Main content

Who will be the next Tim Kelly? The best mature-age prospects

Will this be the year Michael Gibbons gets drafted? - AFL,Draft
Will this be the year Michael Gibbons gets drafted?

THERE has been an increased focus on mature-age players making their way onto AFL lists from state league clubs following the success stories of several clubs in the last few seasons.

Already we have seen players make their way onto AFL lists via the special compensation picks afforded to Gold Coast and Carlton with Josh Corbett (Gold Coast), Chris Burgess (Gold Coast), Sam Collins (Gold Coast), Nathan Kreuger (Geelong) and Shane McAdam (Adelaide) all finding homes.

There are several players pushing their case for an opportunity in upcoming NAB AFL Drafts and has taken a look at the best prospects still available.


Brett Bewley

Height: 186cm
Weight: 83kg
DOB: 14/4/95
Club: Williamstown

Bewley was one of the strongest performers in the NAB AFL State Draft Combine and his test results – a 2.99 in the 20m sprint and a recorded time of 22.4 in the YoYo endurance test (the best out of the national and state testing) were testament to the work he puts into his craft. Bewley, 23, is a carpenter by trade and he enjoyed a productive season with Williamstown, gathering the fourth-most disposals in the competition. He's a strong body, he kicks the ball well and he's good overhead. A strong chance to be drafted.

Michael Gibbons

Height: 175cm
Weight: 73kg
DOB: 15/5/1995
Club: Williamstown

Gibbons has been around the draft mark for a number of years but his ability to consistently win the football – he led the VFL competition in disposals (28) – has many believing this could be his year to get picked up. Gibbons tied with then Tiger, now Sun Anthony Miles for the VFL's Liston Trophy, becoming just the eighth player in history to win the award twice. Projects as a late pick or rookie selection.

Nick Hind

Height: 181cm
Weight: 70kg
DOB: 19/8/1994
Club: Essendon VFL

Hind has speed and lots of it. His two-bounce running dash through the middle of the ground to set up James Stewart's semi-final winning goal against Richmond was spectacular and would have had recruiters sitting up to take notice. Reaffirming his pace, Hind ran 2.94 seconds over 20m at the state combine. Projects well at the next level given his upside and likely to earn an opportunity. The Bombers are believed to be keen on their state league product.


Marty Hore

Height: 189cm
Weight: 81kg
DOB: 5/3/1996
Club: Collingwood

Along with Sam Collins, who was selected by Gold Coast as a state league priority signing in October, Hore was the pick of the key defenders in the VFL this season. Won Collingwood's VFL best and fairest award in 2017 and backed it up again in 2018, with his ability to intercept mark the feature of his game. Uses the ball effectively and would be ready to play next year if called upon. Some recruiters see him more as a rookie chance, but could surprise and get picked in the national draft for clubs desperately seeking key defender depth.

Jake Aarts

Height: 178cm
Weight: 77kg
DOB: 8/12/1994
Club: Richmond

Originally from the now defunct Bendigo Gold, Aarts had his best season at VFL level for Richmond in 2018. Playing as a small forward, the 23-year-old kicked 17 goals in 16 matches. After a couple of years in the Tigers' VFL's system, Aarts' body shape is now much more conducive to playing at the level and it was telling. His special trait is being able to stand up in tackles and he's got a few tricks with the ball. Applies good forward pressure as well, which is a fundamental part of the modern game. Projects as a rookie option for clubs in need of a dynamic small forward. 

Tom Jok

Height: 193cm
Weight: 80kg
DOB: 1/1/97
Club: Collingwood VFL

Jok was overlooked in the both drafts last season as top-age player, but made the most of his chance with the Magpies' VFL team in 2018. Split his time with VAFA club St Kevin's Old Boys, but had the chance to display his skillset in the latter half of the year. The 21-year-old has good athleticism and endurance, and he's versatile – he played on the wing, half-forward and half-back and even in the ruck for the Pies. Training with St Kilda in the lead up to the drafts and even won the club's time trial earlier in the week.

Tom Jok has already impressed while training at St Kilda. Picture: AFL Photos

Jay Lockhart

Height: 176cm
Weight: 75kg
DOB: 3/2/96
Club: Casey Demons

Lockhart is a tough and rugged competitor who has the ability to play in the midfield or half-back. Played every game in his first season in the VFL after making the transition from the Tasmanian State League. Lockhart can find the footy and use it efficiently. His leadership ability has grown and despite only standing 176cm he is very strong overhead for a player of his height. At least one club is believed to be interested in securing the former Tasmanian.

Corey Wagner

Height: 180cm
Weight: 74kg
DOB: 23/3/1997
Club: Casey Demons

Played eight matches with North Melbourne in 2017 before being delisted at the end of the season. Went back to play at Casey and with brother Demons-listed player Josh and shone in a role through the midfield. Wagner is great with hands, makes good decisions with the football and is a tough competitor who is regarded as having a strong work ethic.

Hayden McLean

Height: 196cm
Weight: 93kg
DOB: 20/1/1999
Club: Sandringham

Along with Jok, McLean is the other player training with St Kilda in the lead up to the Draft. At 196cm, McLean plays predominantly as a tall forward but he can go into the ruck and pinch-hit when needed. Still only 19, McLean uses his body effectively in marking contests and he has a strong set of hands. Melbourne is another club that is reportedly interested in him after they delisted Mitch King and Lachlan Filipovic.

