It’s tipped as a draft year unlike any other we’ve witnessed in our lifetimes, which is why I’m doing an extensive preview, highlighting a few of the young kids to keep your eye out for next Wednesday.
It feels like it’s been a while since I highlighted the first ten – sorry about that, personal stuff got in the way, otherwise this would’ve been out a few days earlier – but it is time to have a look at the second lot of ten prospects to keep your eye out for come Draft night, and there are a few beauties coming out from this lot.
Part one located below.
Eddie Ford – Forward/Midfielder, 189cm, 79kg
At 189cm, Eddie Ford is considered one of these mid-sized forwards who can play a lot taller than his height indicates. He’s got a strong leap and has shown that his marking hands can hang at AFL level. He also brings really good goal-sense and could be picked up as a bolter in the late first round – such is his capabilities.
In 16 games last year for the Western Jets, Ford averaged 3.7 marks and kicked seven goals in the NAB League. He also averaged a touch over 14 disposals playing a bit higher up the ground, sometimes as a midfielder. To make that next step, he has to be more consistent, but for what he has right now, he’d be a nice player to have develop – he’s got good size, his impact with the footy is there and he’s got good aerial capabilities.
Zach Reid – Utility, 202cm, 82kg
There haven’t been many 200cm-plus players that can be as versatile and athletic as Zach Reid. As a key defender for Gippsland last year, he showed a lot to suggest that he’ll be one to keep your eye out over the next decade and beyond – barring injuries of course. With his excellent leap, superb skills and sharp football IQ, he showcased his intercept marking qualities in defence in the NAB League.
Reid averaged over 11 disposals and just under four marks per game for Gippsland last year playing primarily as a key back. However, he has also shown at numerous stages across those 15 games that he can go in the ruck and also be a target up forward. Like many tall players, he’ll need time to work on that body of his but once that comes together, he’ll be a very good player to watch.
Jake Bowey – Midfielder, 174cm, 67kg
As someone who has played at the same junior local club, I have to say I’ve grown a bit of a liking to little Jake Bowey. But when it comes down to crunch time, this kid has got moves. There’s not a lot of him in a body sense, but when called upon, he attacks the contest at speed. He’s also a very handy player on the outside, with some saying he’s the most talented to come out of the Sandy Dragons footy factory and that’s saying something with the talent they’ve produced in recent years.
As one of the smaller players from this year’s draft class, he brings great pace which could see him start his AFL career more as a small forward. He did manage to snag two bags of three in the NAB league in 2019. He also averaged over three tackles per game for the Dragons last year, playing both as a forward and in roles higher up the ground, so he can be very dangerous player that adds class when he needs to be.
Seamus Mitchell – Forward, 181cm, 74kg
A unique name for a bit of a unique player. You don’t find many small forwards that possess football smarts the way Seamus Mitchell has. The Bendigo Pioneer played only five games in the NAB League in 2019. The 2020 season was shutdown because of Covid, and as such, he was unable to get any more exposure this year, like the rest of the Victorians. It’s a shame really, because we would’ve been able to have seen him at full flight and get a better gauge.
But for those five games, he averaged 10 disposals and just under two tackles per game, whilst kicking six goals in five games. He’s got unbelievable pace – 2.88 in the 20m sprint, his endurance is solid enough and he’s got a good nous for the goals, but whether or not he can up those tackle numbers just a bit more will be fascinating to see – because he’s a capable player. 1.8 tackles per game aren’t the worst numbers for a small forward, but the elite will be bumping that up a fair margin when it’s all said and done
Sam Berry – Midfielder, 181cm, 80kg
People will talk about the high-end midfielders such as Elijah Hollands, Archie Perkins and Tanner Bruhn, but Sam Berry should be mentioned in the same bracket because his consistency as an inside midfielder last year for Gippsland was second to none. He’s a genuine inside mid, which means his class on the outside will need some work, but when you’re capable of posting numbers like 17 contested possessions, 18 tackles and nine clearances in a NAB League game, you’re better off leaving him in the engine room, in the right team, he’d be playing round one barring injuries.
His ability to not just work in close, win clearances and tackle is evident, but his tank shows that he is extremely capable of running out games. He played 10 games for Gippsland last year and averaged strong numbers of 17.7 disposals, 6.5 tackles and 4.4 clearances per game. I expect him to go somewhere in the late first-round to early second – anywhere later would be a genuine steal.
Nathan O’Driscoll – Midfielder/Defender, 187cm, 76kg
A midfielder that has also spent time across the half-back line, Perth boy Nathan O’Driscoll is a tough player that not only can win his own footy, but is capable of doing plenty of damage with it. His older sister Emma is doing pretty good things with Fremantle’s AFLW team, having been in the system for a few seasons. His 2020 saw him dominate at under-18 level, as well get a few games under his belt at senior level.
His biggest strengths are both his use of the footy and his tackling when the opposition has the footy. Playing seven games for Perth’s Colts last year saw him average 7.6 tackles per game. His under-18 campaign for WA saw him average similar numbers. In his five games at senior level this year, he averaged 5.4 tackles per game. His work ethic is strong as well as his running ability – he’s quick enough to break lines and his endurance is certainly capable of running out games. He’ll be a first-round certainty.
Nik Cox – Utility, 200cm, 87kg
This year’s draft class is stocked with talls that will impact in a few years down the track or could very well make an impression right away. Nik Cox might take a few years to get his body up to the rigours of AFL-level football, but his upside makes it almost irresistible to take with an early pick. How early might you ask? Well, he could find himself just inside the top 10 at the earliest, perhaps down mid-second at the latest.
But what makes him an irresistible prospect you might ask? Well his running abilities for someone his size is unbelievable: In the 20 metre sprint, he went under three seconds and was just over six minutes in the 2km time trial which are elite numbers for us unwashed. His skills with the footy aren’t so bad either. His overhead marking is amongst the best of the class and his kicking skills bring to mind of Tim English – so clean and efficient. Cox can play a number of roles around the ground, which will make that all the more enticing for clubs on the rebuild: Essendon, North Melbourne – looking at you both.
Elijah Hollands – Midfielder/Forward, 188cm, 85kg
Covid-19 wouldn’t have benefited many of the Victorian players, but it did help out Elijah Hollands, for as talented as he is, would’ve sat out the 2020 season due to rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in February. Despite the injury, many experts have dubbed him as one of the best midfielders that will come out of the Draft and shouldn’t go past the top five (excluding Academy picks).
Playing for Murray last year, Hollands didn’t get many minutes in the middle in 2019, floating more as a half-forward type but the way he wins important footy in the contested areas, as well as being able to use it efficiently means that we will undoubtedly see him in an on-ball brigade at some stage through his career. However, when thrown as a deep forward, Hollands’ strength and athleticism make him hard to beat in a one-on-one, and the goal-sense on top of that makes him equally a very dangerous prospect up forward – has kicked eight goals from seven matches for the Bushrangers in the last two seasons.
Denver Grainger-Barras – Key Defender, 195cm, 78kg
Alongside Zach Reid, Denver Grainger-Barras is the best key-defender coming out of this year’s Draft crop. Another player expected to go within the top five, Grainger-Barras’ major strengths come from his elite ability to read the play when the ball comes into the defensive 50. His athleticism and elite vertical jump already makes it a very tough task for any forward to stop him from taking an intercept, just imagine when he adds strength to his game.
His defensive capabilities are already very strong. He was matched up with Logan McDonald – another sure-fire lock to be a top five draftee this year during a WAFL seniors game and kept him goal-less for the entire second half after he was moved on to him. The scope for him to be that elite one-on-one defender is there, but his best footy is unquestionably as an intercept marking player.
Logan McDonald – Key Forward, 196cm, 86kg
Here’s a big lad who can certainly go number one – there’s a few of them that might, but it might be narrowed right down to either McDonald and West Adelaide’s Riley Thilthorpe. McDonald is more of a pure key-forward whereas Thilthorpe is a bit more versatile. But don’t let that throw you off what the Perth boy can do, because he can do plenty. Playing senior footy in the WAFL this year saw him kick 21 goals in nine matches this year – this includes four bags of three and a bag of four.
McDonald’s forward craft is excellent: he leads well, is already considered to be quite strong both in the air and in a one-on-one situation and is one of the more reliable goalkickers in this year’s group. Perhaps one thing that doesn’t get talked about in his game is his endurance – he posted a 6:33 in the 2km time trial, which for a tall is quite elite. He could be used as the ‘bail-out’ kick out of the back-line or be used to run his direct opponent off his feet. If he gets past North Melbourne’s first selection at pick two, then I’ll be the most shocked of everyone, because he’s a gun talent.
So that’s the second lot of ten draftees done and out of the way. Stay tuned in the coming days and I’ll release the last ten under-18 players to keep your eye out for, because there are a number of players who I haven’t brought up yet that will most likely go in the first round. I’ve also been working on the Mock Draft, which I’ll be aiming to get up before Wednesday.
Until the final part, Mongrels…