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VFL watch: Sam Mitchell clone ripe for picking?

Mick Gibbons is one of a host of Williamstown players putting their hands up to be drafted - AFL,VFL,Draft
Mick Gibbons is one of a host of Williamstown players putting their hands up to be drafted

WILLIAMSTOWN coach Andy Collins wants to know how Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew takes his coffee.

The triple Hawks premiership player – now one of the VFL's leading mentors – is seeking an audience with Dew, where he would sell him on the merit of drafting Sam Mitchell-clone Mick Gibbons.

Gibbons, 23, is just one of the Seagulls whose name perennially arises as an AFL-worthy talent, with Ben Cavarra, Brett Bewley and Lachie Schultz also occupying that space.

The VFL is a proven breeding ground for AFL recruiting bargains, so it's not pie-in-the-sky stuff.

Bayley Fritsch, Billy Gowers, Brody Mihocek, Cam O'Shea, David Mirra and Sam Switkowski made it onto AFL lists last year – and all will have played at the highest level by weekend's end.

The 2018 class has promise, too, including two compelling cases at Werribee in former Dockers defender Sam Collins and strong-marking forward Josh Corbett.

Marty Hore has put together another fine VFL campaign for Collingwood, while ex-AFL discards Jesse Palmer and Sam Fisher are turning heads at the Northern Blues.

Don't sleep on Geelong tackling machine Tom Atkins, Coburg's Marcus Lentini – who leads the VFL in disposals and contested possessions – or Mihocek's defensive replacement at Port Melbourne, Ethan Phillips, either.

Thirteen VFL footballers will attend the national, state or Rookie Me draft combines, so expect more Victorian state league talent to join the AFL in November.

Jake Aarts (Richmond)

The boy from Beaconsfield in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs has toiled away at VFL level for several seasons, firstly at the defunct Bendigo Gold and now at the Tigers. Former St Kilda star Aussie Jones is a big fan of Aarts, a hard-working, super-fit small forward who is part of Richmond's VFL leadership group.

Ben Cavarra (Williamstown)

Won the 2013 Morrish Medal as the TAC Cup's best and fairest player and hasn't stopped racking up accolades since – and remains on the AFL radar as he prepares to turn 23. Cavarra transitioned into a small forward in recent seasons, and has kicked 26 goals from 15 games in 2018. 

Sam Collins (Werribee)

Takes marks for fun down back, with no player in the VFL amassing more of the contested or intercept variety this year. His huge work-rate and ability to read the ball off the boot of opposition players saw him dubbed the VFL's equivalent to Alex Rance by one coach. Projects as a second tall at AFL level. 

Josh Corbett (Werribee)

Regularly claims pack-busting grabs, his work ethic is strong and his goalkicking has improved to the point he is a safe bet in front of the sticks. The 190cm forward was the sole VFL player to score an invitation to the national Draft Combine, but an eye injury has kept him sidelined since late June.

Campbell Floyd (Geelong)

The wildcard in the pack. Is the Colac kid the Cats' next player to be plucked from obscurity? Is slight and stands 186cm, but does some eye-catching things that stand out as much as his dreadlocks. Loves to take the game on down back with his speed and athleticism and is a good kick, too. 

Will Hayes (Footscray)

The natural ball-winner has long graduated from the forward line into the midfield and is averaging 26 touches per game in 2018. His 16.1 uncontested possessions rank second in the VFL, and it wouldn't surprise if the Bulldogs dipped into their state league team again for Hayes, as they did with Billy Gowers.  

Nick Hind (Essendon)

Boasts breakneck speed – a quality many AFL clubs are looking for – and uses it smartly to be an attacking weapon on the spread for the Bombers. Hind's skillset, including neat ball use, caused Port Melbourne coach Gary Ayres "angst" last weekend and the ex-Hawthorn champion described him as a "ready-made" AFL option. 

Marty Hore (Collingwood)

The 22-year-old leads all non-AFL-listed players for kicking efficiency (77.4 per cent) among the top 100 players for kicks in the VFL. There were queries about his mobility in the past, but only Sam Collins averages more intercept marks, and Hore provides genuine drive from defence off his trusty left boot. 

Jay Lockhart (Casey)

Left his North Launceston clubmates behind to chase his AFL dream for Melbourne's VFL affiliate Casey this year and has comfortably adjusted to the rise in standard. His kicking skills are a strength, as is his speed away from the contest. Was best afield for Tasmania in the 2017 state clash with the NEAFL. 

Hayden McLean (Sandringham)

Captained Sandringham Dragons in the TAC Cup before stepping up to the VFL in 2018, where his 197cm frame has allowed him to play as both a key forward and in the ruck. McLean's contested marking should appeal to recruiters, and the dearth of big man options might play in his favour. 

Corey Rich (Frankston)

Booted six goals in the Young Guns game in May to put his name up in lights, but he's been doing it all season for the Dolphins. Rich, who is strong aerobically, also kicked bags of six, five and four in the VFL this year, and is thriving on the extra opportunity after crossing from Sandringham.

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