With the Under-18 Competitions set to start in the coming weeks, we ready ourselves to cheer on the next wave of footy talent – and what a talented bunch we have!
Those who follow the underage competitions will no doubt have a good enough idea of which bottom-aged kids showed promise last season – but our team of writers have hand picked a few players that they can’t wait to see take their game to the next level in 2017.
In our final edition, we profile the draft’s leading tall, small and medium Forwards – and this year we have a bumper crop, with a number of them already touted as potential top 10 picks.
We still have a way to go before we can spot the next AFL superstar; so start your engines, strap yourself in and get ready for another year of Under 18 footy because the road to the 2017 draft starts now!
180cm | 72kg | Bendigo Pioneers
Kane Farrell is a player that is developing great versatility after requesting a move forward towards the back end of last season. With the best ‘leg’ in the TAC Cup, the left-footer will be highly sought after in the 2017 draft. A player with great pace, he has the ability to really hurt opponents in the forward half. I would like to see him develop his inside game this season and to do this he will also be required to play through the mid. I also expect to see the Pioneers use his foot skills by taking the kicking in duties and playing off the position he is best at – half back. I see Farrell as a definite top 30 choice that has the ability to go inside the top 20 by years end. – John Bradman
195cm | 83kg | Bendigo Pioneers
Brander is a player that is being touted as a potential Number one pick despite playing only a handful of TAC Cup games for the Bendigo Pioneers. A tall and versatile player who can play forward and back, Brander has the tools to be an elite AFL performer. A student at Geelong Grammar, Brander will play APS and GWS Academy for the majority of the year. I’d expect to only see him 3-4 times for the Pioneers as he will also no doubt play NEAFL for the Giants. If Brander has an uninterrupted injury free season and dominates with his great marking and accurate long range kick he will certainly be in the top handful in the draft. The Giants will no doubt take him as he is a great leader and player.I expect to see him in the top 5 selections at the years end.– John Bradman
193cm | 88kg | Calder Cannons
In 2016, Balta kicked 18 goals in only eight games, to be recognised as one of this year’s most impressive draftees. The Calder Cannons’ key forward has drawn comparisons to triple Coleman Medallist Lance “Buddy” Franklin, due to his rare speed, tremendous leap and natural flair. All these traits were on display in the U17s Futures Match between Vic Metro and Vic Country, where he gathered 20 possessions, took nine marks (three of which were contested), and booted two goals in a dominant display. His marking ability is elite, and this was showcased in the 2016 U17s All Stars game when he took a spectacular mark on the half-forward flank. With an ability to break the lines like a midfielder it easy to see why Balta is in the top 20 prospects.– Lenny Fogliani
198cm | 95kg | Brisbane Lions Academy
The Brisbane Lions will get first access to Connor Ballenden under Academy rules and they will be ecstatic at the acquisition. Ballenden is a true power forward who has shown the ability to take games by the throat, and he has the potential to become a 50+ goal player in the future. The 2015 Queensland U16s’ MVP talent was on full display at last year’s U17s All Stars game when he gathered eight possessions (three contested), took three marks (one contested), won 12 hit-outs and kicked a goal. He was sensational for Queensland in their fixture against Tasmania in the Division 2 Championships when he kicked five goals from 15 possessions, and he also played for the Allies in their Division 1 fixture against South Australia when he gathered seven possessions and kicked a goal. Ballenden’s potential will have Brisbane’s recruiters and fans on the edge of their seats.– Lenny Fogliani
198cm | 100kg | Gold Coast Academy
The son of former Southport legend Troy, Brayden Crossley is eligible to head to the Gold Coast Suns as a part of their Academy. And there is no doubt that the Suns will be monitoring Brayden’s performances this year. Last year for Queensland at the Division 2 Championships, he averaged 12 possessions at 70% efficiency and four tackles, with his best game coming against Tasmania when he gathered 12 possessions, laid three tackles, recorded three inside 50s, and kicked a goal. He also played senior football for the Gold Coast Academy, and on several occasions was required to shoulder the ruck load. His best game came against the GWS’ Reserves team when he accumulated 21 possessions and won 17 hit-outs against AFL-listed pair Dawson Simpson and Tom Downie. He followed this up with a 44 hit-out game against Sydney University. As a ruckman he provides some real strength and unequalled physicality, while up forward he provides marking strength.– Lenny Fogliani
190cm | 86kg | Glenelg
Already earmarked as the potential number one pick, Darcy Fogarty is ready-made for the crash and bash of the AFL. It was last year that Fogarty made a name for himself in the U18s where he kicked seven goals in only three games and averaged 10 possessions (seven contested), 62% disposal efficiency and four marks, while for Glenelg’s U18 team he kicked 10 goals from nine games. His marking is elite overhead and on the lead, but it is his strength and ability to burst through packs and hit team-mates lace out that will see his stocks rise as he moves into the midfield. Fogarty will no doubt receive a lot of attention throughout 2017 from recruiters from all clubs.– Lenny Fogliani
185cm | 85kg | Western Jets
Cameron Rayner has already been described as a “real game changer” and it is easy to see why. In only eight games for the Western Jets in 2016, Rayner kicked 17 goals and averaged 18 possessions, five tackles and four marks. He was named in the best on six occasions and managed to poll five votes in the Morrish Medal. In the midfield he is a real force as he can gather the ball, explode from stoppages and hit targets, while up forward he is hard-leading, dangerous both in the air (he is a strong contested mark) and on the ground, and has the ability to kick goals from 50 metres out. Rayner attacks the contest and footy hard and at speed, but also has great composure with ball in hand, often making good decisions. Rayner is a potential top 15 draft pick, but by the end of the year he could force his way into the top 10.– Lenny Fogliani
192cm | 85kg | Gippsland Power
Henness is a strong, power forward who can take marks both on the lead or in one on one contests, where he is rarely beaten. His mobility is perceived as a weakness, which is concerning given that his size fits the profile of a third tall forward role at the next level. He spent time in defence for Gippsland in 2016 and he may do so again this season in an attempt to boost his draft stock which suffered a hit last year. He was a member of the Level 1 AFL Academy but did not progress to Level 2. Henness will need a strong season to move back up draft rankings. – Billy Higgins
194cm | 84kg | Oakleigh Chargers
A strong, well built, mobile centre half forward who possesses an impressive tank for his level of development. Wooller is a solid overhead mark and presents strongly on the lead, either as a link up target or to stretch defences to create space for the team – his style and leadership drawing numerous comparisons to St Kilda star Nick Riewoldt. Despite his size, he is exceptionally clean below his knees, and uses the ball well by hand and foot. He has grown to 194cm over the summer which puts him well into key position territory, and we can expect probably expect him to be trialled at both ends of the ground this year to assess his versatility. A big one to watch develop this year. – Matt Palf
196cm | 91kg | Sandringham Dragons
McLean is a strong key position forward who can take a grab and kick goals. He started last year with a bang for Sandringham, booting five goals and claiming eight marks (4 contested) against Northern Knights. The power forward kicked 27 goals for the season and was a reasonable contributor in the Dragons’ TAC Cup Grand Final win, with 15 touches and a goal. McLean was added to the NAB AFL Academy late last year, rewarded for an imposing bottom-age year where he remained entrenched in the successful Sandringham line-up as a key forward who can pinch hit in the ruck. It has been well documented that this draft class is loaded with talls, and McLean is another to keep a close eye on. – Dan Batten
199cm | 98kg | Sturt
Coleman-Jones is a mobile forward/ruck who can take marks and impact around the ground. In a draft class that has been earmarked as one jam packed with talls, CCJ has been touted as one of the best of them. As a player, he is reminiscent of GWS Giant Rory Lobb with his impressive contested marking ability, using his long arms to bring down pack marks with ease. Unlike most big men he is a genuine threat at ground level as well, making him a unique prospect as a tall forward/ruckman. It will be interesting to see where CCJ plays most of his footy in 2017, despite being one of the most dominant U17 ruckman last season. Coleman-Jones averaged nine disposals in the U18 championships last year for South Australia and was among the best in the U18 SA trial match in February. Last year South Australians weren’t exactly favourites of AFL recruiters, but expect CCJ to be there and abouts.– Dan Batten
188cm | 76kg | Eastern Ranges
Stephenson is a dynamic half-forward/midfielder with speed and athleticism. One of the most impressive 2017 prospects, Stephenson is extremely dangerous around goal and has terrific hands for a medium-sized player. The blond bombshell burst onto the scene in the 2015 TAC Cup Grand Final, booting three goals and claiming six marks as a 16-year-old. He was labelled as ‘one for the future’ then, and he continued to build on his good work the next year, kicking 23 goals for Eastern Ranges in 2016 as a bottom-ager. While he does his best work in the forward 50, expect to see Stephenson through the middle more often in 2017. It is early days, but he is already shaping up as a top five selection come November.– Dan Batten
Note: Most of the heights and weights shown are based on last year’s data