2018 Academy players to keep an eye on

Originally published on AFL.com.au.

Many footy experts have described the 2018 NAB AFL Draft as a bumper crop, and four clubs will be hoping their academy programs can provide them with plenty of future stars.

Among the list of potential draftees next year are father-son selections Nick Blakey, son of former Fitzroy and North Melbourne defender John, and Bailey Scott, son of former Geelong and North Melbourne midfielder Robert.

Blakey and Scott helped the Kangaroos to the 1996 premiership.

The intriguing part about the pair of talented youngsters is that both are eligible to be claimed by the clubs their fathers played at, but they’re also part of the academy system, with Blakey (Sydney) and Scott (Gold Coast) growing up in the northern states.

It should add plenty to next year’s lead-up to the draft when the teenagers will be forced to nominate their preferred destinations.

Below, AFL.com.au nominates five players at each academy you should keep an eye on in 2018.


Tom Matthews

Excellent outside player with a good kick and strong overhead mark. Showed his class at the under-17 All Star game on Grand Final eve, racking up 12 disposals in the first quarter before switching positions.

Darcy Marsh 
Small forward

Clever left-footer who reads the play well and has an excellent sense around goal. A former Australian under-17 cricketer who has given away the bat and ball to focus on footy.

Justin Currie 

A former national level middle-distance runner, Currie has overcome a stress fracture in his lower back and has resumed full training. Has excellent speed and endurance, and will complete his game with more contested ball work.

Ben Sloan 

Missed out on being drafted this year, but the Lions will bring him back to focus purely on their academy program in 2018. Sloan has a good leap, is a strong mark for his size and has broken three seconds for the 20m sprint. Just needs a little more consistency within matches.

Jack Clayton 

Like Sloan, wasn’t drafted this year after spending time with the AFL Academy, Lions academy, Lions NEAFL team and Allies under-18s. A small defender with good skills, the club believes training exclusively with its academy (and seniors through pre-season) will improve his game immeasurably. 


Bailey Scott

A highly talented midfielder who can play inside and outside, Scott is already 186cm and has good speed, excellent endurance and can kick well off both sides. The son of former North Melbourne and Geelong star Robert, he’ll have the choice of either club as a father-son or the Suns academy in 12 months’ time.

Caleb Graham 

Like Jack Bowes before him, hails from Cairns and has moved to the Gold Coast to give footy his best shot. Graham is a key defender, who can also swing forward, is a strong contested mark and has the great combination of a long reach and good closing speed.

Dirk Koenen 

Has had a few injuries, but at 195cm is a key defender who has already proved adept at intercept marking and is well skilled with ball in hand. Koenen comes from a sporting family with his older sisters Breanna (Lions AFLW team) and Cara (Sunshine Coast Lightning netball) already playing in national competitions.

Cory Beaman

Beaman is a former under-15 All Australian with a bit of X-factor. Has dynamic speed and a brilliant vertical leap from his track and field background and can swing between forward and midfield. Just needs to work on his endurance over the next 12 months.

Cooper Portelli 

A hard-at-it midfielder, Portelli is a Gold Coast local with a strong body who loves to win the contested ball and finds plenty of it. Needs to work on his polish and finishing skills, but has the makings of an excellent player. 


James Peatling 

An agile small-to-medium-sized forward from western Sydney who loves to fly for his marks and knows where the goals are. Defensive tackling pressure has also been impressive inside 50.

Kieren Briggs

Another western Sydney local who played as a key forward for GWS in the academy series, but is versatile enough to have played as a key defender in the NEAFL. Good speed and agility for his size and a powerful kick. 

Jeromy Lucas 

A medium-sized forward/midfielder who has a great ability to find the footy, is a quality overhead mark, and finishes his work in front of goals. Kicked three goals in a game of NEAFL last season and will combine his school footy at Xavier College with academy games and the NEAFL again in 2018. 

Shaun Driscoll 
Small defender/midfielder

A lightly framed half-back/wingman with fantastic endurance and speed, Driscoll is a good overhead mark for his size that covers plenty of territory during a game. An outside midfielder but has the capacity to play inside if needed.

Mathew Walker 

The medium forward kicked multiple bags of goals in the NEAFL last season and finished the year in the All Stars game in Grand Final week. Powerful athlete with quality skills on both sides of his body and a big vertical leap.


Sam Wicks 

Played some really good footy for the Swans reserves and after earning himself a NEAFL Rising Star nomination, was a member of their losing Grand Final side. A small forward who can play as an outside midfielder, Wicks has speed and endurance and is ultra competitive.

Nick Blakey

A key forward with the versatility to play as a midfielder, Blakey’s key attribute is his overhead marking. Inherited his father’s running ability and is sure to have all three clubs (Brisbane Lions, North Melbourne and Sydney) waiting by the phone next year.

Michael Carroll

A raw prospect that is developing quickly and really came on in 2017. Has good closing speed and is excellent one-on-one, is aggressive, sure footed, and is a good size for a key defender. Was about best on ground for Pennant Hills in their Grand Final win this year.

Conor Flanagan

Reads the play extremely well and a standout in the Swans academy in terms of his professionalism towards his footy. A very handy role player because of his competitiveness and elite endurance.

Jack Hardman 

A powerful small forward with a big vertical leap and speed, but needs to work on his endurance and skills over the next 12 months. Has the ingredients to attract plenty of recruiters.