ASKING recruiters how they view this year's draft class has brought varying responses. But they have often returned to same thing: "Let's wait and see how they go at the nationals".

That time has come. On Saturday, the division one NAB AFL Under-18 Championships will start when South Australia and Western Australia lock horns at Domain Stadium.

The five-team, four-round carnival will run until July 5, so here are 25 players (in alphabetical order) worth watching in that time. will release the first Phantom Form Guide of the season, ranking the prospects, at the end of the championships.

Under-18 Championships hub: Every squad, every fixture, every score

Oscar Allen
Key forward
West Perth/Western Australia

The key forward might be his state's best draft prospect this year. Allen has been the standout hopeful in WA's under-18 trials, and is athletic, good overhead and appears to have good game sense. He is averaging nearly eight marks a game at colts level in Western Australia, and has also been used in the ruck at times – although he won't be tall enough to do that at the next level. In a draft light on for talls who have pushed themselves up the ranks, Allen will be one to look for in WA's matches. 

Connor Ballenden
Key forward
Brisbane Lions academy/Allies

Ballenden was quiet at times for the Brisbane Lions side in the academy series, but got more involved when he moved into a rucking position. He's big enough for that role, but it appears his future lies as a key forward. Ballenden is a big, strong prospect already: he's built ready for the top level. This season he has found it difficult to hit the scoreboard, but he is generally a long and accurate kick, and his contested marking is also a key attribute when on song. 

Noah Balta
Key defender
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro

Balta kicked two goals on the weekend for the Cannons, proving he can move forward and be dangerous near goal with his booming right foot kick. His presence in attack was noted by scouts at the game. But most seem to think he's best positioned as an athletic key defender who can jump for his marks, take the game on and send the ball his side's way in a direct manner. Balta has also spent time in the ruck at TAC Cup level, but he won't be big enough to hold down that spot at the next level. 

Jarrod Brander
Key defender/key forward
Bendigo Pioneers/Allies

Opinions remain split about where Brander plays his best footy, but he remains one of the leading tall prospects in this year's pool. Injuries continue to bug him – he missed some footy this year with a minor knee complaint – but when up and going he can mark well and dominate a game at either end. He's a nice kick for a player his size and should play a prominent role for the Allies at the championships. Brander is no longer a part of the Giants' academy despite playing for them during the academy series. 

Andrew Brayshaw
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

The younger brother of Melbourne's Angus. Brayshaw is also a midfielder, although a little different and perhaps not quite as physically developed as Angus was at the same age. Andrew is good by foot, he's happy getting his head over the ball and winning it himself, and he can provide some outside run. Brayshaw can be trusted with the ball and he started the season in terrific form with the Sandringham Dragons.

Adam Cerra
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro

Cerra looms as an early selection at this year's draft. The versatile and composed midfielder has enjoyed a strong year at TAC Cup level, where his play-making style has shone. Things seem to slow down around Cerra when he has the ball: he can spot an option others don't see, and he never seems fazed by oncoming pressure. Cerra can also play across half-back where his decision-making comes to the fore, and he's a good mark overhead. Cerra missed most of last season with a meniscus injury in his knee, but it has been hard to miss his output in 2017.

Vic Country star faces test ahead of U18 titles

Hunter Clark
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country

Some groin troubles saw Clark start the season a little slowly, but he's grown into the year and is in good form. After spending the past couple of years as a half-back, Clark has moved into an inside midfield role and started to collect plenty of the ball. He had 30 disposals (14 contested) and eight tackles last weekend for the Stingrays, and has proven himself to be a tough, hard and competitive player. He can kick on both feet and isn't afraid to put his body on the line. 

Hunter Clark has shown potential as an inside midfielder. Picture: AFL Photos

Nick Coffield
Northern Knights/Vic Metro

Some of Coffield's best form has been as an attacking half-back, but he is just as comfortable playing through the midfield. His versatility is an appealing trait (he even kicked four goals in the opening round of this season), as is his size given his athleticism and ability to use the ball well. A good leader, Coffield is captain of the Northern Knights in the TAC Cup and is a natural competitor. He looks to be right in the mix as a top-20 pick at this year's draft. 

Luke Davies-Uniacke
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country

A leading contender for the No.1 pick. The competitive midfielder can find the ball consistently at stoppages and has the capacity to turn on his pace and explode out of a clearance with the ball tucked under his arm. After overcoming a shoulder injury from the end of last season, Davies-Uniacke has pieced together a strong season so far and showed his capabilities as a midfielder able to win the ball and use it on the outside. His size will also appeal as a likely early selection. 

Where is the 2017 NAB AFL Draft being held?

Paddy Dow
Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country
Dow has shown in the first half of this season there is more to his game than just being an inside midfielder. He can bust away from a pack and kick it long, and has also demonstrated his pace, turning good testing results into breakaway actions on the field. His goalkicking has also stepped up a notch, with Dow regularly going forward and hitting the scoreboard (he even kicked a bag of seven at school level). Dow is a no-fuss, no-frills type of player but he has some good tricks to complement his work ethic.

