With so many important players going down with long term injuries already, opportunity beckons for some rising stars. Each club will be looking for a breakout star, so we preview the top candidates.
Adelaide – Harrison Wigg
With Brent Reilly in serious trouble, a spot opens up off half back for the Crows. Despite Adelaide being quite strong in that area, they added one of the best kicks in the draft, Harrison Wigg, to further bolster their half back/midfield stocks.
With an incredible disposal efficiency and ability to read the play, Wigg might not dominate in his first season, but he could make some eye catching cameos.
Brisbane – Harris Andrews
The Lions have four or five really promising key defenders coming on. Dan McStay and Darcy Gardiner look to be excellent prospects, but the Lions will be pleased with the rapid development from Harris Andrews.
The tall defender is a lanky prospect, but his lockdown skills are already at a high level. Andrews, a home grown talent, popped up out of nowhere for Queensland last year and claimed several best on ground performances in the TAC Cup.
Carlton – Patrick Cripps
Carlton’s midfield is stacked with ready-made youngsters in Patrick Cripps, Blaine Boekhorst and Nick Graham. Cripps seems to have the highest ceiling at this stage, as he continues to add extra strings to his bow.
The ball winner will look to break into the best 22 this year, and indeed he may already warrant his spot in the round one side.
Collingwood – Jordan De Goey
The Pies will love the class De Goey radiates. Despite not being a volume ball winner, the possessions that De Goey gets involved in are usually in dangerous spots.
His long kicking and ability to hit the scoreboard should cover the loss of Clinton Young in the early parts of the season.
Essendon – Jayden Laverde
Smooth kicking players with x-factor fit in well at Essendon. With Zach Merrett already breaking out, Laverde could find himself in a similar situation.
Laverde can be used all over the ground, and his body is strong enough to allow him to hold his own at AFL level.
Fremantle – Lachie Weller
With Nat Fyfe and Anthony Morabito under injury clouds, the Dockers first round pick could come in and provide some inside and outside talent.
Weller is a magnificent ball user and he can accumulate enough to hold his own in the side. Weller’s frame is still light, so he may be a sub vest candidate.
Geelong – Nakia Cockatoo
Again the Cats will be without Daniel Menzel: Cockatoo provides a strong body as well as plenty of x–factor.
He can play in a variety of roles, but it is his kicking and tackling which may make him a solid option as a medium forward. The loss of Allen Christensen helps Cockatoo’s chances as well.
Gold Coast – Jarrod Garlett
With Gary Ablett and Jaeger O’Meara currently sitting on the injury list, it’s Jarrod Garlett who has looked to claim a spot in the Suns squad.
Although Touk Miller would be a like for like replacement for the inside midfielders, Garlett’s NAB Challenge form was superb in patches.
His speed and endurance should see him on many highlight reels. His sublime kicking should see him as a safe option. With new coach Rodney Eade, it will be interesting to see how the Suns will line up.
GWS – Jack Steele
The Giants are stacked with talent, but it’s the 19 year old Steele who has flown under the radar.
His game is suited for an early AFL birth. His athletic prowess is impressive, but his ability to win so much of the ball is why some punters are considering Steele as a dark horse in the Rising Star race.
Steele has a strong body and he hits the scoreboard regularly. All signs point to success for this young man.
Hawthorn – Jed Anderson
Despite the Hawks squad being stacked, its Anderson’s pre season form that had jaws dropping.
He would be in the best 22 in just about every other team, but the Hawks depth and remarkable health (only Grant Birchall sits on the injury list) make it hard for Anderson to bust into the side.
One thing is for sure: if he gets a string of games, we’ll be seeing a star emerging.
Melbourne – Christian Salem
I’ve backed Christian Salem since round one of the TAC Cup two years ago. I firmly believe that he was not only the best midfielder in the 2013 draft, but had the potential to be the best player in his draft class.
With Christian Petracca and Alex Neal–Bullen facing serious injuries, Salem won’t have as much competition for a spot in the side. His intra-club form off the half back line looked extremely promising.
North Melbourne – Sam Durdin
North had a strange draft plan last year, taking three guys who might end up as tall backmen in the long run. However, it almost proved to be incredible foresight as Nathan Grima and Lachie Hansen sit on the sidelines.
Sam Durdin was the highest rated of the North Melbourne draft crop, and his body seems the most AFL ready. He can also give Todd Goldstein a chop out in the ruck or head forward as well.
Port Adelaide – Karl Amon
Chad Wingard was struck by injury, and all of a sudden Port’s ball movement doesn’t seem as frightening. Enter Karl Amon.
After sitting behind Josh Kelly, Nathan Freeman, Christian Salem, Angus Brayshaw, Zach Merrett and Tom Langdon, Karl Amon popped up as a stunning and consistent midfielder as an 18 year old. He is a slick disposer of the ball and he can run all day.
Amon can hit the scoreboard on the run as a forward, or hold his opponent if he is playing down back. Amon possesses an all round game and looks to be a gun in the making if he gets his chance.
Richmond – Connor Menadue
Menadue has some serious pace. In the TAC Cup last year, Menadue became one of the biggest bolters after his speed and kicking caught the eye of many recruiters.
His ability to read the ruck taps is sublime, and his burst away from the pack made him one of the most dangerous TAC Cup midfielders.
Despite struggling with his kicking in his first NAB Challenge game, Menadue will bounce back and provide the Tigers with another young bright spark.
St. Kilda – Tim Membrey
Membrey could come on and kick 35 goals this year and prove all his doubters wrong. He’s a full forward in the mould of a smaller Tony Lockett, and their career resemblances don’t just end at the Sydney and St. Kilda links.
With Paddy McCartin and Spencer White developing, Membrey could provide an instant impact alongside Tom Lee and Nick Riewoldt.
Sydney – Jake Lloyd
Lloyd is seriously underrated. With Ryan O’Keefe and Nick Malceski gone, Lloyd has two less competitors for his spot.
A wonderful tackler and ball winner, Lloyd is one of the lesser lights holding the likes of Tom Mitchell and Isaac Heeney out of the side.
West Coast – Tom Lamb
No one really knows where Tom Lamb is going to play for the Eagles. With Darren Glass and Eric McKenzie out of the frame, the Eagles need someone to help Will Schofield and Mitch Brown.
Tom Lamb has the potential to play as a unique third tall who can also run and create. Indeed, the tutelage in defence could help him with his discipline and consistency.
Western Bulldogs – Caleb Daniel
The Dogs have lost their best inside and outside midfielders, and whilst many are tipping Mitch Wallis to step up, the real beneficiary is the AFL’s shortest player.
Daniel is a supreme athlete and he has the complete all round game. The Dogs also picked up Toby McLean and Bailey Dale who are direct competitors to Daniel, which will only fire him up more.