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13 days to the draft: Meet the clearance king Rhys Mathieson

Draft Trumps: Rhys Mathieson The tough inside midfielder wins plenty of the ball and has a nose for a goal

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THERE'S no real secret to the way Rhys Mathieson influences games, because for the past three years the midfielder has been as consistent as any draft prospect.

The Geelong Falcons product has been a constant in the Victorian talent pathway since making the under-12s state team, progressing all the way through to be named a back-to-back All Australian this year.

Mathieson first impressed for Vic Country's under-16s side, when he won the Kevin Sheehan Medal as the best player in division one of that carnival.

He was rewarded with selection in the NAB AFL Academy, and last year claimed his first All Australian jumper after starring for Vic Country as a bottom-ager. 

Mathieson's draft season in 2015 has been equally as prolific, and included one game in Geelong's VFL game late in the season. It was no surprise he collected 17 disposals and had six clearances on debut.

Mathieson is among the best inside midfielders in the draft. He averaged 25 disposals a game at TAC Cup level this season and 20 a game during the under-18 championships, with an even split of contested and uncontested possessions.

Mathieson's ability to rip the ball out of a stoppage and get it moving is a key trait, and he averaged seven clearances. His handballing is also top-notch, registering 27 out of 30 in the clean hands test at the NAB AFL Draft Combine.

Mathieson plays with some swagger and strut, and he knows he's hard to contain when the ball is up for grabs. In most games he plays there are at least a handful of times he gets a centre clearance after reading the ball out of the ruck contest, and then sends it 50 metres by foot into his team's forward line. He plays in an uncomplicated but ruthless way.

At 186cm and 82kg, Mathieson is a good size for a midfielder who hunts the ball, but he has also shown he can fly for a mark and contest in the air, and kick goals. His testing in the running vertical jump is in the top category. 

To be a consistent AFL midfielder, Mathieson will need to improve his aerobic base. At the moment he's best at the stoppages and his running results at the combine reflected that – he was one of the first midfielders to drop out of the beep test before level 13.

Clubs have questioned his kicking efficiency, which sat at about 60 per cent throughout the TAC Cup season. He tends to stick with the safer kicks by banging it forward, but his results at the combine in the kicking test on both feet (he placed among the top 10) were sharp. 

It's hard to compare a teenager to a Brownlow medallist, but Mathieson plays in the same style to West Coast midfielder Matt Priddis. Mathieson is best in traffic, pretty smart inside the contest and able to free up his arms and shoot off handballs under pressure. 

Mathieson has plenty of runs on the board, but could fit in anywhere from pick 12-25. He has done enough to be a first-round pick but clubs will rank him differently depending on whether they need a player of his type.

You get what you see with Mathieson. He's an animated, likable and energetic player who lifts when his team calls on him. Mathieson could come into an AFL team next year and immediately find the footy, and is the type of player who will stand up in big games because he has an appetite for the hard stuff.

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