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Rookie watch: Who will be promoted at your club?

Staff writers  March 16, 2016 9:55 PM

AFL 2016 NAB Challenge - Richmond v Hawthorn

New Tiger rookie Mabior Chol has impressed during Richmond's NAB Challenge campaign. Picture: AFL Media

Adelaide

Matthew Jaensch's sudden retirement (although he's classified as being on the long-term injury list) has opened up a spot for the Crows to nominate one of their six rookies. Developing ruckman Reilly O'Brien is a leading contender after impressive performances in NAB Challenge games over the past two years and the 201cm youngster can also play in defence, where the Crows aren't exactly blessed with big men. Mature-age recruit Jonathon Beech has slotted seamlessly into AFL life after kicking 35 goals for West Adelaide last season and the 187cm prospect could offer something up forward and through midfield. - Travis King

Brisbane

With 40 players currently on the senior list and no long-term injuries, it might be a little while before a rookie can be elevated. And Justin Leppitsch doesn't appear to have anyone at the front of his mind should an opportunity arise, with no rookies selected in Sunday's NAB Challenge squad to play Greater Western Sydney, despite the fact a handful of best 22 players were missing. Defender Hugh Beasley (six games) and midfielder Billy Evans (five) saw some action last year and might come into the frame again after showing they could compete well at the top level. – Michael Whiting

Carlton

Ciaran Byrne played in two NAB Challenge games and was confirmed as the Blues' nominated rookie on Tuesday as they have 39 primary-listed players. The dashing Irishman, left out of the Carlton team for its final NAB Challenge game last Friday night, was impressive on debut against Essendon last season before being dogged by hamstring problems. Fellow Irishman Ciaran Sheehan, who played four games in 2014, was on the sidelines for much of last year after having hip surgery. The left-footer's hips are OK but he has had a few niggles over the pre-season. Ruckman Cameron Wood had shoulder surgery at the end of last season and missed a lot of training before Christmas but has been training well. Pint-sized forward Andrew Gallucci played in the first two NAB Challenge games and Billy Gowers has had an interrupted pre-season after having shoulder surgery late last season. - Howard Kotton

Collingwood

The Magpies have committed to elevating third-year rookie Corey Gault, the 200cm and 100kg key forward who booted eight goals in three NAB Challenge games. Collingwood football manager Neil Balme told The Age at the weekend that Gault's elevation was "a bit of a no-brainer" because he had "not done anything wrong so far, played well in each of the games and looks comfortable at the level". The 23-year-old West Australian, who can also pinch-hit in the ruck, is now in the mix for a round one berth. Gault was the standout candidate ahead of improving American forward/ruckman Mason Cox and impressive mature-age rookie Josh Smith, both of whom could remain in calculations for promotion during the season when the unlucky Matt Scharenberg is placed on the long-term injury list. - Ben Collins 

Essendon

The Bombers can upgrade two of their rookies before the season as part of the AFL's list concessions following the season-long bans to 12 of their players. But Essendon is likely to only promote a player if it believes the rookie is pushing for senior selection in round one, which means Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti is the leading candidate. The 22-year-old was chosen at last year's NAB AFL Rookie Draft after playing with the Bombers' VFL side, and he adds some bounce and pace from defence. Conor McKenna, Jake Long and Will Hams are the other rookies who featured for the Bombers during the NAB Challenge, with McKenna (a category B rookie) likely to see some senior action again throughout the year after impressing with his skill, smarts and pace around goal. - Callum Twomey

Fremantle

Anthony Morabito was looking the most likely rookie to be elevated following a very good summer but he injured his hamstring in early March and has been sidelined for an extended period. The Dockers might wait to see how he recovers before making a decision on his elevation. Key defender Tanner Smith is ready to be elevated if needed. He spent two seasons on the main list in 2013 and 2014 and has already played two games for the club. He was delisted and re-drafted as a rookie ahead of the 2015 season and was elevated last year before playing a game in round 23. Irishman Sean Hurley and youngster Josh Deluca have both had injury trouble and appear long shots to be promoted in the short-term. New rookies Matthew Uebergang and Ryan Nyhuis have been impressive in their first pre-seasons but both will be given time to develop in the WAFL. - Alex Malcolm

