Academy prospects: Who’s eligible for your club?

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AFTER last year’s bonanza of early Academy selections, there looks set to be fewer top-end bids at the 2019 NAB AFL Draft.

There were three players – Tarryn Thomas (North Melbourne, pick No.8), Nick Blakey (Sydney, No.10) and Isaac Quaynor (Collingwood, No.13) – selected in the first round of last year’s intake under northern Academy or Next Generation Academy bidding rules.

The trio were touted from early in the season as likely early picks and lived up to those heights, with Thomas the first ever NGA prospect taken in the top 10.

However, the same numbers are unlikely to be repeated this year with fewer standouts in this crop.

Greater Western Sydney midfielder Tom Green has already caught the eye, having played for the Allies at last year’s NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.

Green is a big-bodied player who has become a fitter player in recent months, helped in part by training with the Giants over summer.

He has strong bloodlines as the grandson of Richmond great Michael Green, who won four flags for the club and is a member of its team of the century.

The Giants will also have access to Liam Delahunty, a medium forward with power who has also improved his running ability over the pre-season, while Matt McGrory has come from an athletics background but is another who will be on their radar.

Josh Rayner, a tall and athletic forward who can also push back, looms as Sydney’s best Academy prospect, while Gold Coast will have first call on Connor Budarick.

Budarick is small (175cm) but is quick, tenacious and a very good user of the ball. Paul-Oea Hewago, from Papua New Guinea, has also joined the Suns Academy as an international two-year scholarship.

Kobe Tozer is considered one of the leading Brisbane Academy players in this year’s pool, however the key forward will be keen for an uninterrupted season after suffering two dislocated kneecaps in recent years.

The Lions also have priority over competitive midfielder Will Martyn.

Sydney has secured three first-round picks via its Academy in the past five years (Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills and Blakey) and they could add to that group next year with two highly-rated bottom-agers in their squad this season.

Errol Gulden is a smaller type but has an elite running capacity, while explosive half-back Braeden Campbell’s talent has already impressed onlookers ahead of their draft year in 2020.

Bigoa Nyuon kicked three goals in the NAB AFL All Stars clash on Grand Final day and can join St Kilda as a NGA player this year. His brother, Gach, was picked as a rookie by the Bombers in 2015.

Liam Henry, a midfielder from Western Australia, is eligible to join Fremantle under NGA rules.

Lachlan Johnson’s father Chris played in three premierships for the Brisbane Lions, making him eligible to join the club as a father-son selection. However, he also qualifies as a NGA pick for Essendon given he lives in their zone.

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