Darcy Fogarty
Glenelg/South Australia

Fogarty's improvement in the past year has seen him burst into No.1 pick contention. The South Australian is powerful, tough, and means business whenever he plays: he gets opponents out of his way and he has a presence around the ball. Fogarty is also not lacking in finesse – he's a nice right foot kick, and he has sticky hands on the lead. At his size he can play a number of roles, often being used through half-forward and the midfield, where he seems likely to be eventually deployed. There's a lot to like about Fogarty and a standout championships could further elevate his stocks. 

Lachlan Fogarty
Western Jets/Vic Metro

Fogarty is part of a fleet of smaller midfielders in this year's crop, but he is hard working, adept by foot and excellent in distributing the ball by hand. He is the type who can make you look twice at a statistics sheet, often surprised by how much of the ball he has accumulated. That's probably because plenty of his work is done in congested situations. He was one of the NAB AFL Academy's best players against VFL side the Northern Blues in April, gathering 17 touches and seven tackles. 

Lachlan Fogarty shone for the AFL Academy against the Northern Blues. Picture: AFL Photos

Joel Garner
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro

Garner has played in a few different roles throughout this season, but his best position seems to be as a sweeping half-back, where he can use his long left-foot kick to set up the play. The indigenous prospect is solidly built, crafty with the ball and has clean hands to shoot it out and find a teammate. The championships should provide him a good platform to show his skills.

Vic Metro's Joel Garner boasts an impressive left foot kick. Picture: AFL Photos

Sam Hayes
Ruckman/key forward
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro

If you had quizzed recruiters at the start of the year whether Hayes was more ruck or forward, most would have said ruckman. The consensus might not be so clear now. Of late, the Eastern Ranges big man has spent more and more time in attack, and recently booted six goals at TAC Cup level. He can take a grab overhead, is a steady set shot for goal, and he remains the top-placed ruckman in this year's pool with good mobility. Hayes was the only bottom-ager to be named an All Australian last year after impressing for Vic Metro.

Jack Higgins
Small forward/midfielder
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

Higgins finds a way to impact a game. He sees himself more as a small forward who goes into the midfield than the other way around, but he can do both capably. He booted four goals from 15 disposals for the Oakleigh Chargers last weekend, taking his tally to 14 majors from eight games. Higgins is tough, a very neat and reliable kick, has worked hard on his pace, and is also a smart overhead mark for a player of his size. Higgins has a knack of getting involved when his team needs him.

Matthew Ling
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

Ling's standout trait is his pace. The Geelong Falcons midfielder enjoys running and taking the game on, which is sure to appeal to some clubs as they search for a line-breaker. Sometimes the 18-year-old can get himself into some strife with his go-at-all-costs approach, but he can also give his side a lift. Given speed always tends to catch the eye at the championships, Ling seems likely to get some attention across the carnival. 

Andrew McPherson
Woodville West Torrens/South Australia

The hard-working South Australian is versatile, reliable and does things with a no-worries attitude. He can play in the midfield and also in defence, where his skills are steady and he remains calm under pressure. McPherson is the type of player who can fly under the radar, but he has a good aerobic base and is able to outwork plenty of opponents. A leg injury has sidelined him in recent weeks. 

Patrick Naish
Northern Knights/Vic Metro

The Richmond father-son prospect has pieced together a strong season. Naish can play as a midfielder or on a flank at either end, with his running ability and line-breaking dash offering something different. He combines that with top-end kicking – he's a controlled kick on the run and a nice set shot for goal. He kicked seven goals recently at school level. The Tigers will have first call on the son of former player Chris.

Patrick Naish is the son of former Richmond goalsneak Chris. Picture: AFL Photos

Lochie O'Brien
Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country

O'Brien is the player you want to have the ball. He likes to get it and set up the play from the wing, using his classy left foot to pick out options few see and even fewer can find by foot. O'Brien's elite running background allows him to work up and down the ground, and he's clever when he pushes forward where he has shown an ability to kick a goal. The Bendigo Pioneers product played for Vic Country at last year's carnival so should be ready to take his game up a notch this time around.

Jack Petruccelle
Northern Knights/Vic Metro

There aren't many players quicker than Petruccelle, who runs the 20-metre sprint in 2.82 seconds. That speed will appeal to plenty of clubs who are looking for dash from defence or through the midfield. The former basketballer has a little way to go in getting more involved in games but he's a good mark over his head for his size and has tear-away speed to change games. He kicked five goals against Gippsland Power recently and one of his majors showed all of his traits: he whisked the ball out of a stoppage, dodged past traffic and slotted a goal from the boundary line. Petruccelle sets himself apart because he's exciting.

Cameron Rayner
Western Jets/Vic Metro

Rayner has been a player whose stocks have risen this season. He was added to the NAB AFL Academy last year after some powerful performances for the Western Jets, and he starred early this season for the Academy with a best-afield display on the MCG. He showed that day he could push through the midfield, gathering 23 disposals to go with his three goals. Rayner will need to improve his running but he can impact games like few others with his strength in the midfield, long kicking and contested marking. He's in the mix for No.1.

