CLUB: Sandringham Dragons/ Brighton Grammar
PICK RANGE: 6-20
STATS: TAC Cup
Nathan Murphy started the season as a prospect known more for his cricketing ability, but his football started gaining greater attention as the year went on with some impressive performances for Brighton Grammar. Playing as a medium sized marking option inside 50, Murphy proved to be a difficult match-up and had x-factor to boot. The club interest jumped to new levels in May when he kicked seven goals against Geelong Grammar, when lining up on the highly rated Jarrod Brander for times throughout the day. The secret was out of the bag by then and all AFL clubs were making greater efforts to see his school football. He continued to perform and ended the APS season with an impressive tally of 27 goals.
While the football and cricketing worlds were waiting on a decision from Will Sutherland on what sport he would choose, Murphy found himself in a much lower key, but similar situation. The talented wicketkeeper/batsman had represented Victoria and Australia in underage cricket and had shown more than enough signs that he could make a career out of it. Although unlike Sutherland, he didn’t have the pressures of being born into either sport. Footy won out, not only for the greater opportunities, but also because it takes many years to mature into a seasoned cricketer ready for international duties.
With a decision made, Murphy was able to concentrate solely on the one sport. While he made one three goal cameo forward for the Dragons, he played predominantly in the back half which he adapted to quickly and naturally. Playing mostly as a third tall in defence, he proved his athleticism and dangerous intercepting attributes across the half back line. Unfortunately, an ankle injury restricted his finals output and concussion ended his day early in the All-Stars game, but he showed enough to be now seen as a potential top ten bolter.
WHY PICK HIM?
He is that rangy, six foot two, versatile type who is capable of developing into a high class performer in multiple positions. Recruiters love these hybrid players as they present a greater opportunity for filling list holes and therefore making it at the next level.
In defence, he looks like that natural interceptor that all clubs are looking for to be on the end of a turnover. While he is capable defensively, he appears more dangerous as a loose man or floater, where he can use his athleticism and long limbs to impact aerial contests. He is a good field kick and decision maker, as proven in Ballarat against the Knights when he hit three brilliant inside 50 passes in the first quarter.
In the forward arc he is an unpredictable match up, requiring a defender that possesses dual negating skills aerially and on the ground. He plays taller than he is, but is one touch when the ball hits the ground. He has x-factor and genuine goal sense, which can equate to a high number of shots at the target. He also has the potential to run through the midfield and played a lot of his lower age football in that position before a growth spurt. There is huge scope for development and having many interrupted preseasons due to cricket commitments, his endurance can get even better than it already is.
THE QUESTION MARKS?
Murphy certainly proved what he is capable of at school level and while he played very consistent football at the Dragons, he never provided that true breakout game in the higher standards of the TAC Cup that the recruiters craved. He produced an impressive three goal haul against Bendigo in Round 13 and had 25 classy possessions against the Knights later in the year, but those performances just left you wanting more, and poorly timed September injuries didn’t help. The APS School Boy competition continues to attract top end talent and an improving quality of football, but the depth still drops off quickly. In saying that, his standout performances came against strong opposition and showcased the obvious AFL attributes he possesses.
When positioned forward, his goal kicking could certainly do with a tidy up as well. He hadn’t spent too much time inside 50 before this year and it appeared a set shot routine was still developing. It led to some high behind totals for Brighton, but the important thing for the moment is that he is having the shots on goal. Field kicking isn’t a problem, so I’m sure it is something that will improve in an elite coaching environment.
How early Murphy is called out will become one of the most interesting sub plots of the draft. There is genuine top ten love, starting with Collingwood at No.6. He has received an invite to the draft itself too, so there is an industry expectation that he will go early. It isn’t difficult to see why scouts have become so keen as he has one of the highest ceilings in the pool. That mixed with the flexibility to develop in any position makes him a tantalising future proposition for any AFL club.