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Young and restless: A look at your club's up-and-comers

Staff writers  November 18, 2017 9:00 AM

AFL 2017 Training - St Kilda 151117

Which club has the best group of youngsters?

WHICH of your club's young players is primed to take the next step? Who needs a big pre-season?

Our writers take a comprehensive look at each club's players from the 2014 draft and later, assessing their early pre-season form, picking those set for a big 2018 and identifying those in need of a big summer.

Forward Mitch McGovern and midfielder Hugh Greenwood are set to be in the Crows' best 22 heading into next season. McGovern showed glimpses of his spectacular marking ability this year, while basketball convert Greenwood will be better after his third football pre-season. Greenwood is a contested ball king. The speedy Wayne Milera looks like a natural fit to take over Charlie Cameron's spot in attack as a pressure forward. Also, don't be surprised to see third-year defender Tom Doedee get a crack at taking over the third-tall defender role left vacant by Jake Lever's move to Melbourne. Doedee was the leading intercept marker in the SANFL this year, has great hands and reads the play well. 

On the list: 14

AFL experience: Mitch McGovern (36 games), Wayne Milera (24), Hugh Greenwood (15), Alex Keath (6), Reilly O'Brien (2), Jordan Gallucci (1), Harry Dear (0), Tom Doedee (0), Paul Hunter (0), Myles Poholke (0), Elliot Himmelberg (0), Matt Signorello (0), Ben Davis (0), Ben Jarman (0)

The standout: Mitch McGovern
One to watch: Tom Doedee 

- Lee Gaskin

One of the youngest lists in the competition, the Lions leant heavily on their teenagers last season and will do so again in 2018. They're building a team they hope will begin to peak in two to four years' time and are giving their youngsters plenty of experience. The most recent draft crop of Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, Alex Witherden and Cedric Cox all played prominent roles in 2017, while Jacob Allison showed he could also mix it at the top level. The previous draft the Lions selected Eric Hipwood, who looks a star, and the grunt of Rhys Mathieson and Ben Keays. Harris Andrews is not quite 21, in the club's leadership group and already anchoring the backline.

On the list: 14

AFL experience: Harris Andrews (58 games), Eric Hipwood (30), Ben Keays (26), Rhys Mathieson (24), Liam Dawson (18), Hugh McCluggage (18), Jarrod Berry (16), Alex Witherden (9), Cedric Cox (8), Jacob Allison (5), Sam Skinner (1), Corey Lyons (0), Matthew Eagles (0), Mitch Hinge (0), Oscar McInerney (0)

The standout: Harris Andrews
One to watch: Alex Witherden

- Michael Whiting

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The Blues have invested heavily in youth at recent drafts and trading periods and are banking on this group to lift them back to the top of the ladder. Under the watchful eye of list manager Stephen Silvagni, they have assembled a wide variety of talent with numerous key-position options, pace, skill and X-factors. Although hitting a slight flat spot this year, Jacob Weitering finished third in the NAB AFL Rising Star award in 2016 and has leadership stamped all over him. Charlie Curnow, fourth in the Rising Star this year, has already drawn comparisons with Carlton great Anthony Koutoufides because of his athleticism and strong hands.

On the list: 17

AFL experience: Jacob Weitering (42 games), Jack Silvagni (28), Charlie Curnow (27), Caleb Marchbank (23), Sam Petrevski-Seton (20), Matthew Kennedy (19), Zac Fisher (17), Ciaran Byrne (15), Tom Williamson (15), David Cuningham (11), Jarrod Pickett (10), Harrison Macreadie (8), Harry McKay (2), Cameron Polson (1), Jesse Glass-McCasker (0), Patrick Kerr (0), Kym Lebois (0)

The standout: Jacob Weitering
One to watch: Jarrod Pickett

- Howard Kotton 

Jacob Weitering has leadership stamped all over him. Picture: AFL Photos

The Pies' batch of players boasts talent of all shapes and sizes, and at least half a dozen long-term prospects. Eleven of these 15 players have AFL experience, and of those yet to play an AFL game ex-Swan dasher Sam Murray appears likely to be handed an early opportunity given the lack of back-half speed. The most talented among them, young tall Darcy Moore, will be given a crack at centre half-back, while fellow big man Mason Cox is expected to be given an extended stint as a forward/ruckman. Half-forward/midfielder Jordan De Goey, half-back Brayden Maynard and wingman Tom Phillips are developing nicely, father-son recruits Callum Brown and Josh Daicos also appear set for long careers, medium-sized forward Kayle Kirby has the potential to be something special, Ben Crocker is a likely type, mature-age runners Josh Smith and Rupert Wills are handy depth players, while key defender Sam McLarty and ruckman Max Lynch have shown promise. The Pies also believe the untried and injury-plagued Brayden Sier could still make the grade.

