disposals (10 contested) and five clearances in the carnival and was named on the interchange bench in the All Australian side. Scharenberg uses his clean hands around the stoppages to free the ball by lifting his arms around the tackle and getting them free to dish the ball out to a teammate. Champion Data rank Scharenberg as an elite clearance and tackling midfielder as well as an above average disposal and contested possession player. Scharenberg does not have a great deal of speed but does make good decision by hands. Scharenberg is also the brother of current Collingwood defender Matthew.

#24 Griffin Logue
Key Position Defender (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
13/04/1998 | 188cm | 83kg
Previous ranking: N/A

Another new addition my rankings is West Australian Griffin Logue. Logue jumped onto the scene with a superb championships playing as a key position defender. Logue has a rowing background from his school and has a strong upper body winning a large chunk of one-on-ones. He kicks on his left foot and was one of the few who was stiff to miss the All-Australian team. Logue also pushed through the ruck in the final match for Western Australia and was impressive throughout June.

#25 Jack Graham
Inside Midfielder (North Adelaide/South Australia)
25/02/1998 | 183cm | 83kg
Previous ranking: N/A

South Australian captain Jack Graham had an exceptional carnival averaging 25 (11 contested) disposals and five clearances. The inside midfielder won All Australian honours as well as the Larke Medal for the best player in the division one championships. The hard at it midfielder was too strong for his opposition and his body as already developed. Graham’s disposal by foot is shaky, where he can often just hack it out of a pack without looking for a target. At stages he will also tuck it under his arm and run 10-15m before shanking the kick ahead. Graham is not the most agile of footballers but you cannot fault much of his clearance work on the inside.

#26 Dylan Clarke
Inside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
06/09/1998 | 187cm | 85kg
Previous ranking: #24

You cannot question Dylan Clarke’s ball winning capacity. At TAC Cup level, he is averaging 28 disposals and four tackles per match while for Vic Metro he averaged 24 disposals (13 contested) earning him All Australian honours. What you can question is his kicking skills. Clarke’s kicking in the championships was poor and is the one skill that will likely see Clarke drop down the draft order. Clarke does have a good endurance base to play on the outside but is predominantly an inside midfielder with his good clearance work. Clarke needs to clean up his kicking a lot more to ensure he finds his way up the order. Clarke is also the brother of 2015 North Melbourne recruit Ryan.

#27 Jordan Gallucci
Medium Defender (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
04/05/1998 | 182cm | 73kg
Previous ranking: #20

An okay carnival for Jordan Gallucci. Gallucci played in multiple positions through the midfield but looked his best across half back in the final match against Western Australia. In the final match, Gallucci had 15 disposals transitioning the ball out of the defence. Coming into the championships I thought his kicking was a strength, but it was disappointing to see his carnival kicking well below average. Gallucci is explosive and does have good pace to out run his opponent. Vic Metro’s co-captain also won All Australian honours, averaging 15 disposals and 422 metres gained (ranked second) in the carnival.

#28 Sam Powell-Pepper
Inside Midfielder (East Perth/Western Australia)
08/01/1998 | 188cm | 83kg
Previous ranking: #10

The biggest drop from my rankings is powerful midfielder Sam Powell-Pepper. Powell-Pepper is good around the clearances and tackles hard but his decision making and kicking is poor. At stages, he often just hacked it forward not looking for a teammate and he is probably going to be another who slides due to their poor kicking. Powell-Pepper had his best game in the opening round with 15 disposals and three goals against Vic Country. He did play across half-back last season for WA, but I see him as a half forward who will push into the midfield at stages but needs to clean up his kicking efficiency to play further up the ground.

#29 Declan Watson
Key Position Defender (Aspley/Queensland)
17/09/1998 | 194cm | 80kg
Previous ranking: N/A

At this stage, I have Declan Watson as my highest ranked Brisbane Lions academy member. The Key Position Defender kicks well for a tall and there were plenty of positives from both division one and two. Watson slotted in to the NEAFL team a fortnight ago and will likely see more NEAFL action in the next few months. Throughout the championships Watson averaged 15 disposals and won multiple one-on-one contests. Another positive of Watson is that he is a good ball user from defensive 50, kicking well on his right boot. In the division two carnival, Queensland often had Watson kicking out from full back.

#30 Jacob Allison
Outside Midfielder (Aspley/Queensland)
16/04/1998 | 194cm | 79kg
Previous ranking: #15

A below par last two months sees Allison go from #6 to #30. I had hoped at his height he would move inside, but it doesn’t seem likely to be his role. Allison looked to play his best role as a leading half forward and can then used his long kick to bring the ball deep inside 50. His numbers were okay, but the bottom age All-Australian looked a touch off the pace and thus has moved down the rankings. Like Watson, he is another that will likely see some NEAFL action over the next few months.


 

Plenty of changes from the championships and so many more I would have liked to sneak in. Remember to check out our YouTube account for vision on the draftees. Here are five names to keep an eye on until next time.

