Brander branded as a top AFL Draft prospect

At different points throughout 2017, Wentworth’s Jarrod Brander has been labelled as a top 10, top five and even a possible Number One AFL Draft Pick prospect.

Brander has been one of the star students of the AFL NSW/ACT Talent Pathway for years, and since the rezoning of the Murray Albury region in March, has had several clubs admitting interest.

For Brander though, he just wants to be drafted, and it does not matter where he lands.

“It’s pretty exciting, I’m just happy to get picked, I’m not worried about what number I go, but it’s nice to be recognised heading in,” says Brander.

“I have no team preference, I’m happy to go anywhere.”

‘Anywhere’ – a word also lending itself to where Brander may end up playing on field. Having played part of the 2017 NAB AFL Under 18 Championships on the backline, the 18-year-old also has the credentials of a tall-forward, kicking three goals in the Allies win over Vic Metro.

Despite being placed in the ‘Tall Defenders’ category at the 2017 NAB AFL Draft Combine taking place this week, Brander believes his work in front of goal, may have him placed there in the future.

“I think I’ll end up being a forward, especially at AFL level, I’m more natural at it.”

While it is not easy to predict where Brander will be selected – club or position –  it is easy to know that the club who calls his name will be gaining a hard-working player.

Attending the prestigious Geelong Grammar school on a sporting scholarship, Brander has not only starred in their AFL side, but their cricket team too. Juggling these commitments with the NAB AFL Academy Series, the Under 18 Championships, and his local side, the Bendigo Pioneers, Brander says his choice to pursue AFL was not hard.

“I used to do okay [at cricket]. I played all this season, my last season for school,” says a humble Brander who has been clocked bowling at 130km.

“In the last year or so though, I just started to lean that way [to AFL] and footy became more important, and the sport I was better at. So, it was a pretty easy decision to make in the end.”

In a similar position, the once front-running tall forward prospect at the Draft, Victoria’s Will Sutherland chose cricket, leaving Brander as one of the leading goal-getters in this year’s talent pool.

AFL NSW/ACT State Talent and Coaching Manager, Darren Denneman says Brander’s adaptability to all situations is one of his key attributes.

“Jarrod is a tall key position type who can play forward and back,” says Denneman.

“He has an athletic body shape, which allows good movement patterns. He is a good ball user who can penetrate with his long kicking. He is also a strong marking type.”

Whether forward or back, Brander must impress this week at Etihad Stadium. Five or more clubs have invited him and the other four AFL NSW/ACT players to test, meaning there is plenty of interest in the boy from the border.

Having started playing at six-year-old at the local Auskick Centre, Brander was a member of the GIANTS Academy by the age of 12. By 16-years-old, he was a NSW/ACT Ram and a part of the AFL Academy.  This year, Brander was selected to play for the Allies at a national level, a team who had mixed results across the season.

“It [Brander’s season] was okay, but I don’t think I was as consistent as I would have liked.

“At nationals, we started off okay against Vic Country, but we should have probably beaten them in that game. In the middle two games, it probably wasn’t the team’s best performance – or my own.

“But against Vic Metro, we came out to prove something – that we could actually play footy. That we’re not just a bunch of non-footy playing states. So that was a great message to take up to the best team in Australia.”

Brander will test alongside other players from the Championships at the Draft Combine. Being a school famous for their AFL player production, Brander has been fortunate enough to train with some of these players, who also board at Geelong Grammar.

“I’m feeling pretty good. There are three or four boys at school who are also training for the Combine, so it’s been good the last six or seven weeks.

“As a part of school, we do athletics, so I’m feeling pretty fit there. Going to the gym, we’ve got a pretty good program set up there by the strength and conditioning coach at school.

“We did some practices of all the tests last week to get a feel, especially the ‘Yo-Yo’ because I’ve never done it before. I didn’t do too bad but I didn’t go flat out, I just was getting a feel for it.”

Brander may have one extra advantage to take into the Combine, having been afforded the chance to train with Geelong’s VFL squad throughout the year. Considering the local connection between his school and the Geelong Football Club, Brander has prepared for the Combine by coming up against the likes of Daniel Menzel in training.

“Because there are three or four other boys at school who are also a part of the AFL Academy, we got to train with the Geelong VFL side once a week since about February.”

Sighting the Geelong club’s professionalism as one of the key take outs from this opportunity, Brander says his initial introduction to the idea of a being a ‘professional’ footballer came when he entered Under 16s NSW/ACT Rams squad.

“Coming into Under 16s was the biggest eye-opener for me, especially with Saddo [Jason Saddinton] and Denno [Darren Denneman] teaching us boys about professionalism.

“We know now what it takes to be the best.”

Jarrod Brander will join 82 players from around Australia at the 2017 NAB AFL Draft Combine on 3-6 October 2017 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. Stay tuned to the AFL NSW/ACT website, FacebookInstagram and Twitter pages to keep up-to-date throughout the week