On the list 15

AFL experience: Brayden Maynard (51 games), Jordan De Goey (50), Darcy Moore (47), Tom Phillips (24), Mason Cox (20), Josh Smith (31), Ben Crocker (13), Rupert Wills (6), Callum Brown (5), Josh Daicos (2), Kayle Kirby (1)

The standout: Darcy Moore
One to watch: Mason Cox 

- Ben Collins 

Essendon's stint near the bottom of the ladder in recent years before 2017 has allowed the club to find some genuine top-end talent in the likes of No.1 pick and NAB AFL Rising Star winner Andrew McGrath, midfielder Darcy Parish and strong marking defender Aaron Francis. But Francis needs a big year in 2018, as do 2014 draftees Jayden Laverde and Kyle Langford, who are yet to hold on to senior positions regularly. Conor McKenna signed a long-term deal with the club and looks very comfortable off half-back, while Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti has been a revelation in the past two years since joining the club as a rookie at the end of 2015.

On the list: 14

AFL experience: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (44), Darcy Parish (40), Conor McKenna (33), Kyle Langford (31), Jayden Laverde (23), Andrew McGrath (21), Aaron Francis (5), Josh Begley (3), Mason Redman (3), Ben McNiece (2), Dylan Clarke (0), Sam Draper (0), Kobe Mutch (0), Jordan Ridley (0)

The standout: Andrew McGrath
One to watch: Conor McKenna

- Callum Twomey 

The number of players in the Dockers' first-to-fourth-year group is set to explode at the NAB AFL Draft after 12 players were cut from the 2017 list. It will be a welcome injection of youth, with 11 a below-average head count in the fourth-year and under bracket. The top end is promising, with Connor Blakely having an impact as a defender and inside midfielder and Darcy Tucker showing positive signs as a wingman linking up with the forward line. Defender Ethan Hughes is also developing well and adding the size needed to be a consistent AFL player. There are six Dockers entering their second season in 2018, with much expected of Griffin Logue and Sean Darcy. Utility Ed Langdon is targeting his first full season of senior football in 2018 after a knee injury cut his 2017 short.   

On the list: 11

AFL experience: Connor Blakely (33 games), Darcy Tucker (31), Ed Langdon (25), Ethan Hughes (24), Griffin Logue (13), Luke Ryan (11), Brennan Cox (10), Sean Darcy (8), Ryan Nyhuis (4), Taylin Duman (0), Luke Strnadica (0) 

The standout: Connor Blakely
One to watch: Sean Darcy

- Nathan Schmook 

Exciting talent Nakia Cockatoo headlines the Cats' next wave of young stars. The former No.10 draft pick has already shown flashes of brilliance in his young career and will be hoping for an injury-free 2018 to reach his full potential. Brandan Parfitt has already cemented his spot in the best 22 despite missing a chunk of his debut season with a hamstring injury. The classy midfielder has all the makings of a 200-game player with his clean hands and elite skills. Geelong appears well-stocked down back with mature-age draftee Tom Stewart slotting seamlessly in the back six, while rookie Zach Guthrie showed great composure in the nine games he managed in his first year and will only get better. Next year could be more make or break for Cory Gregson, who missed all of last season due to a navicular injury and has seemingly fallen behind fellow young forward James Parsons in the pecking order. The Cats have already started planning for the post-Tom Hawkins era with Wylie Buzza the leading contender ahead of untried forwards Esava Ratugolea and Timm House. Ruckman Ryan Abott, 26, will only get a chance if injuries strike. 