Geelong

After the season-ending injury to rebounding defender Jackson Thurlow, mature-aged rookie Tom Ruggles has put himself in the frame with two solid NAB Challenge performances against Essendon and Fremantle. With 38 players on their primary list, the Cats don't have to wait for a long-term injury to promote a rookie although they may still put Thurlow on the long-term injury list. Ruggles, 23, knows the Cats' system and is big enough to cope with the game's demands although it would be a big call to throw him into senior football on Easter Monday against Hawthorn. Next in line is first-year player Jock Cornell but he will be given time, while Zac Bates has pace and is smart but he has several small forwards ahead of him at this stage. Defender Cam Delaney has been battling injury, while young ruckmen Tom Read and Padraig Lucey are still developing. - Peter Ryan

Tom Ruggles has impressed for the Cats in the NAB Challenge. Picture: AFL Media

Gold Coast

The Suns upgraded veteran Danny Stanley last week as their nominated rookie. Stanley was delisted at the end of 2015 but re-drafted as a rookie, and the club had always committed to elevating him prior to the season. However, with ace midfielder David Swallow (knee) set to be put on the long-term injury list, there's a chance for another rookie to be elevated. Mature-age recruit Ryan Davis – who played 14 games for West Coast in 2008-09 – has almost locked up a round one spot with a strong showing against Adelaide last Friday night. South Australian defender Tom Keough is nipping at his heals, while teenager Darcy MacPherson may also get an opportunity later in the year if the chance arises. – Michael Whiting

GWS

With their 42-man list – two more than the rest of the competition – stacked with talent, the Giants are unlikely to use their rookie list early, if at all, in 2016. The club's two rookies Sam Reid and Daniel Lloyd are both mature bodies who'll add plenty to the depth at GWS but it's difficult to see them playing senior football unless there's some significant injuries during the second half of the season. Reid played the Giants' opening NAB Challenge game against the Western Bulldogs and was also among the best in the reserves last week. Lloyd was drafted from left-field as a 23-year-old medium-sized forward, so there's plenty of competition in front of him. - Adam Curley

Hawthorn

For obvious reasons, opportunities have been scarce for rookie-listed Hawks and that's unlikely to change in the foreseeable future even though there's one spot available on the senior list. None of the Hawks' rookies played in the NAB Challenge, although Jermaine Miller-Lewis and Lachlan Langford were named in extended squads. Langford is progressing nicely as a versatile half-forward who can also play in defence or on a wing. Miller-Lewis came to the Hawks as a forward and played most of last season there for Box Hill's development team, but the West Australian is now learning defensive craft as a half-back flanker. - Travis King

Melbourne

The Demons can upgrade a rookie as part of the AFL's concessions for suspended defender Jake Melksham. Defender Josh Wagner and midfielder Viv Michie are the two in line to be elevated after strong pre-seasons. But the Demons are not compelled to promote a player before the start of the season and will treat any decision based on positional needs. Wagner, who was picked up after two solid seasons at NEAFL club Aspley, played in all three NAB Challenge games. Michie was delisted and then placed on the Demons' rookie list at the end of last season. He played 11 games for Melbourne in 2015 and will be in reserve if a midfielder is sidelined by injury. Mitch White may also be in contention although he has had an injury-interrupted pre-season. - Ben Guthrie

North Melbourne

North coach Brad Scott told AFL.com.au in January that Majak Daw would be named as the Roos' nominated rookie ahead of round one, and the ruckman's upgrade was confirmed on Tuesday. After Daniel Currie's departure to Gold Coast in last October's trade period, Daw has emerged as North's best ruck option behind 2015 All Australian Todd Goldstein. Goldstein seems certain to shoulder North's ruck duties largely on his own again this season, so Daw's senior elevation – which was confirmed on Tuesday – will largely be for insurance purposes. With 39 players on its senior list, North cannot name another nominated rookie ahead of the season. However, the Roos moved second-year defender Ed Vickers-Willis on to the long-term injury list two weeks ago, and can elevate another rookie while he remains there. Former Saints midfielder Farren Ray and small forward Robin Nahas appear the leading candidates if North decides to exercise this option. - Nick Bowen

Majak Daw has officially been promoted by North Melbourne. Picture: AFL Media

Port Adelaide

The Power upgraded Nathan Krakouer to their senior list as the club's nominated rookie in February. However, the 27-year-old has been banned from playing in the seniors until round six after being out drinking while recovering from a hamstring injury. Subsequently, Krakouer suffered a broken jaw after being struck outside a Perth nightclub in the early hours of last Saturday morning. Port is also able to elevate two rookie players to replace banned duo Patrick Ryder and Angus Monfries. Kane Mitchell, given his experience, appears to be first in line to take a spot. Mitchell has played 31 matches, including eight last season, for the Power. Youngster Will Snelling, who captained South Australia in the Under-18 championships last season, may also come into contention later in the season. - Ben Guthrie

Richmond

With a primary list of 39, the Tigers are able to upgrade one rookie before the start of the season and they have opted for midfielder Jason Castagna. The second-year Tiger is the rookie most capable of having an impact at senior level right now - either at half-back or through the midfield - and the decision to upgrade him was likely made following a setback to Reece Conca (hamstring) and with Chris Yarran (calf) underdone. Sudanese recruit Mabior Chol had been the frontrunner, playing all three NAB Challenge games and trialling as a tall forward and back-up ruckman in case injuries to key position players hit. Mature-age rookie Adam Marcon played in the opening pre-season game and won 13 possessions, with category B rookie Ivan Soldo also featuring in that game. – Nathan Schmook

St Kilda

With defender Jake Carlisle serving a doping ban until November 13, the Saints can nominate one rookie. The most likely candidate is Jason Holmes. While he is a pure ruckman and would not replace Carlisle in defence, St Kilda's ruck situation is delicate. Billy Longer was the incumbent ruck in 2015 but has not played a NAB Challenge match this year after a shoulder reconstruction at the end of last season. Nick Coughlan is another contender to be upgraded, as a direct replacement for Carlisle. Coughlan played in the backline in St Kilda's first pre-season game against North Melbourne. It's hard to judge him too much on that performance though, seeing as the Kangaroos ran through the middle with ease in the second half, but coach Alan Richardson said the defender showed signs. - Dinny Navaratnam 

American Saint Jason Holmes competes with Demon Max Gawn. Picture: AFL Media

Sydney Swans

With just 39 players on their primary list and Gary Rohan (hamstring) on the long-term injury list, there's a couple of spots open at the Swans. Should the club choose to upgrade, small forward Tom Papley and defender Nic Newman top the list of candidates after solid NAB Challenge campaigns. Papley's defensive work inside the Swans' forward 50 has been outstanding and he's showed that he could be an option to fill in for veteran Ben McGlynn, who is still yet to be seen at senior level after struggling with hamstring issues all summer. Newman is a classy left-footer who had 19 possessions against Carlton on Friday night playing across half back and at 23 years of age, is a talented prospect. - Adam Curley 

West Coast

The Eagles have room to elevate a rookie but don't have any real need to. Midfielder Kane Lucas would be the most likely given his AFL experience and given the Eagles have suffered a few injuries to key midfielders. But none of the injuries have been severe enough to warrant being placed on the long-term injury list. Brant Colledge is also a readymade midfielder/forward who could step up but it appears he is behind Lucas. Youngster Jordan Snadden has trained very well in his first pre-season and could be one to watch. Simon Tunbridge has had a back issue that has slowed his summer. Irishman Paddy Brophy and former baseballer Corey Adamson continue to develop in the WAFL, while Alec Waterman remains on indefinite leave as he tries to overcome his issues with glandular fever. - Alex Malcolm 

Western Bulldogs

The Dogs have the capacity to upgrade two rookies at the moment, with former Bomber Stewart Crameri serving a season-long ban and the luckless Clay Smith able to be placed on the long-term injury list after his third knee reconstruction in as many years. Former Brisbane Lions skipper Jed Adcock looms as the man most likely to be elevated first, with Luke Beveridge an admirer of his versatility and the experience he will bring to a young team. The 30-year-old has had a solid pre-season, but has only featured in one of the club's NAB Challenge games. Out of the remaining three rookies, Roarke Smith is set to miss most of the season with an ACL tear, while running defender Brad Lynch and ruckman Luke Goetz are both lightly framed and will be given time to develop in their first year at the club. – Ryan Davidson