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Draft hopefuls to take on Collingwood VFL side

Gun draft prospects gather Draft guru Kevin 'Shifter' Sheehan previews the AIS-AFL Academy squad's tour of Europe
THE country's most talented youngsters will have the opportunity to push their draft hopes against Collingwood's VFL side on Thursday at the MCG.

The AIS-AFL Academy will take on the Magpies in a curtain raiser to the Richmond and Carlton contest.

Ahead of the Academy's two-week tour of Europe, which starts on Saturday, the best prospects can impress in front of recruiters.

Victorians Jack Billings, Tom Boyd and Josh Kelly have already pushed their names to the top bracket of picks this year after standout seasons in 2012 and will play against Collingwood, while South Australian utility Matt Scharenberg has also caught the eye of recruiters.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said this week stars Dale Thomas and Andrew Krakouer would take part in the game as they build up their match fitness after interrupted pre-seasons.

In recent seasons the game has proved a good line of form for future early draft choices.

The 2012 No.1 NAB AFL Draft pick Lachie Whitfield starred against Geelong's VFL side in 2011, while the third pick of last year's crop, Lachie Plowman, played a strong role against the Box Hill Hawks last season.

The squad's Europe tour will start with a visit to the AIS European training centre in Varese, Italy, before heading to London, where it will play the European Legion at Surrey Sportspark.

The Michael O'Loughlin-led side will then travel to Denmark, where the Academy and European sides will play a combined match in Copenhagen.

Follow AFL website reporter Callum Twomey on Twitter at @AFL_CalTwomey.