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Three days to the draft: Meet Christian Petracca

Draft trumps: Christian Petracca Meet the player that is widely tipped to be the number one pick at the NAB AFL Draft

CHRISTIAN Petracca started the season as a half-forward who could play in the midfield. He ended it having reversed that equation and proved himself as a dynamic, game-changing on-baller. 

After being an elite underage basketballer – Petracca was a member of the AIS basketball squad at under-18 level alongside recent NBA draftee Dante Exum – he quit that sport and turned solely to footy at the start of 2013. 

It's turned out to be a win for the AFL. Petracca played last year for the Eastern Ranges and kicked 41 goals off a half-forward flank, but showed a lot of promise.

He turned his attention to becoming a midfielder, improved his fitness and went for broke. It was obvious pretty quickly he was a natural fit in that role, starring through the TAC Cup season and the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.

Petracca was named the Larke Medallist for the best player in the division one championships, was in the midfield for the All Australian team, and finished equal third in the Morrish Medal.

Petracca has been the most dominant player in the draft pool, completing a convincing season as a damaging, competitive midfielder. In nine games in the TAC Cup he proved himself to be a level above, averaging 25 disposals and kicking 19 goals. 

But it was in the championships where he really made his mark, again averaging 25 disposals over five games playing with and against the country's most highly rated talent.  

Petracca has got a lot going for him. He loves the physical parts of the game and throws his weight around, and is also very strong overhead for a midfielder. His standing vertical leap (74cm) ranked fourth at last month's national combine.  

When he goes forward, he proves to be an extremely difficult match-up: he's strong on the lead and tricky at ground level. His quick thinking in tight spaces is elite, and he also has leg speed to get out of trouble or hunt down opponents.  

There is not much more Petracca could have done during 2014 to prove his credentials as a top draft pick. He's a mature body, ready for AFL action next year.

It was his endurance, but he managed to answer that question pretty comprehensively through the season. And then he topped it with a 14.12 beep test at the combine, underlining his improvement in that area to finish in the top 12 of all competitors. 

Sometimes Petracca can try to kick the leather off the ball – a by-product of doing everything at 100 per cent – but he has tempered that and added more composure to his game this season.

It is difficult to compare Petracca to any player, because of his unique set of skills. He can turn games up forward like Dustin Martin and is excellent one-on-one, but when in the midfield, he plays in the same way as Ollie Wines. His combination of speed, power and agility makes him hard to stop.

Set to be one of the first three names read out on Thursday night on the Gold Coast. Would be a deserving No.1 pick.

There isn't a player like Petracca in this draft. He mixes power with poise, strength with skill, speed with effort and competitiveness with class. Perhaps the best thing about Petracca is his motivation – he wants to be very good and took big steps towards that this year. He'll be aiming to make an impact next season.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs