THE TAPE might not be there, but the potential certainly is.
The unfortunate cancellation of the NAB League season due to the global COVID-19 health pandemic means that a host of Victoria's best junior prospects won't get to display their development to AFL recruiters ahead of this year's NAB AFL Draft.
VIC COUNTRY'S BRIGHTEST PROSPECTS Check them out
But clubs remain enthusiastic about the level of talent coming through.
Draft guru Cal Twomey recently profiled 25 of Australia's leading junior prospects. But as competition cranks up again in both South Australia and Western Australia, there remains a host of Victorian youngsters who clubs won't see, but still rate highly.
AFL.com.au has surveyed talent scouts, recruiters and list managers to get a gauge of some of Victoria's best youngsters, and some of the players that AFL clubs had been hopeful of seeing more of this season.
Here are the brightest Vic Metro talents this season.
Essendon will have access to 195cm defender Cody Brand via its Next Generation Academy, with the strong defender Calder's best draft chance. There are also clubs keeping close tabs on rangy 192cm forward Matthew Allison. He plays as a high half-forward and has good aerobic capacity, in a similar vein to Hawthorn star Jack Gunston, and dominated the club's two practice matches earlier this season. Sam Paea is a touch taller at 193cm, but plays in a very similar fashion and has a few tricks in his bag. He was said to have impressed at the Vic Metro hub. Jackson Cardillo has a good mix of speed and inside nous in the midfield. The 185cm onballer recorded the quickest 20m sprint time at the testing day in March, but can also win the footy himself from the stoppage before bursting clear into space.
Hawthorn will have access to 185cm midfielder Connor Downie as part of its Next Generation Academy. Downie has plenty of class and played as an outside midfielder and across half-back last year, but had planned to move into more of an inside role this season. Clubs believe he's one of the most highly rated NGA prospects in the pool. Josh Clarke is a running defender at 180cm who uses his speed to break the lines off half-back. Clubs had also been hopeful of keeping tabs on Corey Preston this year. The zippy small forward didn't play for Eastern Ranges in his bottom-age year, but there were plenty of recruiters wanting to see him at NAB League level this season.
There are big raps on Nik Cox, who is seen as a potential top-10 prospect as a versatile 199cm option who had been planning to play as a key defender this season. Another interesting Knights youngster is Liam Kolar. A talented junior soccer player, the 195cm Kolar switched to footy last season. He ran the 2km time trial in a tick over six minutes earlier this year, while finishing top-five in the yo-yo testing. He plays as a high half-forward, despite his size, but there had also been plans to shift him to a wing this season in an effort to maximise his aerobic capacity. Ewan MacPherson is a father-son prospect at the Western Bulldogs and the younger brother of Gold Coast's Darcy. He's a tough, clean footballer who is surprisingly good overhead despite his 179cm frame. Liam McMahon, a 194cm forward, is another garnering interest thanks to his marking ability and promising development.
The names at Oakleigh leap out immediately. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is the consensus best player in the draft pool who will head to the Western Bulldogs as part of its Next Generation Academy, Finlay Macrae is a prolific midfielder like his brother Jackson, Reef McInnes is an agile midfielder who will go to Collingwood through the NGA system, while Will Phillips is a tough inside midfielder who is a genuine first-round prospect. But there are other Chargers prospects intriguing recruiters. Bailey Laurie is a crafty 178cm forward with good goal sense, while Conor Stone is a versatile 187cm option with exciting athleticism who can play at either end of the field. There were hopes of seeing him push into the midfield this season. Maurice Rioli Jr will likely head to Richmond as a father-son, while Lochie Jenkins has piqued the interest of a couple of clubs after finishing runner-up to Matt Rowell in Oakleigh's best and fairest last season. Midfield duo Giorgio Varagiannis and Fraser Elliott, as well as key-position player Sam Tucker, are others to keep an eye on later this year.
The best chance at Sandringham is Archie Perkins, a skilful 186cm midfielder who can use his creativity forward of centre. But a host of other Dragons prospects have also caught the eye. Jake Bowey is a small midfielder at 174cm, but he's an effective kick and has a good engine. He's also got plenty of speed, making him a dangerous player who can create space at stoppages. He joined St Kilda for a fortnight last summer. Ollie Lord is a 195cm forward who is athletic, has a good vertical leap and is very reliable overhead. He spent time training with Melbourne during its last pre-season campaign. Charlie McKay, a father-son prospect at Carlton, is also garnering some interest. He's strong in the contest as a 186cm inside midfielder, but he has also floated into the backline on occasions where he can play as an intercept defender.
Clubs had hoped to see Eddie Ford push into the midfield this season, having demonstrated his ability to play as a high half-forward last year. In that attacking role, Ford displayed his goal nous and his ability to mark well overhead. He honed his skills training with Collingwood over the summer. Cody Raak is a 191cm intercept defender, but clubs like his versatility. He reads the play well and is a reliable mark overhead, but was also able to impact on the scoreboard when he pushed forward last year. He spent time training with the Western Bulldogs during its last pre-season campaign. Liam Conway is a well-built 187cm inside midfielder. He has spent time in the backline, but was set to become a full-time onballer this year where he could've displayed his physicality at the contest. There is also some intrigue around Billy Cootee. Named captain of the Jets this year, he is a small inside midfielder who is smart and creative with the footy. However, captain of Vic Metro's under 17s cricket squad, Cootee is still to decide which sport to pursue.