NEW NORTH Melbourne head of development Michael Barlow has declared a pair of Werribee stars belong on AFL lists after stellar seasons at state league level.
As reported on AFL.com.au on Tuesday, Barlow joined the Kangaroos less than two weeks after coaching Werribee to the VFL grand final.
Speaking on Continental Tyres AFL Trade Radio on Wednesday, the former Fremantle and Gold Coast midfielder gave glowing reviews for two of his players – Shaun Mannagh and Sam Clohesy – after both played key roles in Werribee's flag-contending run which ultimately fell short to the Suns' VFL side in an entertaining grand final.
Mannagh, 26, amassed a Leigh Matthews-style stat sheet with six goals from 28 disposals to claim the Norm Goss Medal for best afield in the decider, while AFL.com.au's Inside Trading reported in September that Clohesy, 20, had attracted the interest of clubs after a promising season in defence.
Barlow said half-forward Mannagh would comfortably be in most teams' starting 22.
"If you take a half-forward-mid from an AFL list, and you put them in a VFL season and they have to play the whole year, maybe five per cent of them are having games like Shaun Mannagh has," Barlow said.
"I'd be willing to say he is in the best 22 of a lot of sides at the moment.
"Disregard the age. [He's] 26, that's still a four-to-five-year career to come for someone who's great culturally, got a great work ethic and is a great person."
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Mannagh's VFL grand final performance wasn't a one-hit wonder – he booted four goals from 40 touches in round three, three from 28 in round 13, and seven from 25 in round 15.
Barlow said Clohesy, who claimed the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal as the promising young talent in the VFL, has clubs "significantly interested."
"He's driven, competitive, tough. He's got two or three kilos to put on, (but) can run really well," Barlow said.
"He played for his team, got the trust of his teammates, then he had some fun in the back half of the year when he was playing freely and running off half-back.
"I know there's some clubs significantly interested in him."
Barlow said his decision to move back into the AFL system to steer North Melbourne's development program came only recently and was inspired by an informal coffee catch-up with Kangaroos coach Alastair Clarkson.
Barlow believes his "full pie of experiences" playing career – he was a mature-age draftee, Brownlow Medal smokey, copped an infamous broken leg, lost a Grand Final and was delisted from both Fremantle and Gold Coast – leaves him perfectly prepared for North's development role.
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"I feel like I can speak to most players and empathise with whatever situation it is – whether they're going really well, whether they're going poorly, whether they've got some off-field stuff going on, whether they're injured, whether they've got a bit of a career mortality, that's really important to me," he said.