The NAB League’s metro-based clubs talk about what made their 2019 draftees sought after by AFL clubs, which of their players were unlucky to miss out on selection and who to keep an eye on for the 2020 NAB AFL Draft.
Twenty-two of the 43 total NAB League players added to AFL lists last week – 35 in the AFL Draft and eight as rookies – came from these clubs, including the AFL Draft’s top two picks in Oakleigh Chargers pair Matthew Rowell (pictured, centre) and Noah Anderson as well as first-round AFL Draft selections like Fischer McAsey (pictured, right) and Miles Bergman (pictured, left) from the Sandringham Dragons.
Comments from Talent Manager Tom Lonergan
HARRISON JONES (AFL Draft pick no.30 to Essendon): “The thing that stands out about Harrison is his work rate and his ability to get up and down the ground for a forward who’s 196cm tall. He has tremendous speed as well, but he has a lot of work to do in the gym to fill out his frame.
“He’s a Gisborne boy, and going just down the road to Essendon means he should fit in really well. Looking at his body, you’d say it’ll take him a few seasons to establish himself at the level, but you never know what he could do.”
FRANCIS EVANS (no.41 to Geelong): “(Cannons player) Daniel Mott comes from the same local club as Francis and mentioned to me that I should get in touch with him, because he’d been dominating at Brunswick. Francis was really keen to come into our program and he blew us away with his two games for us. He then unfortunately chipped a bit of bone off his heel and it required surgery, which finished him for the year.
“(Geelong list manager) Stephen Wells took a punt on him and I’m sure Francis will make the most of his opportunity. He’s a natural goalkicker who knows the right positions to get into and can also take a big mark.”
SAM RAMSAY (no.47 to Carlton): “Sam probably didn’t start the season off that well playing at half-back and on a wing, but when Daniel Mott went into the Vic Metro team, we thought it’d be a good opportunity for Sam to go into the midfield and he took it by the scruff of the neck. We couldn’t get him out of there by the end of the season.
“For a guy we probably thought was an outside player, it goes to show that when some players get an opportunity they can impress you in different positions. I think he offers something slightly different to what the Blues have in their midfield.”
LACHLAN GOLLANT (no.48 to Adelaide): “Similar to Francis Evans, Lachie didn’t do the pre-season with us, but I heard a few murmurs throughout the year that he was performing really well at school level. He came into the program and started playing really consistently in the back half of the season.
“I’m certain Adelaide saw something there and pounced on him. He’s so raw and has a lot of improvement to do in his body, but he has some natural attributes that are unmatched – like his leap, and he’s a good runner who can play in multiple positions.”
“We had quite a few players who could have easily been on AFL lists. Daniel Mott, Brodie Newman, Jeremy O’Sullivan and Ned Gentile just to name a few. Daniel and Brodie both performed really well for Vic Metro, Jeremy was one of our leading goalkickers and Ned won our best-and-fairest (alongside Sam Ramsay).”
“We have a few players who have the potential to be in the draft conversation. Cody Brand, Josh Eyre, Jackson Cardillo and Campbell Edwardes are all involved in the Vic Metro hub, but all our guys know they have a lot of work to do.”
Comments from Talent Manager Sean Toohey
“We knew we had a number of potential picks but also knew there were no real top-enders. We thought Lachlan Stapleton was probably very stiff to miss out, with the body of work he’s put together over two years and the improvement he’s shown. He can play forward, back or in the midfield and he has really good speed, elite skills and great vision. He’s a little bit under-sized, but we thought his positives far outweighed that.
“Mitch Mellis is a high half-forward with a great tank and his consistency over two years has been immense, so it was also very disappointing for him. The other one was Zak Pretty. He’s almost ready-made for the AFL given his size and shape, and he’s an inside midfielder which we thought would have filled a lot of clubs’ needs. He has a huge tank and his GPS numbers were consistently up there with the best in the competition.
“(Head Coach) Darren Bewick and I feel this is the sort of group where a number of them might end up on AFL lists in coming years. I definitely think it’s pretty remarkable we didn’t have anyone drafted though, given the season we had and the body of work these boys had put in.”
“Connor Downie is one of the standouts. He represented Australia and Vic Metro this year and had a massive season for us. I probably haven’t seen a more elite worker on and off the track than Connor. He’s a great young man and he’s also part of Hawthorn’s NGA. Wil Parker came on in leaps and bounds this year; he finished in the top five of our best-and-fairest as a bottom-ager. He’s a mid-sized half-back flanker who has leadership written all over him. He’s an elite cricketer as well.”
Comments from Talent Manager Rhy Gieschen
SAM PHILP (AFL Draft pick no.20 to Carlton): “Sam’s consistency was what impressed us most. He played a very similar game and was competitive every single week. He polled votes in our best-and-fairest in every game this year and was the only player to do that, so his ability to show up each week and bring great energy and effort and team play was his top asset.
“Carlton has a quality midfield with some good young players coming through, so he’s going to a great club to learn the trade as an inside midfielder. He tested the quickest over 20m at the AFL Draft Combine, but we think he could learn to use that a little bit more to get out of stoppage and break lines and show his outside game as well.”
“Ryan Sturgess had a great couple of years in the program and was a fantastic leader. I think he won the Vic Metro coaches award, he won our coaches award and won our best clubman award, so that speaks volumes of his character. Josh D’Intinosante and our captain Jackson Davies will leave great legacies at the club, Adam Carafa played some high-quality footy for us and Lachlan Potter and Ryan Gardner will come back for us as 19-year-olds next year.”
“Nik Cox won our rising star award this year. He’s 198cm tall, kicks on both feet, runs really well and reads the play really well. Ewan Macpherson is a father-son prospect for the Western Bulldogs and polled the most votes of our bottom-agers this year playing across half-back. Liam McMahon is in the Vic Metro hub and he’s a mobile key forward with some exciting traits.”
Comments from Talent Manager Jy Bond
MATTHEW ROWELL (AFL Draft pick no.1 to Gold Coast): “What impressed me the most with Matt was how much he loves football. He eats and breathes football and he’s a student of the game. He never left anything out on the ground after any game, which is obviously why he was the no.1 draft pick.
“You know what you’re going to get for the next 10 years – it’s 100 per cent effort, in every contest in every game.”
NOAH ANDERSON (no.2 to Gold Coast): “Noah is a different kid to Matt Rowell but very similar in his desire and determination to succeed and get better. Noah is a bit more flashy and tends to get forward and kick goals, but Matt showed later in the season that he kick goals too – and very timely goals.
“They’ll be a great combination for the Suns.”
DYLAN WILLIAMS (no.23 to Port Adelaide): “Dylan had a fantastic under-17 year and started off well in 2019 before a number of injuries. He has rare talent. He’s one of those kids you either back in with their talent and back in your club to work with that, or you could be the club that misses out. Good on Port for taking him.
“We’ll definitely see some exciting Dylan Williams football in the next few years. I think we’ll see the best of Dylan playing as a deep forward inside 50 where he can attack the ball – that’s when he’s going to do the most damage and excite the crowd.”
NICK BRYAN (no.38 to Essendon): “Nick really came on towards the end of the season once school football finished. In the finals for us, he really showed what sort of a player he can be moving forward. He’s 200cm tall, runs like an on-baller and has great skills, but he’s also still learning his craft in the ruck – which is where he’ll play at AFL level.
“He’s a developing kid and he’s going to take a few years, but he’s a good character who’s going to add to the Essendon Football Club.”
TRENT BIANCO (no.45 to Collingwood): “I think Trent has ended up where he was supposed to end up. Sometimes football can produce fairy tales, and the Bianco family are huge Collingwood fans. The Magpies have themselves a very, very good player.
“He needs to put on a bit of size, but he certainly has the ability to use the ball and take on traffic. I think he’ll be a rebounding defender to start off with, but he could definitely play in the midfield when he’s older.”
LACHLAN JOHNSON (no.63 to Essendon): “I was surprised Essendon took Lachie in the draft, but I thought either Brisbane (via the Father-Son rule) or the Bombers (NGA) would be keeping a keen eye on him (for a rookie spot).
“He makes good decision with the ball, and if he’s anything like his dad (ex-Lions defender Chris Johnson) then he’s going to be physical around the contest. I think once he grows into his frame, he could certainly do some exciting things on the field. He’s an impact player.”
“I thought Cooper Sharman showed he has AFL attributes this year, and with the media attention around him, it was quite disappointing he didn’t get picked. Kaden Schreiber, Josh May and Jeromy Lucas were others I thought deserved an opportunity. They’ll have to take another pathway to get into the AFL.”
“I know it’s only soon after the draft, but I’m already pretty excited about next year. We have Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, a Western Bulldogs NGA member and a fantastic prospect as a key forward who can play down back. We have Will Phillips, who’s an on-ball running machine. Reef McInnes is a Collingwood NGA member, Conor Stone, Bailey Laurie and Sam Tucker are in the Vic Metro hub and so is Finlay Macrae, who’s the brother of Jack Macrae from the Bulldogs.”
Comments from Talent Manager Mark Wheeler
FISCHER McASEY (AFL Draft pick no.6 to Adelaide): “Fischer was just professional and always looking to improve himself. He trained and played with the same intensity. I thought he was always a first-round pick but probably not as high as no.6. He had a great year, though.
“I think Adelaide have taken him as a lock-down or roll-off key defender, but they know they have a weapon they can throw forward to kick goals if needed. Eventually they might also turn him into a big body that can get around the ball.”
MILES BERGMAN (no.14 to Port Adelaide): “Miles had AFL attributes that stood out this year, like his athleticism, his ability to reach the ball at its highest point and his powerful kick. I think there’s a lot more upside to him; we had to manage his legs in the second half of the season because he’d probably over-used them.
“He definitely had ‘AFL’ written all over him pretty early with me. I reckon he’ll definitely be an inside midfielder at Port, but he can also be a third forward because he’s hard to match up on. He’s strong in the air but quick as well.”
