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Hidden draft gems of the state leagues - and the bush

Edward Morris of Casey in action during the VFL Round 13 match between Richmond and Casey Scorpions at ME Bank Centre, Melbourne on July 5, 2014. (Photo: Theo Karanikos/AFL Media)
Ed Morris has taken his junior form into senior level with Casey in the VFL
EACH year a handful of players are drafted from outside the usual talent pathways.

Recent examples include Isaac Smith, who was taken by Hawthorn with pick 19 in 2010. He started that season playing in the Ballarat league with Redan.

Then there's Sam Lloyd, who found his way to Richmond via a circuitous journey that included Murray league club Deniliquin and VFL side Frankston.

With that in mind, we've trawled through the state leagues and grassroots competitions to find a few hidden gems who might just hear their names called when the national and rookie drafts roll around later this year.

VFL

Ed Morris, Casey, 18, 178cm, 71kg

Won Gippsland Power’s club champion award last season and has immediately adapted to life in the VFL, racking up big numbers playing through the midfield and up forward. A fierce competitor, Morris laid the most tackles in the TAC Cup last season. Morris might be looked at by a club that needs some midfield grunt, such as St Kilda or Melbourne.


Nick Rippon, North Ballarat, 20, 177cm, 81kg
The former North Ballarat Rebels' best-and-fairest has been on the radar of AFL clubs but missed out in the previous two NAB AFL Drafts. Rippon represented Victoria Country at the under-18s championships and has impressed at VFL level. The classy midfielder is particularly damaging with ball in hand forward of centre and makes excellent decisions. Could be useful for a team like West Coast which is crying out for skillful midfielders.

Jake Owen, Williamstown, 19, 191cm, 82kg
Owen was rated among the Calder's top draft prospects after he won the Cannons' best-and-fairest last season. An athletic and versatile prospect, Owen turned himself into a midfielder but has also played as a third tall in attack in the VFL this season and has a vice-like pair of hands. Potentially a good fit for St Kilda as a big-bodied midfielder or forward target.




Draft hopeful Jake Owen in action for the Calder Cannons last year. Picture: AFL Media

NEAFL

Cleve Hughes, Redland, 27, 193cm, 93kg

Selected by Richmond with pick 24 in 2005 NAB AFL Draft after showing great promise in the SANFL with Norwood, the big forward played just 16 games for the Tigers over four seasons. He moved to Queensland after being delisted by Richmond and spent four years playing for Southport, where he kicked 203 goals in 63 games. A move to fellow NEAFL club Redland for this season has rejuvenated Hughes. He has kicked 78 goals in 15 games, with a best haul of 11 against Gold Coast's reserves. Away from footy, Hughes has been making a name for himself as a male model with Vivien's modelling agency in Brisbane.




Cleve Hughes takes a grab during his time at Richmond in 2008. Picture: AFL Media

Michael Hutchinson, Aspley, 23, 188cm, 80kg
Athletic, skillful defender who appeared on The Recruit on Foxtel. Slightly built, but often takes on and beats the opposition’s best forward. Was a junior soccer star.

Errin Wasley-Black, NT Thunder, 187cm, 83kg
Attacking half-back, originally from Alice Springs, who was unlucky not be drafted in 2013 after being a member of the AFL-AIS Academy. Shed some weight during a big pre-season and has been a star with NT Thunder this season, rebounding from the backline.

WAFL

Haiden Schloithe, South Fremantle, 21, 181cm, 78kg

Former Fremantle rookie who has been a dominant force in the midfield for WAFL club South Fremantle this season. Is averaging 24 disposals per game and has kicked 22 goals. Has been invited to the West Australian NAB AFL Draft Combine.

Blaine Boekhorst, Swan Districts, 20, 186cm, 74kg
After spending three years as a fringe player at Swan Districts, Boekhorst has shot to prominence this season. A midfielder who is renowned for taking on the opposition, the 20-year-old has averaged 21.5 disposals in 17 WAFL games. A number of AFL clubs have already shown an interest in him, and he was recently invited to the West Australian NAB AFL Draft Combine.

SANFL

Sam Baulderstone, Norwood, 23, 200cm, 113kg

Athletic ruckman who is following a similar path to Sydney Swans big man Shane Mumford. Just three years ago, Baulderstone was playing bush footy and carrying plenty of baggage around his midriff. But after being given a chance by SANFL club Norwood, he shed close to 40kg and improved to such an extent that he was the Redlegs' first-choice ruckman in their premiership team last year. He has been invited to the South Australian NAB AFL Draft Combine. With many clubs desperate to land a ready-made ruckman, he is sure to attract plenty of attention.

TSL

Bart McCulloch, Western Storm, 23, 199cm, 96kg

Has previous AFL experience, having spent three seasons with the Brisbane Lions without making a debut. The 199cm ruckman/forward came of age during 2013 and was part of South Launceston's Tasmanian State League premiership team. Has spent this year playing for new Launceston-based club Western Storm and has enjoyed another impressive season. Was part of the Storm's Foxtel Cup campaign and also played for the TSL in a representative game against the NEAFL.

Matt Hanson, Western Storm, 19, 186cm, 82kg
Midfielder who came through the Tassie Mariners under-18 program but was overlooked in last year's draft. Has put on around 10kg since then and has become one of the most dominant players in the TSL. Is hot favourite to win the Western Storm best and fairest and is up the top of the TSL player of the year award, which is run by the local newspapers. Was part of the Storm's Foxtel Cup campaign and also played for the TSL in a representative game against the NEAFL. Has been invited to the Victorian NAB AFL Draft Combine.

THE BUSH

Jack Brauman, Bannockburn (Geelong and District FL), 18

Appointed Bannockburn's captain at just 18 years of age, it comes as no surprise Brauman has reportedly been under the watchful eye of Collingwood recruiters in several games this season. An on-baller with an incredible work ethic, Brauman won Bannockburn's best-and-fairest last season.

Jack Geary, Golden Square (Bendigo FL), 22
A star of the Bendigo Football League, Geary's dominant third quarter practically won Golden Square its fifth-straight flag last season. The centreman won his second Nalder Medal as best-on-ground in the Grand Final for his efforts. His list of accolades includes a VCFL guernsey and the BFL inter-league captaincy this season, plus the Peter Knights Medal as the VCFL under-19s' best player. It is understood Hawthorn has shown an interest in Geary, who also plays key forward or back in the country.

Grant Weeks, Rochester, (Goulburn Valley FL) 25, 189cm, 98kg
A true 'Coleman of the bush', Weeks has long-dominated country Victorian football. The full-forward broke the Bendigo Football League's goalkicking record with his 164th goal for the season in Golden Square's 2012 Grand Final triumph. He now plays for Rochester in the strong GVFL and has kicked 80 goals this season in 15 games. Was previously been named at full-forward in the All Australian team at the Australian Country Football Championships. Played TAC Cup for the Bendigo Pioneers and VFL for the then Bendigo Bombers. Would be handy for any side looking for a strong-marking forward rarely beaten in one-on-one duels.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs