IT HAS been another challenging year for NAB AFL Draft prospects and the club recruiters trying to assess and judge the best talent in the country.

Border closures, fixture stops and swaps, injuries to highly rated players and the delay of the NAB AFL Under-19 Championships means that the ordering of players is taking longer to decipher than it used to pre-COVID-19.

But nevertheless there have been exciting performances across different leagues around the country to showcase a draft crop that is varied in shape and size and capabilities.

Here is the second update of the Phantom Form Guide for 2021 as ranks its best 25 players in the pool.


Remember, this is not a prediction of where the players will be drafted, nor does it take into account bids on father-son or Academy players. It is purely a ranking of the standout players. 

North Adelaide/South Australia

The ball-magnet of the 2021 draft. Jackson has pieced together an extremely productive campaign, averaging 32 disposals in 13 games for North Adelaide's under-18 side. Among those numbers are an average of five clearances and a disposal efficiency of nearly 80 per cent, highlighting his capacity to find the footy and then find a target.

South Fremantle/Western Australia

It was an exciting senior debut for Motlop two weeks ago in the WAFL, with the son of former Kangaroos and Port Adelaide forward Daniel kicking two goals from 10 disposals and six marks. He kicked one last weekend against Subiaco, but is considered a talented small forward who is crafty around goal. Motlop is eligible to join Fremantle under the Next Generation Academy rules but only if a bid comes outside of the first 40 selections under NGA rules for metropolitan Indigenous players in Western Australia and South Australia.

Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

The best pure ruckman in the draft crop and a prospect who can move around the ground, take marks and help out his teammates in defence by dropping into the hole. Conway played for the NAB AFL Academy in April and also Vic Country more recently, and has strong footy bloodlines on his side. He is a cousin of Tom McCartin at the Swans and former Saint Paddy McCartin. 

Toby Conway (front) battles it out with Sam Grant during the U19 trial match between Vic Metro and Vic Country on June 27, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Calder Cannons/Vic Metro

Goater was one of Vic Metro's best in its clash with Vic Country, with the Calder Cannons midfielder gathering 23 disposals and eight clearances. Using his size and reach, Goater has some athleticism capabilities that separates him from others. He has had a consistent season at NAB League level, too, averaging 23 disposals. In his most recent two games for the Cannons he has averaged eight marks, showing he is starting to use his height advantage more around the ground (he ranked No.1 for the vertical jump and equal first in the running jump for the competition's testing day). 

Josh Goater in action for Vic Metro during the U19 trial match on June 27, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Key forward
East Fremantle/Western Australia

A key forward in the WA program who has been a regular goalkicker this season. He kicked 2.3 in a recent trial game for Western Australia and had 17 disposals and 13 marks whilst also pinch-hitting in the ruck. Williams is a good grab and key forward target and has also shown he is handy with getting in spots to hit the scoreboard (has kicked 24.16 for East Fremantle's colts side).

Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country

It was exciting to see Brown return for Vic Country just before the latest pause in Victoria's under-19s season. Brown had spent a couple of months on the sidelines with an ankle injury but has plenty of very good AFL attributes in his game. The smart and creative half-back finds the balance between defence and attack, uses the ball well, has pace and polish. He had 13 disposals against Vic Metro with five rebound-50s and is the son of former Geelong player Paul, but the Cats do not have access to him as a father-son. Watch for him to climb with more outings.

Northern Knights/Vic Metro

The attacking half-back had 15 disposals and four rebound-50s in Vic Metro's game against Vic Country earlier this month and helped patrol the back half. Wilmot is a little bit unique: he's wiry but tough, he will get in the face of opponents and has a hard edge but also likes to really push up the ground and take things on with the footy in his hands.

Greater Western Victoria Rebels/Vic Country

A sternum injury hung around a little more than Butler would have hoped and meant he sat out both of Vic Country's games against Vic Metro before Victoria's lockdown. The younger brother of Saints forward Dan, Butler plays with creativity, smarts and makes things happen around the footy. Trust him with the ball in his hands to make the right call, whether it be across half-forward or in the midfield. A touch of Port Adelaide's Zak Butters in Butler's style. 

Key forward
East Perth/Western Australia

Amiss by name but not by nature. The East Perth product has booted 41.10 so far in the colts season, highlighting his brilliant efficiency and conversion. Amiss' rise has come by surprise but he has done it through production – the key forward just knows how to kick goals. He did it again in WA's recent trial game, although was a little more inaccurate than usual with 3.3. Scouts will be keen to see how he fares at the championships

Subiaco/Western Australia

It has taken a little bit for Johnson to get going this season but his past two weeks have been among his best. The tall midfielder had 26 disposals, nine marks and a goal in his round 14 clash with Perth and also backed it up with 23 disposals and a goal for WA's under-19s trial game. He has also played at senior WAFL level earlier this season.

South Adelaide/South Australia

Roberts has been sidelined with a syndesmosis ankle injury but before that had put solid games on show, including debuting for South Adelaide at SANFL level. Roberts is a ball-winner who can also push forward and hit the scoreboard, and is capable of ripping the ball out of a pack to kickstart a play.

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country

It has been a frustrating campaign for Chesser, who had just returned to the field from knee surgery when the latest lockdown threw another curveball the way of draftees. Chesser played for Vic Country against Vic Metro and is one to keep an eye on in the second half of the season with hopefully a more consistent run at games. He is a long-kicking, attacking midfielder who has also played off half-back.

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

It has been a year of interruptions for Sinn. Having started the season with Sandringham, the Dragons' skipper then suffered a long hamstring that kept him out of action for nearly three months. He was eased back and played for Vic Metro against Vic Country, but ended the game on crutches and in a moonboot after injuring his ankle. Luckily he avoided anything too long-term. Sinn has shown his genuine speed and dash out of defence this season and the left-footer will be aiming to make a splash when the under-19 carnival officially begins.

South Adelaide/South Australia

Another player who has had his 2021 draft campaign restricted by injury which is a shame given plenty of clubs are watching Draper with interest. A syndesmosis ankle injury suffered at training has sidelined him for the past month, but Draper remains a genuine talent. He is an agile midfielder who can also go forward and mark well above his head. Draper moves through traffic without much fuss and catches attention with a sleek twist and turn. 

Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro

Sonsie was lucky to escape with just bone bruising in his knee in June after there were initial fears he may have ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, but it has still meant more than a month on the sidelines. The Eastern Ranges product has great ability through the midfield and when he goes forward. He's a goalkicker with a turn of speed and power, which was on show when he played fox Box Hill Hawks in the VFL and kicked two goals from 24 disposals.

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Northern Knights/Vic Metro

There's a bit of Zach Merrett to the way Ward plays: he's compact, relentless and consistent, and swings onto his trusty left foot to have a big impact. Ward was outstanding for Vic Metro against Vic Country, continuing his brilliant form with 29 disposals, two goals and eight clearances. Ward runs hard and has some power to get out of stoppages and is the type of players recruiters like because of his reliability.

Subiaco/Western Australia

The tall midfielder has steadily been rising up draft boards this season and now shapes as a top-10 pick contender. Erasmus returned from a slight injury niggle on the weekend to have a strong performance in Western Australia's under-19s trial, once again highlighting his ball-getting ability. He has averaged 28 disposals at colts level for Subiaco this season after starring in their Grand Final win last year with four goals in the premiership decider. Something of a surprise packet in 2020, Erasmus has taken things up a notch in 2021.

Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country

The headline act in the Vic Metro v Vic Country 'Challenge' game was Nick Daicos. But Andrew's performance was not far behind, with the talented tall producing a stack of eyecatching moments that came together for a terrific game. He booted the first goal from the pocket and slotted a tight set shot before then going into the ruck, winning the tap and following up with the clearance at ground level. It was excitement plus. Andrew, who plays in a similarly versatile manner to Essendon's Nik Cox without perhaps the wingman attributes, is eligible to join Melbourne as a Next Generation Academy pick but only if a bid comes outside the top-20 which you can all but rule out. 

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Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country

The former junior soccer star plays with energy and has a bag of tricks. He can kick a goal from nothing, mark well above his head for his size, crumb at ground level and also push into the midfield for stints. He booted six goals for the Murray Bushrangers recently in the NAB League before finding 20 disposals and a goal for Vic Country against Vic Metro. 

Key defender
Greater Western Victoria Rebels/Vic Country

Recruiters got their wish when Gibcus lined up against Sam Darcy in the last quarter of Vic Country's clash with Vic Metro. It was the best key defender and key forward in the draft going head-to-head, with Gibcus holding his own and competing well. The Rebels prospect is quietly spoken but plays with a confident streak and enjoys flying for grabs and getting things going his side's way. He's an interceptor and as such presents as a valuable option for clubs.

Greater Western Victoria Rebels/Vic Country

A strong month of performances saw Hobbs push into the calculations for the early part of the draft after he missed a couple of months with an ankle injury at the start of the season. Hobbs is a ball-getter: he has a mature body already and uses his hands well in tight. After dominating the Vic Country trial game he was again his side's best player in its 'Challenge' match with Vic Metro when he gathered 25 disposals, seven clearances and 11 tackles in a typically hard-headed showing. Pure insider? He's the guy. 

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

Inflammation in his foot saw Callaghan sit out Vic Metro's game with Vic Country earlier this month, with Victoria's latest lockdown giving the classy wingman some time to get the injury right. It's likely to be something he will manage for the rest of the season. Callaghan is a hard working midfielder who is tall, moves smartly through traffic and makes sound decisions. The son of former Commonwealth Games runner Brett, Callaghan idolises Giants star Josh Kelly and has some similar attributes with his line-breaking left-foot kicking.

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

After booting six goals in Vic Metro's trial game, Darcy had a quieter day in their clash with a full-strength Vic Country the following week with two goals from seven disposals. But his goals were examples of his talent again, including a classy snap on his none-preferred left foot. The Western Bulldogs father-son is an immense talent: he can play as a forward, defender and ruckman, he's athletic and agile, he converts his shots for goal and has taken all comers this season. Think of Darcy as a Max King type of forward. 

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South Adelaide/South Australia

Horne's aggression and tenacious approach was on show for all to see several weeks ago after vision of his huge tackle on Adelaide forward Darcy Fogarty in the SANFL went viral. It was yet another example that the recently-turned 18-year-old is AFL-ready. Horne also had 19 disposals and a goal in that game for South Adelaide's seniors, where he continues to mix his time as a half-forward and midfielder. The race for the wooden spoon has been dubbed The Horne Ultimatum given the exciting talent has no father-son ties to a club. 

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

After missing a couple of weeks with hamstring tightness, Daicos stamped his authority as the best player in the pool with a brilliant best-on-ground game for Vic Metro against Vic Country. Daicos hit rarefied air, collecting 41 disposals, kicking two goals and having six clearances in a massive game where he took risks with his kicking and had the ball on a string. It has been the story of the Collingwood father-son prospect's season, with Daicos averaging 36 disposals at NAB League in a commanding campaign. His consistency is remarkable and he is at a level very few draftees have reached.