On the list: 16 
AFL experience: Nakia Cockatoo (32 games), Cory Gregson (29), Tom Stewart (21), James Parsons (20), Brandan Parfitt (15), Zach Guthrie (9), Wylie Buzza (6), Sam Simpson (5), Mark O'Connor (2), Jordan Cunico (1), Ryan Abbott (0), Jack Henry (0), Timm House (0), Jamaine Jones (0), Quinton Narkle (0), Esava Ratugolea (0)

The standout: Nakia Cockatoo
One to watch: Brandan Parfitt

- Ben Sutton

With Gary Ablett back in Geelong, and fellow Suns originals Brandon Matera, Trent McKenzie and Matt Shaw also gone, Gold Coast is again in a rebuild of sorts. There's plenty of youth on its list, but a lot of it is unproven. In Touk Miller and Peter Wright, there's an excellent duo with three years of experience, while Lachie Weller's addition from Fremantle brings another established midfielder the club should be able to rely on. Callum Ah Chee has shown his clean hands and excellent skills are up to the level, while Ben Ainsworth was a standout in his 2017 debut season.

On the list: 13

AFL experience: Touk Miller (60 games), Lachie Weller (47), Peter Wright (42), Callum Ah Chee (30), Jesse Joyce (28), Brayden Fiorini (15), Ben Ainsowrth (13), Jack Bowes (11), Josh Schoenfeld (8), Max Spencer (5), Jack Scrimshaw (4), Brad Scheer (4), Will Brodie (3)

The standout: Peter Wright
One to watch: Ben Ainsworth

- Michael Whiting 

'Two-Metre' Peter Wright is full of potential for the Suns. Picture: AFL Photos

Injuries have restricted his ability to show off his talents consistently in his first two seasons, but inside midfielder Jacob Hopper is a star of the future, and last year's number two draft pick Tim Taranto had a brilliant debut season despite a serious ankle issue. Will Setterfield is an outstanding onball prospect, while fellow GWS Academy products Harry Himmelberg and Harry Perryman have shown they're more than capable senior players. Mature-age rookie Daniel Lloyd filled some important roles last season, while Jeremy Finlayson, Isaac Cumming, Lachie Tiziani and Matt Flynn all showed promising signs in the NEAFL. Rookies Zach Sproule and Jake Stein are still developing but are both athletic options at both ends of the ground.

On the list: 12

AFL experience: Jacob Hopper (23 games), Harry Himmelberg (16), Tim Taranto (14), Harry Perryman (8), Daniel Lloyd (7), Jeremy Finlayson (1), Isaac Cumming (0), Matt Flynn (0), Zach Sproule (0), Jake Stein (0), Lachie Tiziani (0)

The standout: Jacob Hopper
One to watch: Will Setterfield

- Adam Curley 

Given Hawthorn's recent premiership success, there hasn't been a whole lot of opportunity for the younger brigade of players to get senior experience. The Hawks' bad run of luck on the injury front in 2017, though, provided a window for Daniel Howe, Ryan Burton, Blake Hardwick and Conor Glass to gain some exposure. Burton, the runner-up in this year's NAB AFL Rising Star, impressed in defence with his composure and class, while Irishman Glass's inclusion in the backline late in the season provided some dash for the Hawks. Young Harry Morrison also made a great impression in the final game of 2017, with the 19-year-old gathering 21 possessions on debut. While many of Hawthorn's premiership stars may be approaching the end of their careers, there is still certainly some young talent emerging that can take the club towards its next flag.

On the list: 13

AFL experience: Daniel Howe (33 games), Ryan Burton (24), Blake Hardwick (20), Conor Glass (6), Teia Miles (4), Marc Pittonet (3), James Cousins (3), Kieran Lovell (2), Harry Morrison (1), Mitchell Lewis (0), Conor Nash (0), Oliver Hanrahan (0)

The standout: Ryan Burton
One to watch: James Cousins

- Nat Edwards 

Ryan Burton is one of the competition's genuine rising stars. Picture: AFL Photos

No club has more than the Demons' 20 players in this bracket – boosted by the off-season acquisitions of Jake Lever and Harley Balic – and half of them have played at least 20 matches. That would suggest that, at long last, Melbourne is ready to pounce. There is genuine star power through Lever, Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca, while Oscar McDonald is already manning the opposition's No.1 forward. Angus Brayshaw just needs an injury-free run to join that company, while fellow top-10 pick Sam Weideman has enjoyed breakout games at VFL level that were a glimpse into his potential AFL future. There is much to like about Alex Neal-Bullen and Billy Stretch, and fans can expect to see more of Joel Smith, Corey Maynard and Dion Johnstone in 2018.

