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Not good enough for TAC Cup, now a draft smokey: Murray in the mix

Sam Murray in action for Wodonga Raiders. Picture: The Border Mail
He's one of those uncanny players who can really open the game up with his footy nous
Wodonga coach Daryn Cresswell

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WODONGA midfielder Sam Murray shapes as a possible smokey at this month's NAB AFL Draft after spending this season playing at country level.

Gold Coast, Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and Sydney Swans are among the clubs to have shown interest in Murray, who played for the Raiders this season having not made the Murray Bushrangers' under-18 squad.

The 18-year-old finished third in the Ovens and Murray Football League's Morris Medal after an impressive season in the senior Wodonga team, which has seen him catch the eye of recruiters.

Wodonga coach Daryn Cresswell, who played 244 games with the Sydney Swans, said Murray's improvement across the year had seen him come on recruiters' radars for the national and rookie drafts in the last week of November.

"He carries the footy and reads the play really well. He's excellent above his head, and we pushed him forward this year and came out with five goals in a quarter-and-a-half," Cresswell said.

"He's come on in leaps and bounds, and he's one of those uncanny players who can really open the game up with his footy nous.

"There's been a lot of interest in Sam, and I'd be shocked if he didn't get picked up either in the national or rookie draft."

The 188cm prospect trained with the Bushrangers during the pre-season but was cut after struggling to make an impact in the trial games. At that stage his aerobic base needed to improve, but his bravery around the ball was seen as a key attribute.

Cresswell said Murray's continued improvement after not making the Bushrangers' squad proved his resilience.

"For a young kid to do that shows his maturity, and for him then to be able to have the season that he did, I reckon he's got a lot of character," Cresswell said.  

With some believing this year's draft crop is thinner than previous years, clubs are looking outside the normal talent pathway to find youngsters who might be able to progress to the top level.

Last year ex-cricketer Pat McKenna was drafted by Greater Western Sydney with pick No.23 having only played for local club Gisborne.

McKenna would have played for the Calder Cannons this season had he not been selected at last year's draft, but the exciting half-forward attracted serious interest from at least four clubs.

The previous year, Melbourne's Jayden Hunt was the only player picked who hadn't played at under-18 level in his state's competition.

The Demons used pick No.57 on Hunt, who had played for Brighton Grammar at school level having not made the Sandringham Dragons' TAC Cup team. 

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs