AFL Draft

Class of 2017: Midfielders/Rucks

jackson edwards

Son of a Gun: Jackson Edwards           Photo: Peter Argent via Border Chronicle

LOCHIE O’BRIEN
184cm | 74kg | BENDIGO PIONEERS

O’Brien is a potential top 5 pick and is an exciting prospect in the 2017 draft. A skilful, fast running player he has developed into a top liner over the past 12 months. A 400-metre running champion, O’Brien breaks the lines better than most players in the TAC CUP and uses his penetrating left foot well, rarely missing a target with his shorter hit up kicks or deep forward line entries. O’Brien is a genuine leader and a popular teammate with his peers. A good contested mark he ticks all the boxes and could even end up either as a number one or two pick. Unfortunately, he will have limited outings with the Bendigo Pioneers due to APS commitments. When playing TAC watch out for his brilliant running off a Half Back Flank or inside work as a mid. Composed and assured, O’Brien is a genuinely exciting prospect. – John Bradman

 

JACK HIGGINS
176cm | 73kg | OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

Like O’Brien, Higgins could also finish as a top five pick. I feel he could even become the number one choice as the year progresses. The ultimate professional, Higgins is just as capable inside a contest as he is outside one. A dangerous goal kicking mid with a big engine, he has the ability to tear games apart. He never wastes the ball, is strong bodied and has an exemplary attitude. Higgins will be snapped up quickly in the 2017 draft if he has another great season. In 2016 he represented the Vic Metro team as a bottom aged player and handled it with aplomb. I’d expect to see Higgins spending the majority of his time in the midfield with rests up forward where he will kick plenty of goals. – John Bradman

CASSIDY PARISH
187cm | 80kg | GEELONG FALCONS

Parish is the younger brother of 2015’s no.5 pick Darcy. Parish is a different type of midfielder to his brother, though he shares the distinctive blonde locks. He isn’t as quick or as stylish, but is considerably bigger and uses his size to his advantage in congested areas. Parish showed excellent signs as a bottom-age player for the Geelong Falcons last year, playing every game and averaging 19 disposals. An in and under midfielder, who has also shown ability when resting in the backline, he will only continue to improve as he builds his endurance base. His character is also highly regarded and he could be a future leader at AFL level. – Billy Higgins

CHARLIE SPARGO (GWS ACADEMY)
175cm | 75kg | MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

Spargo spent last season playing mainly as a small forward for the Bushrangers and as a midfielder for the Allies at the National Championships. Like Ben Ainsworth last season, he must continue to develop as a midfielder to justify a high draft pick. Spargo has shown promise in this area, having won the Alan McLean Medal for best player at Division 2 of the Under 16s Nationals for NSW in 2015. He is on the small side but is a natural footballer. His decision making and defensive work rate stand out for such a young player. He is level-headed, which is unsurprising given his dad Paul played league footy for North Melbourne and went on to be an extremely successful coach in country leagues. Spargo is from Albury NSW, which controversially falls into GWS’ academy zone. Will Setterfield, Lachlan Tiziani and Zachary Sproule all made their way to GWS from Albury last year. – Billy Higgins

LACHLAN FOGARTY
179cm | 73kg | WESTERN JETS

The Western Jets midfielder is considered to be one of the top 5 midfielders in this year’s draft. A highly-regarded junior basketballer, Fogarty is a well-rounded prospect and this was evident with his performances for the Jets in 2016. In five games he was named in the best on three occasions, and he demonstrated an innate ability to find the footy, averaging 25 possessions and eight tackles per game. His brothers Matthew and Michael represented Footscray in the VFL, so Fogarty knows what is required to make it in the big league. – Lenny Fogliani

JOEL GARNER
184cm | 78kg | EASTERN RANGES

The 2016 Cameron Ling Medallist has the potential to be a top 10 selection at this year’s Draft. In six games for the Eastern Ranges in 2016, he kicked four goals and averaged 15 possessions and four tackles. At the moment his best position is across half-forward where his spark, pace and class make him a match winner. However, when the AFL Academy took on New Zealand he was named best-on-ground when he was stationed at half-back – highlighting his versatility. His ability to make things look easy when he has the ball, whether it be a sidestep or a pinpoint pass, led to him being described as “the Lionel Messi of the AFL” when he captained Vic Metro at the U16s Carnival in 2015. – Lenny Fogliani

ISAAC HEWSON
184cm | 80kg | NORWOOD

The 2015 South Australian U16s MVP has been claimed to be the best non AFL Academy affiliated prospect in this year’s draft – a big call, but Hewson’s game is very advanced for his age. He is a stoppage specialist who wins high contested possessions and clearances, but is also one of the best kicks out of this year’s prospects. In seven games for Norwood’s U18s team, Hewson was named in the best on five occasions, including dominant outings against Sturt (33 possessions – 15 contested – nine clearances and eight inside 50s) and South Adelaide (32 possessions, nine clearances and eight inside 50s). He also managed to play nine games for Norwood’s Reserves team including a solid outing against North Adelaide in the Preliminary Final (19 possessions – eight contested – and six clearances). At this stage, Hewson is a top 30 prospect but could barge his way down to the top 20 if he has more dominant outings this year. – Lenny Fogliani

JAMES WORPEL
185cm | 82kg | GEELONG FALCONS

An inside bull, it is easy to see why James Worpel has drawn comparisons to former Geelong Falcons players Ben Cunnington and Taylor Adams. Worpel is an aggressive midfielder who excels in the clearances, tackles hard and has unstoppable strength in the middle. In fifteen games for the Falcons in 2016 he finished equal fifth in the Morrish Medal after he kicked 11 goals and averaged 20 possessions and six tackles. He also represented Vic Country and averaged 16 possessions (nine contested) and five tackles, with standout performances against Vic Metro (16 possessions – 13 contested – nine clearances, seven tackles and a goal), and against South Australia (18 possessions – eight contested – three inside 50s, three clearances, three tackles and a goal). The Bell Park junior is one of the more influential players, making him an interesting prospect to monitor in 2017. – Lenny Fogliani

AIDAN QUIGLEY
185cm | 72kg | GIPPSLAND POWER

A level two AFL Academy prospect with good skills who possesses the flexibility to play through the midfield or behind the ball. He produced arguably his best football in defence for Gippsland Power last year as a bottom aged player with his reading of the play, clean hands and quality disposal dangerous attributes. While he can occasionally bite off more than he can chew with ball in hand, it is an indication that he is very confident with his kicking ability. Greater midfield minutes beckon for Quigley in 2017 after some promising moments at the stoppages during the U17 All Stars game, highlighted by a brilliant side step and release in traffic during the third quarter. – Craig Byrnes

SAM HAYES
200cm | 90kg | EASTERN RANGES

One of the highest rated tall prospects in the 2017 pool, Hayes is just as capable of dominating the hit-outs or being a marking target forward. When in the ruck his soft and precise hands give the midfielders first use more often than not, while he isn’t afraid to get dirty and compete at ground level. He is very strong one on one and is capable of big contested marks both forward or around the ground. As we saw during the National Championships, he impacts the scoreboard when inside 50 and draws the ball to his area. Hayes was the only bottom-aged player to be named in the U18 All-Australian side last year and while there is currently a list management fear of selecting ruckmen early, this Eastern Ranges’ tall won’t be left to slide far. – Craig Byrnes

JACKSON EDWARDS
184cm | 72kg | GLENELG

The son of Adelaide’s 321 game legend Tyson, there is no doubt Crows fans have been waiting for Jackson Edwards to arrive, and he looks like he won’t disappoint. Already taller than his dad at 184cm, Edwards fits into the mould of the prototype modern midfielder, and he has the skill set to match. Edwards is all class on the ball, and despite not being overly blessed with speed he can evade challenges and find space before hitting targets with impressive efficiency. He is super clean in tight, and has the ability to impact the scoreboard when resting forward. He has a strong work ethic, impressing a number of AFL listed players in his time training with the Crows, and has already been mooted for SANFL League football in 2017. A big year beckons, and with a potentially starring role in a strong South Australian U18 outfit this year, he is definitely a big one to watch. – Matt Palf

JACK PETRUCCELLE
184cm | 78kg | NORTHERN KNIGHTS

Petruccelle is an explosive midfielder who breaks lines and hits the scoreboard. Previously a Victorian state basketballer, Petruccelle wasn’t on the Knights list at the beginning of his bottom age year, earning a spot after an impressive display in a U17 trial match. He then made his TAC debut mid-way through last season, bursting onto the scene with three goals. Petruccelle was sighted on the wing, across half-back and in the forward line in Northern’s practice match against Oakleigh last weekend, showing his versatility as a player. He does his best work through the middle though, utilising his phenomenal leg speed and athleticism. Champion Data likens Petruccelle from a statistical perspective to Nakia Cockatoo, so he looms as another to keep an eye on. – Dan Batten

MARCUS LENTINI
182cm | 69kg | NORTHERN KNIGHTS

Lentini is an outside ball winner who loves getting his hands on the footy. He showcased his knack for finding the Sherrin in the back-end of the season in particular, racking up 28, 33 and 36 disposals in the last three games. The midfielder has plenty of footy smarts and looks to attack after receiving the ball from the inside. Lentini does tend to win the majority of his possessions uncontested – which can see him drift in and out of games – but rarely wastes a disposal. Lentini is also a ferocious tackler, a characteristic uncommon to a player of his outside nature. He is listed at just 69kg at the last measurements so he will need to bulk up a tad as the season progresses, but remains an exciting prospect.– Dan Batten

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