Main content

U18: Hype grows over 'potential No.1'

Pies meet, Hodge's farewell, plus more All the Tuesday news, including the latest on Bucks
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 15:  Aiden Bonar of the Dandenong Stingrays runs during the 2017 TAC Cup round 12 match between the Dandenong Stingrays and the Northern Knights at Shepley Oval on July 15, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Rob Prezioso/AFL Media)
Injuries have made Aiden Bonar a draft smokey
(If Bonar) never had the injuries he's had ... his name would be touted as a potential No.1
Stingrays talent manager Mark Wheeler

AIDEN Bonar is shaping as one of the most intriguing prospects in this year's NAB AFL Draft after returning from two knee reconstructions to highlight his talent in recent weeks.

The Dandenong Stingrays product first went under the knife when he injured the knee in the lead-up to Vic Country's under-16 championships in 2015.

He returned from the long rehabilitation to play at school level for Haileybury College last year before suffering another torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The setback has made Bonar perhaps this year's biggest draft enigma, but his form since returning to the Stingrays has impressed recruiters and last weekend he gathered 18 disposals, seven marks and kicked two goals.

Stingrays talent manager Mark Wheeler said Bonar loomed as a very early pick before the first surgery, which didn't work as well as hoped.

"The feedback then was that it wasn't necessarily a second ACL, it was just that the first operation didn't take properly. Technically he's had two, but the first one the graft didn't take and just let go," Wheeler said.

"We took a bit longer than it could and he was ready to play about a month before we unleashed him, but we were really keen to build him up. He trains the house down, and he does stuff that he shouldn't be able to do at 190cm. He's AFL ready already."

Bonar presents as a difficult player for clubs to rank given his injury history, but he has appeared to retain his athleticism despite the knee issues.

He has enough recruiters interested to have been invited to test at the NAB AFL Draft Combine at Etihad Stadium in October alongside Stingrays teammates Luke Davies-Uniacke, Hunter Clark, Oscar Clavarino and Tom De Koning.

"If it was all fair and equal and this boy never had the injuries he's had, then I think his name would be touted as a potential No.1 draft pick," Wheeler said.

"Clubs have been interested in him for six months, and about three months ago the hype started to grow. I have more conversations about him than anyone else. Our big focus has been to make sure he's ready to go for an AFL pre-season, and he is."

The 18-year-old, whose mother is from Papua New Guinea and father hails from Scotland, has played mainly in attack but Wheeler said Bonar has the versatility to be used all over the ground.

"He can play anywhere, but I think he's an inside midfielder. He's a beast, he kicks it really well, he's got explosive speed still. He's a booming 60-metre kick, and he hasn't lost his vertical jump.”

"He's got an unknown factor about him."

Davies-Uniacke is in the mix to be the Stingrays' fourth No.1 pick since 2009, while fellow tough inside midfielder Clark is tipped to be a first-round selection at November's draft.