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20 prospects to watch at the championships

U18: Cal Twomey's 2018 draft guns Nat Edwards and Callum Twomey talk under 18 footy on Prime Prospects
Riley Bowman trained with the Saints during the pre-season - AFL,Draft,Nick Blakey,Riley Bowman,Zak Butters,Jack Bytel,Jye Caldwell,Riley Collier-Dawkins,Jackson Hately,Ian Hill,Chayce Jones,Ben King,Jack Lukosius,Isaac Quaynor,Izak Rankine,Connor Rozee,Bailey Smith,Curtis Taylor,Tarryn Thomas,Sam Walsh,Rhylee West,Bailey Williams
Riley Bowman trained with the Saints during the pre-season

IS IT a superdraft?

The short answer is no, but the top end of this year's NAB AFL Draft pool is very exciting and it will be on show during the under-18 championships, which begin this weekend. 

Western Australia and South Australia will open the carnival at Alberton Oval on Sunday. 

Here are 20 players (in alphabetical order) to watch over the course of the division one championships, which run over the next month until the final round is played on Wednesday, July 4 at Etihad Stadium. 

Nick Blakey
195cm/80kg
UNSW Bulldogs/Sydney Academy/Allies
27/2/00
Tall forward/midfielder

The Swans are in for another top talent to join them through their Academy, with Blakey set to follow in the steps of Callum Mills and Isaac Heeney as early picks. Blakey is a tall forward who in the future sees himself as a midfielder, and he booted 12 goals in the opening two rounds of the Academy series. Blakey is a left-footer who knows his way around goal and is mobile for his size. 

Riley Bowman
198cm/82kg
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country
Ruckman
25/2/00

Bowman moves well for a tall prospect and also kicks the ball nicely. He can play as a ruckman, a position he has shared whilst playing for the Dandenong Stingrays, but also in a key position. He roams around the ground with good mobility, can mark above his head and although he does not shape as a big ball-winner, he could stamp himself as a player to watch move up draft boards in the second half of the season with a good carnival. 

Zak Butters
181/70kg
Western Jets/Vic Metro
Midfielder
8/9/00

Butters is a smaller midfielder who has a good turn of speed and has shown throughout the season he can find the ball. The Western Jets prospect has been one of his side's most consistent players, and two weeks ago was best afield in its win over the Oakleigh Chargers with 24 disposals, five tackles, five clearances and seven inside 50s. 

Jack Bytel
187cm/81kg
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro
Midfielder
14/3/00

A return of an old back injury has sidelined Bytel in recent weeks but the hard midfielder will still be hoping to have an impact at the championships. Bytel had a slower start to the season but picked up his form before the back soreness struck, including a game in round four of the TAC Cup when he had 37 disposals, nine tackles, eight clearances and a goal.

Jye Caldwell
184cm/78kg
Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country
Midfielder
28/9/00

A midfielder who is hard to beat at the contest, Caldwell is considered one of the top ball-winners available. Caldwell will push through or past most of his opposition to get to the ball and then feed it out, with his best work being done as an inside option at this stage. He tackles with intent and played at under-18 level for Vic Country last year which should bode well for a strong championships this year. Powerful and with a burst of speed from the stoppages, Caldwell will co-captain his side this carnival.

Caldwell in action for the Bendigo Pioneers. Picture: AFL Photos

Riley Collier-Dawkins
193cm/88kg
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro
Midfielder
3/2/00

Collier-Dawkins started the season in strong form as one of the Oakleigh Chargers' best players in round one and has kept that up as the season has gone on. The thing that will catch the eye about the midfielder is his size, which makes him hard to shift at the clearances and a contested ball winner who will fit into the modern game as an inside bull.

Jackson Hately
190cm/81kg
Central District/South Australia
21/10/00
Midfielder

Hately sits firmly as a first-round draft prospect ahead of the championships after what has been an impressive start to his senior football career with Central District this season. The midfielder has racked up plenty of the ball in the SANFL and also hit the scoreboard, booting five goals in six games. Two of them came against South Adelaide, when Hately had 23 disposals, 10 contested possessions and also laid 10 tackles. He ticks plenty of boxes as an all-round midfield option.

Ian Hill
175cm/76kg
Perth/Western Australia
9/2/00
Small forward

Hill lit up a game for Western Australia at Etihad Stadium last year as a bottom-ager and brings real pace and run and carry to this year's crop. The second cousin of Fremantle brothers Stephen and Bradley Hill, the Perth teenager continues to provide exhilarating moments in most games he plays. He booted two goals for the NAB AFL Academy in April and despite his smaller size he can have a big say on games with his take-it-on approach.

Hill is the second cousin of Docker brothers Stephen and Bradley. Picture: AFL Photos

Chayce Jones
180cm/74kg
Launceston/Allies
Midfielder
14/1/00

Jones started his under-18 Academy series in good style, kicking four goals for Tasmania, and finished it with a bang as well as his side took out the title earlier this month. In between those games he was a little quiet, but Jones remains a player of whom you get what you see: he works hard, is tidy by foot and can play anywhere from half-back, through the midfield and as a smaller forward. He captained Tasmania and is a diligent hard worker who has overcome a serious ankle injury he suffered on the eve of the Allies' championships last year.

Ben King
202cm/85kg
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro
7/7/00
Tall defender/forward

King kicked seven goals on the weekend at school level, continuing his run of form since shifting into attack when his twin brother Max went down with a season-ending knee injury. King is just as good as a centre half-back, where he was named best afield for his game for the NAB AFL Academy against North Melbourne's VFL side. Athletic and strong in the air, expect King to dominate at the championships.

Jack Lukosius
194cm/82kg
Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia
9/8/00
Tall forward

Lukosius is a key forward with innate game sense and feel. He tends to do his best work as a lead-up option rather than being a stay-at-home contested marking prospect. The 17-year-old made his senior debut last year in the SANFL preliminary final and kicked four goals, stamping himself as a possible No.1 pick this season. He's had a more than solid season so far for Woodville-West Torrens, showing off his leap and brilliant foot skills.

Could Lukosius go at pick No.1? Picture: AFL Photos

Isaac Quaynor
182cm/82kg
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro
Defender
15/1/00

The Magpies look set to get a big win with Quaynor, who can join the club as a member of its Next Generation Academy. The small defender is a very good player: he's sure with the ball and composed under pressure, he provides rebound and run, and he can play on a range of tall and small forwards without ever losing his own attacking tendencies. A bid for him could come in the first round on draft night at this rate.

Izak Rankine
180cm/76kg
West Adelaide/South Australia
23/4/00
Midfielder/forward

Rankine is a small forward with genuine pace and burst. He has a bag of tricks that few in the draft can replicate and, if we're being honest, he'd find a way into many AFL team's forward lines this season if he could. He'll have to wait for that, but Rankine has already got some runs on the board, having been named an under-18 All Australian last year. Has class, speed and an eye for a goal that makes him dangerous.

Connor Rozee
185cm/72kg
North Adelaide/South Australia
22/1/00
Midfielder/half-forward

Rozee can do things that other players at the top end of the draft can't. He has genuine spring in his legs and goes for his marks, but he can shift into the midfield and across half-back as well as his more customary spot at half-forward. Rozee is an energetic, exciting player particularly in the front half of the ground, where his creativity and class jumps out.

Rozee in action for the NAB AFL Academy. Picture: AFL Photos

Bailey Smith
185cm/79kg
Sandringham Dragons
7/12/00
Midfielder

Through sheer hard work and a nice blend of traits, Smith has grown into being one of the leading midfielders available this year. The dedicated and disciplined 17-year-old is good at the contest and can scrap for the ball, but he complements that with ball use on the outside and some dash. Smith's influence has been so big in games this season he has even attracted a tag at TAC Cup level, but he's strong bodied, works hard and shapes as an excellent AFL prospect. 

Curtis Taylor
186cm/79kg
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro
Midfielder/Half-forward
6/4/00

Taylor has a classy streak that comes out in most games he plays. For the Cannons this year he has mostly played as a forward, where he is elusive and smart around goal and has the kicking skills to finish off his work. He's tall enough to take a grab but also agile when the ball is on the ground, and so far this year he's kicked nine goals from six games. Taylor can also go through the midfield and impact the game, showing why he is viewed as a top-20 player.

Tarryn Thomas
189cm/73kg
North Launceston/Tasmania/Allies
25/3/00
Midfielder/forward

There's not much more Thomas could have done to this point of the season. The Tasmanian jet was clearly the best player in the recent under-18 Academy series, taking out the Harrison Medal after a dominant carnival that included a five-goal haul in one contest. North Melbourne gets first access to the silky midfielder through its Next Generation Academy and he looks set to attract a very early selection.

Sam Walsh
183cm/68kg
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country
2/7/00
Midfielder

The draft's leading midfielder after putting together an excellent body of work. It's rare for Walsh to play a bad game. He runs all day using his exceptional aerobic base, his skills are good and he is prepared to go and win the ball as well as take it for a run on the outside. Walsh has dominated the TAC Cup season for the Falcons and starred again last week in Vic Country's trial game before sitting out the second half after a minor ankle knock. 

Walsh is tackled during a match against North Melbourne's VFL side. Picture: AFL Photos

Rhylee West
180cm/80kg
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro
Midfielder
12/7/00

Some recruiters have West pegged as a top-15 pick, so enamoured are they with his dogged and uncompromising attitude, tough streak and quick hands. Others put him a little further back but either way West will be expected to go well at the championships for Vic Metro. West is as tough as they come and fires out handballs, and also likes to go forward, where he has shown he can surprise by flying for his marks.

Bailey Williams
198cm/95kg
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country
Ruckman
17/4/00

Williams is considered as among the top group of talls available in this year's draft. Recruiters differ on where he plays his best footy – in the ruck or as a marking key forward – but that's a good thing because he does both well. Recently he also kicked seven goals in a game for the Stingrays, and he's the best equipped ruckman in the draft pool. He has good hands and is a nice set shot when he's kicking for goal.

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