Luke Bunker– Inside Midfielder (Vic Metro)

Matt Guelfi– Inside Midfielder (Western Australia)

Sam Walker– Medium Defender (South Australia)

Jack Maibaum– Key Position Defender (Vic Metro)

Reece Piper– Small Defender (Vic Country)

As always, if you have any questions or want to know more, send me a tweet @MattBalmer7.

Father sons dazzle in Round four of the Under 18 championships

sa

South Australia and Vic Metro took the points in cold conditions at Etihad Stadium.

Despite the roof being closed, the temperature struggled to reach double figures with crowd members decked out in beanies and gloves across the stands.

Ben Jarman played his best game of the Under 18 championships with three first half goals in an important effort forward of centre for South Australia.

The son of Adelaide & Hawthorn premiership star Darren stands at 175cm and did his draft chances no harm, where he will likely find himself on either clubs list at the end of the season. Jarman is viewed by many as a late national pick and his saved his best until the final game.

Small forward Tyson Stengle was a spark for SA inside 50 kicking a goal early, but was shut down exceptionally well from Country bottom-ager Tyrone Hayes after half time

South Australia seemed too quick for the Country boys and often found themselves with players out the back of the play. SA midfielders Jack Graham (25 disposals, nine clearances and seven tackles) and Jonty Scharenberg (25 disposals, six clearances) worked in tandem throughout the afternoon.

Alex Villis was well shut down off the wing but still showed why he could push to be the first South Australian picked, kicking well on both sides of his body and booting a goal.

For Country, inside midfielder Will Brodie was quiet despite 18 disposals and a team high four clearances while Esava Ratugolea, a late call up to the Country team crashed a few packs and missed two kickable chances inside 50.

Hugh McCluggage was the home states best, with 17 disposals and three goals- continuing the sea-saw between Brodie and himself for the first Victorian picked on draft night.

Ben Ainsworth pushed up the ground with more midfield time, collecting 20 disposals but often blazed away shooting for goal rather than passing off to a team mate.

In defence, Oscar Clavarino continued to show that he is a name to keep an eye on for next season, positioning himself well against taller opponents. Reece Piper burst well from defence and hit multiple targets with his strong boot.

Despite kicking the last six goals, Vic Country couldn’t collect their first win and will go into Wednesday wanting a win against the Allies to ensure they don’t have a winless carnival. South Australia finish with a 3-1 record in the championship and mathematically have a chance of remaining on top should Western Australia win over Vic Metro by a narrow margin.

VIC COUNTRY                      2.0    3.5    4.10   9.11 (65)
SOUTH AUSTRALIA          6.0    9.4    11.8   11.10 (76)                                 

GOALS
VIC COUNTRY: McCluggage 3, Ainsworth, Battle, Atley, Fowler, Battle, Worpel
SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Jarman 3, Coleman-Jones, Pitman, Stengle, Ladhams, Villis, Hayward, Scharenberg, Lebois

Matt Balmer’s BEST
VIC COUNTRY: McCluggage, Worpel, Ainsworth, Piper, Atley, Brodie
SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Graham, Scharenberg, Pitman, Villis, Jarman, Stengle


'The Larkey Army' (Photo: Josh Mannix)
‘The Larkey Army’ (Photo: Josh Mannix)

Game two went up a tempo where both Collingwood father sons Callum Brown and Josh Daicos had their good individual moments.

The duo both kicked a major in the final quarter, ensuring that Metro would continue their unbeaten run.

Neither prospect is expected to cost anything other than a second or third round pick at this stage and will likely find themselves in black and white in 2017.

Bottom-age ruckman Sam Hayes played his best game for Metro, proving damaging when he pushed forward and kicked two opening quarter goals. Hayes finished with three goals from 13 disposals and will be a name to keep an eye on for Eastern Ranges in the second half of the season.

With Metro resting Sandringham Dragons defender Jack Scrimshaw, Oakleigh Charger Jordan Ridley came in for his first game of the championship, finishing with 18 disposals and seven marks as one of their best.

Melbourne Grammar midfielder Dylan Clarke continued to find the football, with 26 disposals and five clearances. Clarke has strong ball winning capabilities and if he can sharpen up his kicking he could slot into the first round on draft night in November.

Brighton Grammar school captain and Vic Metro co-captain Andrew McGrath had a hard task, being closely followed by Allies’ Charlie Spargo. The Allies kept McGrath deep inside 50, not allowing for him to use his run and dash out of defence. However, a move into the centre after half time saw him show another string to his bow, finishing the day with 24 disposals and six clearances.

Corey Lyons had 20 disposals but will be ruing his chance missing a simple set shot from 40m out, after a ‘anti-congestion’ infringement cost the Allies.

Luke Bunker had 23 disposals and continues to find the football throughout the Under 18 championships and could be a smokey for the All Australian team.

For the Allies, Jack Bowes had his best game of the division one carnival with 20 disposals and seven inside 50s and two quiet games shouldn’t push him down too far on draft boards.

Harry Perryman (18 disposals) continues to improve each week and you could make a case as it stands currently that he’ll be the first GWS Academy prospect picked.

Other academy members Kobe Mutch (GWS) and Jacob Allison (Brisbane Lions) were solid for the Allies in an improved effort from the combined team.

The Allies hit the front midway through the third quarter but a burst of four goals for Vic Metro all but ensured they would remain as favourites to take out the title when the championships come to a close on Wednesday.

Vic Metro will be proclaimed winners of the Division One title if they beat Western Australia on Wednesday at Simonds Stadium, while the Allies will be looking for their first win of the carnival against Vic Country.

VIC METRO      5.1    5.6    6.9    10.14 (74)
ALLIES                  0.5    4.7    6.10   8.12  (60)                 

GOALS
VIC METRO: Hayes 3, Kerr 2, Venables, Lyons, Higgins, Daicos, Brown
ALLIES: Sproule 2, Brown, Hampton, Allison, Rolls, Perryman, Marshall 

Matt Balmer’s BEST
VIC METRO: Clarke, Ridley, McGrath, Hayes, Bunker, Lyons
ALLIES: Perryman, Bowes, Allison, Mutch, Spargo, Scheer

Under 18 Championships – Round 4 preview

Vic Metro #24 Tim Taranto v Vic Country. (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Media).
Vic Metro #24 Tim Taranto v Vic Country. (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Media).

The Under 18 championships descend on Melbourne today with a big double header at Etihad Stadium.

Game one kicks off between Vic Country and South Australia at 12.35pm. Vic Country have had a disappointing carnival so far without a win, whilst South Australia have had their only loss against Vic Metro last Sunday. Western Australia have the bye and will finish their carnival against Vic Metro on Wednesday.

South Australia will come to Melbourne breathing fire, knowing that a win will keep them in with a mathematical chance of winning the Under 18 championships.

The home team have been disappointing and won’t give take the game lightly, in front of what looms to be a big crowd with free entry and school holidays.

Midfielders Hugh McCluggage and Will Brodie have stood out for Vic Country so far in the championship. The pair have averaged 24 disposals between them and were both important figures in Country’s loss to Metro in the opening round.

Player focus: Will Brodie & Hugh McCluggage Round 2 

Another player to watch out for is Dandenong Stingray Myles Poholke. A member of the AFL Academy has been promising in the championships playing off half forward, kicking four goals for the carnival.

Up forward Country have struggled to hit the scoreboard and have called up Murray Bushranger Esava Ratugolea, the 194cm key position forward booted eight goals against Bendigo Pioneers on Sunday.

Read more about Esava Ratugolea

Bottom-ager Oscar Clavarino has been good for Country and will likely have the match up on South Australian forward Darcy Fogarty. Fogarty has showed plenty of promise in the first three rounds with seven goals to his name.

For South Australia, rebounding defender/wingman Alex Villis has been impresive making good decisions and kicking well on both feet. Villis has averaged 16 disposals and is slowly beginning to work his way up the draft boards.

SA skipper Jack Graham has used his size well in the centre and will go head-to-head with Brodie. Brodie has a superior height advantage but Graham has a bigger body and this will be the contest of the round. Graham has had big numbers in the championships, including a 34 disposal effort against the Allies and will need to be watched closely by Country.

South Australia go into the match as favourites, needing to boost their percentage in the hope of a Vic Metro loss. Vic Country themselves won’t want to go into the final clash without a win and if their star studded midfield can fire they have the capabilities of an upset.

Matt Balmer’s tip: South Australia by 22 points.


In the second game, all eyes will be on Vic Metro to see if they can move to top spot on the Under 18 ladder. The Allies have been disappointing so far this season, as they struggle to ‘gel’ together.

Vic Metro co-captain Andrew McGrath has starred and is the early favourite for the Larke Medal as it stands today. Oakleigh Charger Patrick Kerr came in for his first game against SA, kicking 4.4- including four goals in 10 minutes to give Vic Metro momentum in a tight finish against South Australia.

Jack Scrimshaw continues to use his effective left foot well and has shown some good signs off half back- which has been a pivotal position for Vic Metro to propel the ball forward out of their defensive 50.

On the inside, Dylan Clarke has shone as one of Metro’s best with 31 contest possessions for the carnival.

186cm half forward Tim Taranto has also been impressive and will be looking to hit the scoreboard at Etihad Stadium if Vic Metro are to continue their strong run of form.

Disappointing is the one word that best describes the Allies. On paper you could make a case that they are the best team, but they’ve been underwhelming in the two games previously.

After a dominant Division Two carnival, Gold Coast Suns academy member Jack Bowes has been quiet and will be looking to stamp his authority and finish with two solid games for the Allies.

The Allies have rotated all their squad through the championships and will hopefully find the right combination in Victoria.

Vic Metro’s Patrick Kerr was strong last week and one of the NSW/ACT defenders Harrison Macreadie or Ryan Garthwaite will likely have the crucial match up.

Against Western Australia last Saturday, Harry Perryman was strong with 12 disposals off half back and will be one of the few names to watch.

Matt Balmer’s tip: Vic Metro by 33 points

AFL Draft Central will be live from Etihad Stadium bringing you all the access in Round four of the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships.