The 2012 National Draft threw up a few surprises, but none more so than a handful of players who were overlooked, despite being considered to be in good stead to be taken somewhere throughout the five rounds.
Draft experts and recruits alike concluded that this year’s draft was shallow, though on the contrary, an array of talented teenagers missed the cut, causing many to believe that the upcoming Pre-Season and Rookie Drafts will have gems aplenty, waiting to be selected.
In the back end of the National Draft, a range of mature-age talent was used to fill late picks, causing many players to spill into the upcoming Pre-Season and Rookie Drafts which subsequently has added depth to what is usually a dry field.
In times gone bye, the Rookie Draft has been utilized to bring in players who are still raw, yet have shown enough to suggest that they are good enough to take their talent to the next level. Potential is a dirty word, but the upcoming drafts are chock-full of serious talent.
For teams lucky enough to have a selection in the Pre-Season Draft, that player will have to luxury of going straight onto a club’s senior list, meaning he is eligible to play senior football. Perhaps the bonus is that although the rookie list has been culled from six to four in season 2013, for teams that have multiple selections in the Rookie Draft, there is plenty of undeveloped talent ready to be discovered.
As there is every year, mature players from the state feeder leagues tend to get a look in as well as a handful of international talent, of which this year will be headed by a popular prospect in Eric Wallice from the United States. Others including Gideon Simon from Papua New Guinea and Kurt Heatherley from New Zealand have already been committed to by Richmond and Hawthorn respectively.
The likes of Kris Pendlebury and Joel Tippett could also be snapped up in the Rookie or Pre-Season Drafts, following in the footsteps of their famous brothers before them, who have each made successful careers in the AFL so far. They could also still yet have their AFL dream revived, or in Pendlebury’s case, kick started.
Other names of brothers currently in the AFL include Xavier Richards and Brandon Jack, whose older brothers just played in Sydney’s premiership this year. The pair have been invited to train with Sydney in the lead up to December.
But it’s the promising young talent overlooked in the National Draft that has tongues wagging, and should any team be lucky enough to secure one of the following names, they are set to get bang for their buck.
Kurt Tippett – 202cm, 104kg, Adelaide
Knocking out the obvious one, it goes without saying that Kurt Tippett can play at AFL level, as he displayed for Adelaide in 2012 with 39 goals in 21 games. Having nominated for the Pre-Season draft, it is becoming increasingly likely that Tippett will make his way to Greater Western Sydney.
Dayle Garlett – 180cms, 75kgs, Claremont
On talent alone, Dayle Garlett has been spoken of as a top ten prospect, but his attitude and behavioural problems proved to be too much in the National Draft and Garlett was overlooked altogether. Clubs believe that lingering off-field misdemeanours far outweigh his talent, however, Essendon has invited him down to Windy Hill to train. Should Garlett be able to turn his bad boy ways around, the midfielder, who averaged 20 disposals and four clearances with All-Australian honours in the National Championships, could be the story of the Rookie Draft. The Bombers currently have a selection available in the Pre-Season Draft.
Jacob Ballard – 186cms, 82kgs, Northern Knights
Jacob Ballard’s biggest asset is his engine, and with a beep test time of over 14, he can mix it with the best in a running capacity. Ballard also doubles up as a rebounding defender who is a play maker off half-back, and can always find a target either under pressure or out in space. It’s astonishing that he was overlooked considering he operated at a top efficiency of 70% for Vic Metro. Crafty at ground level, Ballard is strong bodied and never shirks a contest. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest he could be one player who could play a role in 2013 should a club select him.
Matthew Haynes – 189cms, 76kgs, Northern Knights
After a solid display in the National Championships, Matthew Haynes was also touted to be a draft selection but it was not to be. Still very much an athlete rather than a footballer, Haynes needs to learn how to run in the correct patters, better his positioning and could do with a bit more muscle given he plays as a midfielder. Despite his deficiencies, Haynes has the ability to break games open with his run and carry. Operating at 68% efficiency, Haynes would be a very good rookie-listed player capable of breaking through for a senior debut, despite being still relatively new to Australian Rules.
Jason Pongracic – 182cms, 86kgs, Dandenong Stingrays.
Jason Pongracic is a lump of a lad who can also consider himself seriously unlucky not to get a gig through the National Draft. He did, however, have a somewhat interrupted year with injury, but his presence at stoppages and his ability to throw his weight around inspires teammates. Pongracic is a super aggressive and fearless competitor whose tenacity and ferocity at the ball is a standout attribute. Relentless in the way he plays his football, he is damaging by foot and would be another player capable of playing senior football in 2013.
Sam Colquhoun – 179cms, 72kgs, Central Districts
Perhaps the biggest shock of the draft came in the form of the non-selection of All-Australian and South Australia’s MVP, Sam Colquhoun. The running half-back who played a loose role throughout the National Championships averaged 28 touches and five marks, but questions have been asked about his ability to play accountable football when it really matters. Colquhoun is currently training with Port Adelaide in a bid to become rookie-listed by the Power.
Shannon Taylor – 177cms, 72kgs, Claremont
It’s remarkable to think that Shannon Taylor was a possible GWS mini-draft selection just 12 months ago, and after a scintillating 2011 display, he also won the 20-metre sprint outright at the Draft Combine in October of 2011, notching 2.86 seconds. Despite being down on form in 2012, Taylor has a lot to offer in the way of a small midfielder-cum-forward type. Clubs have seen Taylor as a solid prospect but he lacks impact throughout four quarters.
Marvin Warrell – 182cms, 70kgs, South Fremantle
Marvin Warrell has the ability to simply make things happen and is an exciting prospect who is still very much undeveloped in areas. Warrell does have a very neat set of skills and is a clean user of the ball, but also struggles to impact across four quarters and could do with learning how to play a variety of roles to make himself more dangerous. Very quick on the burst, Warrell is very much a project player at this stage.
Cameron Banfield – 183cms, 74kgs, Sandringham
Cameron Banfield was considered to be a late draft bolter who could have well been selected inside the second or third rounds, but also was another player overlooked. It probably has something to do with his size, as he lacks muscle that’s needed to hold down a defensive post amongst AFL ranks. However, Banfield does have great field kicking skills, having averaged 17 disposals throughout the TAC Cup, of which 40% were contested.
Zac Williams – 183cms, 80kgs, Narrandera
Despite winning the NSW/ACT MVP award in the National Championships, recruiters didn’t really get much of a look at the division two teams with eyes focused predominately on division one. However, Williams dominated for lowly NSW/ACT and showed good awareness, solid hands and strength to break tackles, as well as provided a baulking option across the ground. Nonetheless, Williams is a tremendous prospect who still needs to work on areas but is a solid candidate for selection in the Pre-Season or Rookie Drafts. He averaged 17 disposals in the competition, of which 10 were contested, coupled with five clearances and four tackles across each game for NSW/ACT. Williams is currently training with GWS in the lead up to both December drafts.
Louis Herbert – 186cms, 70kgs, North Ballarat
Super athletic, clean, agile and quick, Louis Herbert still has a bit to work on but has the natural attributes to make it in the big time. As a medium-sized forward, Herbert knows how to hit the scoreboard, demonstrated with a bag of eight goals in the TAC Cup, but hasn’t been taught the finer points of a class forward player and can at times become lost. Herbert’s natural endurance means he can play a variety of roles, but with positioning a key factor, Herbert can offer plenty of value to a rookie list.
Ben Kearns – 183cms, 73kgs, Gippsland Power
Ben Kearns would be considered stiff to miss out on a club list but that might come down to his size, which won’t cut it at elite level. Kearns demonstrated that he can be a very reliable defender/midfielder, averaging 16 disposals, eight of wich were contested. He can kick goals and play a negating role off half-back but lacks muscle size to really warrant a senior spot on a club’s list.
Andrew Boston – 180cms, 75kgs, Broadbeach
In a day and age where precise disposal by foot means everything, Andrew Boston ticked every box at the Draft Combine and nailed a perfect score in the goalkicking test, and also finished highly in the field kicking test. Boston works both sides of his body extremely well and can sidestep and take off from stoppages with the ball and stream forward for a long, running goal. Boston was arguably Queensland’s best in the National Championships, and as others in division two suffered the same fate of being overlooked in favour of the prodigious division one teams, Boston is destined for a selection in either the Pre-Season or Rookie Drafts. Averaging 18 disposals at 70% efficiency, Boston joins Sam Colquhoun as another All-Australian overlooked at November’s draft table.
Jordan Bourke – 193cms, 83kgs, Morningside
Originally overlooked by Geelong, being eligible to be taken under the father-son rule, Jordan Bourke was again overlooked as a local talent selection for Gold Coast and again in the National Draft, but looks increasingly likely to slot onto a team’s list through the Pre-Season or Rookie Drafts. As a tall forward, Bourke has plenty to offer a prospective club and should develop nicely into a future key position player. Bourke looks to be steal, especially given his output in the National Championships where he was a super reliable goal kicker and very strong in contested marking. He doesn’t get a heap of the ball but he marks well, kicks truly and has a great leap.
Emmanuel Irra – 179cms, 80kgs, South Adelaide
Always considered to be a rookie selection, Emmanuel Irra is still very new to the game after seeking refuge in Australia with his family at a young age from Uganda. It will be one of the feel-good stories should he successfully be selected in one of the drafts in December, and his appetite and willingness to learn means that he has huge upside in the way to developing into an AFL player.
Jack Hannath – 200cms, 85kgs, Central Districts
Jack Hannath could have been drafted as far back as 2009 but has been overlooked each year. Since then, Hannath has honed his skills with Central Districts in the SANFL, becoming one of the best and most consistent ruckmen in the competition. Hannath is now 21 and has developed his ability to not only play as an agile ruckmen who is also very handy around the ground, but is also able to hold down a key forward position, too. Jack is currently training with Melbourne in the lead up to the Rookie Draft where they have two live picks.
In years gone by, the Pre-Season and Rookie Drafts have merely been seen as an opportunity to top up club lists, but this could quite easily become the most successful Rookie Drafts in history should the above players make their way onto AFL lists.