On the list 20

AFL experience: Jake Lever (56 games), Christian Petracca (39), Oscar McDonald (37), Angus Brayshaw (36), Billy Stretch (36), Clayton Oliver (35), Alex Neal-Bullen (34), Aaron vandenBerg (28), Josh Wagner (23), Mitch Hannan (20), Sam Weideman (10), Harley Balic (4), Joel Smith (3), Tim Smith (2), Corey Maynard (1), Mitch King (0), Dion Johnstone (0), Pat McKenna (0), Lochie Filipovic (0), Declan Keilty (0)

The standout: Jake Lever
One to watch: Sam Weideman

- Marc McGowan 

The Kangaroos' group is very inexperienced. Injuries meant 2014 draftees Sam Durdin, Daniel Nielson and Ed Vickers-Willis did not make their debuts until this year, while 2015 draftees Ryan Clarke, Declan Mountford, Mitch Hibberd and Ben McKay are still finding their feet at senior level. North is focused on injecting more speed and class into its midfield and Jy Simpkin, Josh Williams and former Bomber Alex Morgan look capable of filling that need, while 2014's No.7 draft pick Paul Ahern was the complete on-ball package before two knee reconstructions halted his progress. Clarke, Mountford and Hibberd are elite endurance runners suited to the modern game, while North will be hoping talls Durdin, Nielson, McKay and Nick Larkey can show next year they can be long-term players. Ruckman Braydon Preuss shapes as Todd Goldstein's successor, possibly as early as next season, while defender Vickers-Willis has shown strong signs of being a future leader.

On the list: 17

AFL experience: Ryan Clarke (21 games), Jy Simpkin (13), Declan Mountford (12), Sam Durdin (8), Braydon Preuss (8), Daniel Nielson (7), Ed Vickers-Willis (7), Mitch Hibberd (4), Cameron Zurhaar (4),

Nick Larkey (2), Josh Williams (2), Ben McKay (1), Paul Ahern (0), Tom Jeffries (0), Oscar Junker (0), Alex Morgan (0), Declan Watson (0)

The standout: Jy Simpkin
One to watch: Paul Ahern

- Nick Bowen 

The Power took a calculated gamble to move up in last year's draft and take four picks in the top 32 selections. So far, it's proved to be an inspired decision. Midfield bull Sam Powell-Pepper was an absolute steal with the 19th overall pick. Powell-Pepper played 22 games in his debut season, finishing third in the NAB AFL Rising Star voting. Forward Todd Marshall showed glimpses of his potential with three games, while Joe Atley and Willem Drew are both handy midfield prospects. Dan Houston's move to halfback has been a massive success, while Dougal Howard's aggression makes him an exciting key defender. There's plenty to like with the Power's crop of youngsters. 

On the list: 14

AFL experience: Sam Powell-Pepper (22 games), Dan Houston (17), Dougal Howard (10), Aidyn Johnson (5), Riley Bonner (4), Todd Marshall (3), Joe Atley (3), Willem Drew (0), Peter Ladhams (0), Billy Frampton (0), Will Snelling (0), Cam Hewett (0), Jarrod Lienert (0), Emmanuel Irra (0)

The standout: Sam Powell-Pepper
One to watch: Dougal Howard 

- Lee Gaskin

Producing six premiership players from their first-to-fourth-year group is a ringing endorsement of the Tigers' recruiting. It's a group that has the club's list in a strong position, with eight players entering their fourth season in 2018, five their third season, and four going into their second year. There is leadership potential in Jack Graham, a mature-age gem in Kane Lambert, and an exciting group of small forwards coming through together in Daniel Rioli, Dan Butler, Shai Bolton, Tyson Stengle and Jason Castagna. The Tigers will be keen to add key position talent to their young stocks soon, with 193cm rookie forward Callum Moore and 192cm defender Ryan Garthwaite alone among the group. Ivan Soldo is the only developing ruckman. 

On the list: 17

AFL experience: Kane Lambert (52 games), Daniel Rioli (43), Jayden Short (32), Jason Castagna (30), Connor Menadue (28), Dan Butler (23), Corey Ellis (23), Oleg Markov (15), Nathan Broad (12), Ivan Soldo (7), Shai Bolton (6), Nathan Drummond (5), Jack Graham (5), Callum Moore (2), Tyson Stengle (2), Mabior Chol (1), Ryan Garthwaite (0) 

The standout: Daniel Rioli
One to watch: Jack Graham

- Nathan Schmook

Daniel Rioli is already a premiership player with the Tigers. Picture: AFL Photos

The forward line is where Jade Gresham has primarily resided but his speed, toughness and quick feet could see him become a gun midfielder. Jack Steele established himself as one of the competition's most prolific tacklers this year while Paddy McCartin could one day be a dominant focal point in attack and is the fittest he has ever been. Jack Sinclair moved to the wing in 2017 and showed how effective his classy ball use could be. Brandon White is competitive and has a nice left boot, while fellow defender Hugh Goddard is keen to have a decent run with injury. A surprise bolter could be Irishman Ray Connellan, a speedy forward who has looked good at VFL level.