High-flying Cameron Rayner has impressed this year for the Western Jets. Picture: AFL Photos

Charlie Spargo
Murray Bushrangers/Allies

Spargo is a busy, neat and determined small midfielder who makes good decisions with the ball and wins plenty of it. The son of former North Melbourne player Paul knows how to dig into congestion and come out with the ball, and he's also adept at going forward and creating the play closer to goal. Spargo was formerly a part of the GWS academy but after its zone was reduced by the AFL, he is now in the open draft.

Jaidyn Stephenson
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro

Having already starred for two years at TAC Cup level, recruiters were well aware of Stephenson's elite talent before this season. The mercurial half-forward can produce 'wow' moments on a regular basis: he has electric leg speed, brilliant spring he uses to take big marks, and an uncanny goal sense. He's unlike any player in this year's pool and it's hard to find anyone like him full stop. He has spent more time in the midfield this season, and gathered 26 disposals and seven tackles for the Ranges on the weekend. The national carnival is a good stage for Stephenson to highlight his wares.

Will Sutherland
Key forward
Scotch College/Vic Metro

All eyes will be on Sutherland when he lines up for Metro, even if nobody is keen to talk about when that will actually be. His first game certainly isn't going to escape attention. Football and cricket are both lining up for the talented teenager's services, and the Australian under-19 cricket captain is weighing up which way he goes. If he chooses football he has plenty of fans. Recruiters have been watching him closely for school side Scotch College and been impressed with his agility, athleticism and skills as a key forward. Many believe Sutherland will be an early draft choice if he follows the football pathway. 

Toby Wooller
Medium forward
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

Wooller plays as a tall forward and has had a good season for the Oakleigh Chargers, where he has kicked 23 goals in nine games. Whether he is big enough to play as a key target at the next level is perhaps arguable, but he can also spend some time further up the ground. Wooller is a natural forward who knows where the goals are, and he is also a keen tackler. He is the grandson of Geelong's 1963 premiership captain Fred Wooller.




24. Durak Tucker

27. Sam Taylor

18. Zareth Roe

H Backs

17. Jaxon Cahill

29. Aaron Naughton

6. Jarrod Cameron


3. Tom Joyce

22. Kyron Hayden

13. Gordon Narrier

H Fwds

21. Matt Young

25. Oscar Allen

8. Sydney Stack


20. Brandon Starcevich

28. Ben Miller

2. Ian Hill


31. Jonathan Frampton

11. Callan England

9. Jake Patmore


19. Christian Ameduri

35. Louis Miller

15. Brayden Ainsworth


16. Jordan Boullineau

5. Taryce Stewart



23. Damon Cramer 

10. Connor West 




44 Lachlan Pascoe

38 Harrison Petty

17 Brad McCarthy

H Backs

14 Isaac Hewson

32 Thomas Schmusch

31 Mitchell Coles


2 Izak Rankine

40 Darcy Fogarty

37 Charlie Ballard

H Fwds

15 Jordan Houlahan

36 Jack Lukosius

13 Jackson Edwards


3 James Rowe

49 Callum Coleman-Jones

34 Sam Davis


46 Ruben Flinn

12 Alex Martini

16 Mitchell Crowden


28 Jakob Heitmann

5 Stefan Giro

20 Jackson Hately


6 Connor Rozee

22 Jake Weidemann

18 Brodie Carroll


24 Brandon Zerk-Thatcher





31. Tom Highmore

36. Jack Payne

3.Brodie Foster

H Backs

18. Jake Hinds

33. Jarrod Brander

23.Luke Robertson


22. Tarryn Thomas

26. Nicholas Shipley

25. Harry Simington

H Fwds

14. Jack Clayton

35. Hugh Dixon

10. James Bell


34. Nick Blakey

38. Connor Ballenden

2. Jack Hardman


39. Brayden Crossley

5. Zac Bailey

1. Charlie Spargo


6. Jack Powell

11. Brendan Myers

7. Sam Davidson


40. Nathan Richards

24. Kwaby Boakye



8. Luke Skrivanic

13. Bailey Scott




5 Ben Paton

36 Cody Henness

37 Joshua Jaska

H Backs

21 Hunter Clark

25 Oscar Clavarino

19 Matthew Ling


13 Ethan Floyd

28 James Worpel

8 Lochie O’Brien

H Fwds

33 Changkuoth Jiath

22 Jordon Butts

15 Paddy Dow


10 Brent Daniels

20 Tom DeKoning

4 Gryan Miers


38 Lloyd Meek

9 Luke Davies-Uniacke

6 Aidan Quigley


3 Jye Caldwell

Kane Farrell

16 David Handley


12 Edward McHenry

7 Zane Barzen



2 Samuel Walsh

27 Harrison Jones

29 Bailey Williams