GOLD Coast and West Coast are tracking ready-to-go South Fremantle midfielder Marlion Pickett ahead of a near-certain step up to AFL ranks next season.
AFL.com.au understands the Suns, keen to bolster their onball stocks, have spoken to the 26-year-old, described by one WAFL official as "hard as they come".
The WAFL has been a gold mine for mature-age gems recently, with clubs unearthing readymade star Tim Kelly (Geelong), high-flying Liam Ryan (West Coast) and determined mid Bailey Banfield (Fremantle) last year alone.
Tenacious small forward Zac Langdon (Greater Western Sydney) and hard-working Matt Guelfi (Essendon) have also grabbed their opportunities with both hands.
While the 2018 crop might not be quite as strong, there still should be more than enough nuggets to catch recruiters' eyes.
Pickett has shone this season after switching from playing as a rebounding half-back into midfield to cover the absence of last year's Sandover Medal runner-up Kelly.
His teammate, exciting forward Matthew Parker, looms as another standout NAB AFL Draft chance, while ex-Dockers big man Zac Clarke might earn another shot with West Coast, in particular, needing to bolster its ruck stocks.
Zac Clarke (Subiaco)
His 101-game AFL career appeared over when he was overlooked by rival clubs after being cut by Fremantle last year, but the door could have swung ajar again for the 28-year-old after Nic Naitanui's second ACL rupture. West Coast's ruck stocks are thin, and there is no guarantee free agent Scott Lycett will re-sign. Clarke appears to have overcome his knee worries and has averaged nearly 15 disposals, 37 hit-outs and better than a goal a game for the undefeated Lions.
Oliver Eastland (Claremont)
The Tigers big man has been invited to the State Combine in October and, although the 20-year-old only stands 196cm, the changing landscape for ruckmen at the elite level and lack of ruck depth around the country could mean he's a chance to be drafted. Has averaged 28 hit-outs, 16 disposals and five marks this year.
Cody Leggett (Perth)
The 22-year-old has been a major driver of the Demons' rise this season, with the club on the verge of ending a 20-year finals drought. Leggett had 15 minutes of fame earlier this year after roosting a 92m goal from behind the centre circle. The 22-year-old missed most of last season due to injury but racks up possessions (24.9 per game) as a strong, inside midfielder.
Matthew Parker (South Fremantle)
The exciting 22-year-old forward has plenty of raw ability and would improve rapidly in an elite AFL system. Parker has slotted 24 majors in 15 games for the Bulldogs and has athletic traits that will no doubt turn recruiters' heads. He is a good size at 187cm, blessed with rapid speed, loves to lay a tackle (averaging four per match) and isn't shy jumping for a speccy either.
Marlion Pickett (South Fremantle)
A breakout performance in round six against Swan Districts showed why Pickett has recruiters excited. The tough nut asked for a switch into midfield from half-back this season to make the most of his pace and skills, and soon delivered a 30-possession – 21 of them contested – nine-clearance, seven-tackle, five-inside-50 and one-goal performance.
Haiden Schloithe (South Fremantle)
His AFL dream might have passed the former Fremantle rookie and last year's Sandover medallist by but the incredible season of former teammate Tim Kelly at Geelong could yet keep the 25-year-old's hopes alive. Is averaging 23.6 touches and 1.4 goals per game, and although he hasn't been invited to the state draft combine, recruiters know what the midfield bull can do.
Schloithe beat Tim Kelly in last year's Sandover Medal race. Picture: AFL Photos
Tobe Watson (Swan Districts)
The versatile 20-year-old has attracted plenty of interest from AFL clubs, despite only making 20 League appearances for Swans so far. Standing at 188cm, Watson is strong overhead – averaging better than five marks per game – and takes the footy at the highest point, reminding one observer of a young Jack Gunston. Has spent plenty of time in defence as a third tall capable of floating across packs and has good pace and foot skills.