On the list: 16

AFL experience: Jack Sinclair (44 games), Jade Gresham (40), Jack Lonie (39), Jack Steele (37), Paddy McCartin (22), Daniel McKenzie (21), Logan Austin (13), Hugh Goddard (9), Ben Long (4), Brandon White (4), Josh Battle (1), Rowan Marshall (1), Ray Connellan (0), Darragh Joyce (0), Ed Phillips (0), Bailey Rice (0)

The standout: Jade Gresham
One to watch: Brandon White

Dinny Navaratnam

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Swans Academy guns Isaac Heeney and Callum Mills have been the standouts and look to be future leaders of the club, while small forward Tom Papley has been the surprise packet in booting 59 goals in his 40 games after being taken as a rookie. Last year's high draft selections Will Hayward and Oliver Florent stepped into senior footy with an immediate impact, with former rookies Lewis Melican and Nic Newman becoming first-choice players by the end of the 2017 season. Jordan Dawson, Jordan Foote, James Rose and Robbie Fox have shown glimpses in limited opportunities, while ruckman Darcy Cameron, key defender Jack Maibaum, and rookies Colin O'Riordan, Toby Pink and Ben Ronke also look to have the ability to make it.

On the list: 16

AFL experience: Isaac Heeney (58 games), Callum Mills (46), Tom Papley (40), Nic Newman (20), Will Hayward (17), Lewis Melican (17), Oliver Florent (9), James Rose (8), Jordan Foote (6), Robbie Fox (3), Jordan Dawson (1), Darcy Cameron (0), Jack Maibaum (0), Colin O'Riordan (0), Toby Pink (0), Ben Ronke (0)

The standout: Isaac Heeney
One to watch: Will Hayward

- Adam Curley 

A move to the backline suited Liam Duggan and the classy left-footer gave the Eagles an elite ball user from defence. Small forward Willie Rioli has yet to make his debut but was not far off breaking into the senior side during the finals, a sign of how highly the West Coast hierarchy rates him. Hamstring injuries limited him in 2017 but he could establish himself next year. Turf toe kept Daniel Venables sidelined for the second half of the season but his speed and power, along with the Eagles' eagerness to rejuvenate their list, means he will likely see playing time in 2018.

On the list: 13

AFL experience: Liam Duggan (46 games), Jackson Nelson (32), Fraser McInnes (11), Tom Cole (6), Luke Partington (6), Kurt Mutimer (4), Matthew Allen (0), Tarir Bayok (0), Willie Rioli (0), Josh Rotham (0), Daniel Venables (0), Jake Waterman (0), Francis Watson (0)

The standout: Liam Duggan
One to watch: Willie Rioli

Dinny Navaratnam

With one of the youngest lists in the competition, coach Luke Beveridge would be happy with the talent he has at his disposal in this age bracket. Clever talent spotting from recruiting manager Simon Dalrymple has netted second-round gems Toby McLeanJosh Dunkley and Marcus Adams. Impressive South Australians Caleb DanielBailey Williams and Lewis Young appear 200-game players after being taken in third round. How high-profile recruit Josh Schache fares and fits into the Dogs' line-up will be an interesting sub-plot. And with a new rule allowing rookies to play from round one, expect dashing defender Brad Lynch and versatile tall Nathan Mullenger-McHugh to push for senior selection.

On the list: 14

AFL experience: Caleb Daniel (54 games), Toby McLean (38), Zaine Cordy (30), Bailey Dale (30), Josh Schache (27), Josh Dunkley (24), Marcus Adams (21), Lukas Webb (19), Bailey Williams (18), Lewis Young (seven), Tim English (two), Kieran Collins (one), Patrick Lipinski (one), Fregus Greene (0), Brad Lynch (0), Nathan Mullenger-McHugh (0)

The standout: Toby McLean
One to watch: Tim English

Ryan Davidson

Toby McLean is a second-round draft gem plucked by the Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos