ROUND four provided many young prospects with the opportunity to build on their starts. Many have been backed in by their respective clubs and look likely to feature in most games throughout the year. This week we looked at the best performing players draftees and which of your players you should keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
Stephenson starred for the Pies in their upset victory over the Crows in a performance which resulted in the round four Rising Star nomination. In wet and windy conditions, last year’s fifth overall pick kicked a game-high five goals, collected, 13 disposals at 92 per cent efficiency and took four marks, helping the Magpies to a seemingly unlikely victory. Stephenson has featured in all four rounds in his debut season, showcasing his blistering speed and strong aerial ability. He will continue to add plenty of excitement to the Collingwood side.
Despite the hefty loss to the reigning premiers, last year’s number one draft pick produced the best performance of his young career so far. Spending the majority of the game across half-forward Rayner collected 22 touches (12 contested possessions), took four marks (including three contested), laid three tackles, launched the ball inside 50 on six occasions and kicked a goal in his first game on the MCG for premiership points. After showing glimpses of his undoubted potential in the first three games, this was Rayner’s most complete performance to date.
Fremantle’s Mitch Crowden has made an immediate impact at AFL level, having made his debut in round two after heading west as a rookie selection. The South Australian’s ball-winning ability and toughness was on show throughout the National Under 18 Championships last year, and the inside midfielder has been able to display these traits early in his AFL career. In the loss to GWS, he amassed 15 disposals, five marks, seven tackles and had 22 pressure acts playing across half-forward and the midfield. Having set a strong foundation and cemented his spot in the Dockers side for the time being, with Crowden to now focus on improving his disposal efficiency.
Banfield has fitted into the ‘Freo’ lineup terrifically well in 2018, having been recruited from WAFL club Claremont. His AFL-ready body allowed Banfield to spend considerable time in the midfield from the get-go, alongside the likes of Lachie Neale and Nat Fyfe. Having been used as a tagger in previous rounds, Banfield played a predominately outside role against the Giants, finishing the game with 17 disposals (15 uncontested at 88 per cent efficiency), five marks (all uncontested), three marks and a goal. Banfield has proven his ability on both the inside and outside and will be given every opportunity to fully establish himself in the Dockers on-ball brigade.
The key defender continues to improve in his first season at AFL level. The Bulldogs have a couple of promising key defenders on their hands in Marcus Adams and Lewis Young but last seasons ninth overall pick could be the best on the lot. Having featured in all four games so far, Naughton would have taken enormous confidence from last weekends game, where he was able to restrict the influence of Joe Daniher. This week, he again showcased his toughness, ability to read the play and drift in to take intercept marks. With more and more games under his belt, Naughton will firm as a leader in the Bulldogs defence soon enough. Made a couple of errors, but has progressed very well for a young key position player.
After being introduced to AFL football last weekend against the Crows at Etihad Stadium, a trip down to Geelong was always going to be difficult. However the first round draftee once again showed class and composure well beyond his years. Coffield racked up 17 disposals at 82 per cent efficiency (including eight contested possessions), seven intercept possessions, four marks, five tackles and five rebounds. He was deployed across half-back where his foot skills and decision making stood out. He looks to be justifying his early selection already.
The hard working, small midfielder/forward showed off his ability to find the football in just his fourth game of senior football for the cats, amassing 18 disposals – 11 of which were contested. Used across half-forward for much of the day, Fogarty also laid three tackles and propelled the ball inside 50 on six occasions. He looks to have locked down a spot in the Cats side, along with fellow 2016 draftee Tim Kelly, however Fogarty will be looking to improve upon his ball use, recording an efficiency of just 56 per cent against the Saints.