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Top 2014 draft prospects to show their wares at the MCG

Hugh Goddard of Vic Country poses during a NAB AFL under 18 championships portrait session at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on July 02, 2013. (Photo: Justine Walker/AFL Media)
Hugh Goddard is among the prospective draftees aiming to impress in the AIS-AFL Academy clash with Collingwood's VFL side
Are they ready for the next step or how far have they got to improve and take giant strides forward? It's a benchmark game for them
AFL national talent manager Kevin Sheehan
LEADING draft prospects Peter Wright, Hugh Goddard and Christian Petracca will be keen to continue their strong early-season form in Friday's AIS-AFL Academy curtain-raiser at the MCG.
 
The three Victorians are members of the Academy side which will take on Collingwood's VFL team at 4.20pm ahead of the Hawthorn and Fremantle Grand Final rematch.
 
Wright, a 202cm forward from the Calder Cannons, kicked five goals at the weekend while Goddard, the cousin of Bomber Brendon, booted three goals for the Geelong Falcons.
 
Petracca, who starred in last year's TAC Cup finals series as a half-forward, has pushed further into the midfield and proved himself to be a goalkicking on-baller.
 
The VFL contest has proved an excellent form line in recent years as to the top draft selections of their respective years.
 
Last season Tom Boyd established himself as the standout player of his draft pool with a 10-mark effort against the Magpies' VFL side, while the year before father-son Joe Daniher starred against the Box Hill Hawks.
 
In 2011, a year before he was eligible for the draft, No.1 pick Lachie Whitfield played an outstanding game for the Academy against Geelong's VFL team.
 
"It's a snapshot of how early reputations can be earned from a very strong performance," said Kevin Sheehan, the AFL's national talent manager.
 
"You get very few chances for the best boys in the nation to come together as one and play as a team and playing against Collingwood's VFL side is a perfect match up for them at their development.
 
"We expect this will be a chance to find out where they're up to. Are they ready for the next step or how far have they got to improve and take giant strides forward? It's a benchmark game for them."
 
The Academy will play 27 members of its 31-man squad, with Jake Lever (knee), Sam Durdin (thumb), Nakia Cockatoo (foot) and Jermaine Miller-Lewis (shins) to miss.
 
But a number of other highly-rated prospects also enter the game with some confidence including Tom Lamb, a hard-running and athletic key-position player, who shone with six goals for the Dandenong Stingrays on Saturday.
 
Of the smaller types, West Australian Clem Smith has started the season playing senior football with Perth, Lachie Weller is one the better midfielders of the draft pool and Angus Brayshaw has averaged nearly 30 disposals in his opening two TAC Cup games.
 
Much of the Academy's program – from September through to April – is geared towards the MCG game, with a focus on game strategies, implementing plans, and taking a step in the transition to the top level.
 
"They get exposed to that, you can see how they think under pressure and their ability to take on board the game plan of Brad Johnson, who will coach the side for the first time," Sheehan said.
 
After the game on Saturday the Academy will travel to London on the first leg of its two-week Europe tour. It will play the European Legion side on April 12 at the Harrow School, before travelling to Varese, Italy, for the second week of the trip.
 
Every club bar Essendon, Melbourne and the Sydney Swans will send at least one recruiter on the trip.