JOSH WORRELL (no.28 to Adelaide): “I really liked Josh because he didn’t consume footy all the time. When he played footy he had white-line fever, but when he finished footy he had another life.
“He’s a 195cm defender, but I think he’ll play on the outside as a winger at the elite level first. I told a lot of AFL clubs that I could see him within three to four years playing as a big-bodied inside midfielder, because he covers the ground really well, he has aggression and he hates to be beaten.”
FINN MAGINNESS (no.29 to Hawthorn – Father-Son): “Finn is an intense young man who had a point to prove that he was a good player and he knew he wanted to be a third-generation player at the Hawks. I’ve had a few father-sons in programs before, but he’s the one who embraced it the most.
“He was probably our most improved player this season along with Fischer McAsey. A lot of people questioned things about him, but he kept proving them wrong. He’ll be an inside and outside midfielder with the ability to go forward and kick goals, and he’s ready to play next year.”
JACK MAHONY (no.34 to North Melbourne): “‘Professional’ is all I can say about Jack. It was unfortunate he got injured late in the season; he was our most missed player in the finals. He ticks every box and did enough this year to show everyone he’s a smaller player with great hands and skills that were above the level.
“He definitely has a footy brain, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he pops up for an AFL game or two next year. I think he’s a midfielder in the long run, because he’s smart with his ball use and he sees the game unfold before it does.”
HUGO RALPHSMITH (no.46 to Richmond): “We needed to speak a bit to Hugo this year because he was trying to control everything and footy was probably consuming him too much, but he had too much talent not to be drafted.
“It’s great he’s gone to a club that has said he’s a long-term project – I think he’s going to be that style of player. I like him as a defender, but he’s hard to match up on as a forward. He runs and kicks it really well too, so once he gets his confidence up at the elite level, I can see him playing around the footy.”
RYAN BYRNES (no.52 to St Kilda): “Ryan has been battling the odds since he was 16, when he didn’t make our best 25. He was told he wasn’t good enough for the position and size he was, so he went away and has worked on his body over the last couple of years. Now his body is ready for the midfield.
“He finds the footy, he’s hard at it and he kicks it well but at times he’s messy with it – he’s like (ex-St Kilda midfielder) Jack Steven. He’s going to earn respect really quickly though, because he’ll work really hard.”
LOUIS BUTLER (no.53 to Western Bulldogs): “I thought Louis had a really good national carnival this year but then came back and tapered off a bit, which you do see sometimes. He had a great season overall though.
“I think he’ll start at the Bulldogs in a small defender role and carry the ball, then he might be a winger and eventually he’ll end up in the midfield. I think his prime position will be behind the ball first.”
JACK BELL (Rookie Draft pick no.5 to St Kilda): “Jack is an athletic big man. He’ll be similar to (ex-St Kilda ruck) Lewis Pierce – the Saints will need to put time into him and it might take him two or three years to play his first AFL game.
“He kicks it really well, he has great hands and he’s a good size at 202cm. If they set him on a path to put five kilos on over the next 12 months, that might be his first step. He’s with his best mate Max King at the club, too.”
“I think Darcy Chirgwin would have been close, coming back from a double leg break in February and getting back to playing reasonably good footy. He’s a big-bodied midfielder who was probably unlucky not to go as a late rookie pick. Angus Hanrahan was definitely unlucky. He was probably our best ball-user by foot and I thought he had a really strong season. Riley Bowman was really close too – a 200cm ruckman who played a lot of VFL footy this year.”
“Archie Perkins and Jake Bowey are the standouts at the moment and I can see why they’ve been put in the Vic Metro hub. Archie is a big-bodied midfielder who goes forward and Jake spends a lot of time on the outside but can also kick goals. Darby Hipwell, Lachlan Riley and Fraser Rosman might jump out a little too.”
Comments from Talent Manager Luke Williams
JOSH HONEY (Rookie Draft pick no.3 to Carlton): “Josh’s athletic component was very impressive, bordering on elite with his explosive speed. He has a family background in athletics, so that’s one thing that made him a great AFL prospect.
“I suspect he’ll start as a player that’s quite explosive inside forward 50 and quite creative, so he’ll complement Carlton’s list with his ability to make things happen forward of centre. As he develops, hopefully he’ll complement their young developing midfielders, because he does have the ability to go through the midfield.”
EMERSON JEKA (Rookie Draft pick no.9 to Hawthorn): “Emerson is unique in that he’s very skilful on both sides of his body for a tall player. He’s been a key marking forward all through his junior career and played that role really well for us, but he also went down back this year and proved he might be a little more versatile at the next level.
“I think he might settle as a mobile forward at Hawthorn. He has always been the key forward that opposition players worked off and worked around, but he can now be a forward that complements the rest of the team and won’t be the one key forward.”
“The obvious one is Darcy Cassar, who represented Vic Metro this year. He had a consistent season, he’s quite skilful and he has speed.”
“Eddie Ford is a pretty exciting high half-forward. He’d be our most draftable player at this stage based on his form this year, but there are a couple of other players who could catch the eye of recruiters if they can have uninterrupted pre-seasons.”