Hayden McLean tested at last year's NAB AFL Draft Combine. Picture: AFL Photos

Will Hayes

Height: 180cm
Weight: 78kg
DOB: 5/6/1995
Club: Western Bulldogs VFL

Won the Bulldogs' VFL best and fairest enjoying the most consistent of his five seasons on the club's list. Finished fifth in the League for total disposals and has improved every year he has been at the club. Was invited to the State Combine after finishing fifth in the JJ Liston Trophy count. The son of horse trainer David looms as a possible rookie selection. 

Tom Atkins

Height: 180cm
Weight: 85kg
DOB: 18/9/1995
Club: Geelong VFL

Atkins finished among the VFL competition's top ten players for handballs, contested possessions, score assists, hard ball gets and clearances. He also led the League for tackles, winning his second club best and fairest award in three years (he was runner-up in 2017). The 23-year-old is a bull at the contest and he has a well-founded ability to hit the scoreboard when breaking out of congestion.


Mitch Grigg

Height: 183cm
Weight: 83kg
DOB: 2/1/1993
Club: Norwood

The former Crow's standout game came in this year’s SANFL Grand Final when he was adjudged best afield in a losing side, gathering 31 disposals and kicking six goals in one of the most dominant displays ever seen in a state league decider. Winning back-to-back Magarey Medals in 2017 and 2018 is a huge vote of confidence for the 25-year-old to earn a second chance at AFL level. Grigg, who is damaging by foot, played 20 matches for the Crows between 2013-2016.

Mitch Grigg has done all he can to earn another chance at AFL level. Picture: Deb Curtis

Darcy Fort

Height: 205cm
Weight: 99kg
DOB: 6/8/1993
Club: Central Districts

A lack of quality ruckmen in this year’s draft has Fort in the mix to be picked up by a club who needs big man depth. The 203cm ruckman missed six weeks with a wrist injury during the year but showed enough throughout the year to suggest he deserves a chance. Fort still has plenty of development left in him and is likely to benefit from being in a full-time program.

Callum Wilkie

Height: 191cm
Weight: 87kg
DOB: 10/3/1996
Club: North Adelaide

North Adelaide’s captain is one of the SANFL’s top defenders, particularly in the way he reads the football in the air and intercept marks. Improved his fitness markedly in the pre-season, winning the club’s best and fairest award in its premiership year. Attended South Australia’s state draft combine and looks like one of its most capable prospects.


Jye Bolton

Height: 187cm
Weight: 84kg
DOB: 3/3/92
Club: Claremont reported on Friday that up to five clubs had met with Bolton, the reigning Sandover medallist and it’s not hard to see why. Bolton, a two-time winner of the League medal, averaged 30.8 disposals for the Tigers in 2018. The 26-year-old has been a model of consistency in his stint in the WAFL after spending time as a rookie at Collingwood. Sydney is one club which has shown interest in Bolton.

Jonathon Marsh

Height: 194cm
Weight: 89kg
DOB: 17/10/1995
Club: East Fremantle

The former Magpie retired at the end of 2016, with one year remaining on his contract, after his request to be traded to a WA club fell through following an ongoing mental health battle. Marsh went back to the WAFL and played two seasons for East Fremantle, coming into his own in 2018. The backman/midfielder has elite athleticism and would fit in well to an AFL defensive system because of agility and speed.

Will Jonathon Marsh return to the AFL after a two-year hiatus? Picture: AFL Photos

Marlion Pickett

Height: 183cm
Weight: 85kg
DOB: 6/1/1992
Club: South Fremantle

Considered by some recruiters as the most talented state league player in the country.Made the move into the midfield this season after playing across half-back and thrived this season. Pickett is skilful, he’s fast and he’s brave in the air. Gold Coast and West Coast have shown interest in the 27-year-old who has matured a lot in recent years after a stint in jail in his late teens. The Cats are another club who have been linked with the talented Pickett.

Zac Clarke

Height: 203cm
Weight: 85kg
DOB: 28/3/1990
Club: Subiaco

The former Fremantle ruckman is back on the AFL radar after a consistent season playing at Subiaco in the WAFL. The 28-year-old was delisted by the Dockers at the end of the 2017 season after a knee complaint impacted his chances. Starred with 50 hit-outs and 17 disposals in the WAFL Grand Final and may get an opportunity with Essendon and West Coast on the lookout for an experienced big man.

Matthew Parker

Height: 187cm
Weight: 79kg
DOB: 25/1/96
Club: South Fremantle

The 22-year-old is an exciting medium-sized forward with a thrilling highlights package. Parker has AFL qualities with his speed and ability to conjure a goal, booting 27 majors from 20 League games in 2018. Parker counts Pickett and Geelong’s Tim Kelly, a former teammate at South Fremantle, as strong influences in turning his career around after he was playing amateur football less than two years ago. The Swans and Essendon are two clubs who are understood to have shown interest.


Fraser Thurlow

Height: 199cm
Weight: 102kg
DOB: 6/1/1993
Club: Southport

Regarded by former Melbourne coach Paul Roos as a player who deserves a chance to be on an AFL list, Thurlow is a strong and physical ruckman out of Southport. After spending time on Essendon’s list a few years back, the 200cm big man has been one of the NEAFL’s most dominant ruckman.

Andrew Boston

Height: 180cm
Weight: 79kg
DOB: 23/3/1994
Club: Southport

Also out of Southport, Boston is one of the competition’s prime midfielders. Boston played 16 games for Gold Coast after being taken with pick No.55 in the 2013 Rookie Draft. Boston is a good accumulator of the footy through the midfield and at 24 understands the need to take his opportunity.