These are the contenders for Pick Number One
THESE are the contenders for Pick 1 — and whether they would suit ether, or both, of the two teams ‘vying’ for the wooden spoon.
Plus the WAFL prospect and state combine invitee that destroyed West Coast’s reserves side.
Also, the weekend eye-catchers and mature-age recruits pushing for a second chance at the national draft on Friday November 24.\
Welcome to AFL Draft Watch, with all numbers courtesy of Champion Data.
THE PICK 1 CONTENDERS THAT SUIT LIONS, ROOS
WHILE the make-up of the top eight is still far from secure, the race to ‘earn’ Pick 1 is still up in the air — that is until 5pm on Saturday afternoon.
The Brisbane Lions host North Melbourne at the Gabba in a match that will determine who finishes on the bottom of the AFL ladder and, consequently — or subsequently — gets the first pick in November’s national draft.
The upcoming match-up has sparked plenty of debate around who the front-runner is for the first selection in the draft — and rightly so.
Since his outstanding Under 18 national championships campaign for Vic Metro, Cameron Rayner has been the hot favourite for Pick 1. Blessed with explosiveness, ball-winning ability and knack for hitting the scoreboard, Rayner has all the makings to be an AFL star when the day comes.
But would either the Lions or Kangaroos take Rayner should they hold Pick 1 come November? Would he suit their needs?
Or if either club is looking for the best available talent, is Rayner the best kid in it?
We profile the contenders for Pick 1 — and whether they suit both the Lions and Kangaroos.
Cameron Rayner (Western Jets)
Has been compared to Christian Petracca and, most famously, Dustin Martin for his power and ability to hit the scoreboard. Played predominantly as a high half-forward but can also move into the midfield. The only question mark is his aerobic capacity, which won’t be fully tested at this year’s national combine after the beep test was replaced with a repeat sprint test.
Does he suit the Lions? The Lions had hinted that they will probably go for the best available player. If that’s the case, Rayner’s in with a huge chance as he could be the most talented of the lot. But as has been seen in previous years, the Lions have tended to lean towards recruiting country-based players for retention purposes. It might be a reason why the Lions look elsewhere.
Does he suit the Kangaroos? If the Roos have Pick 1 — or even if Rayner slips to Pick 2 — they just take Rayner. North needs some explosiveness out of the midfield and Rayner would help provide that. And it’s possible Rayner could man up alongside lookalike Dustin Martin in the blue and white next season.
Paddy Dow (Bendigo Pioneers)
Arguably the most well-rounded midfielder of this year’s class — and potentially the most improved. Dow has rocketed up club draft boards right around the country as he continues to show more promise with each game. He hits the scoreboard, wins the ball in all scenarios and is a great kick. Tick, tick, tick.
Does he suit the Lions? The Lions are craving midfield depth — and Dow would be an ideal addition. What might also attract the Lions to Dow is that he’s a country lad from Swan Hill, who has already moved south this year in order to enhance his draft prospects. Looks like a good fit.
Does he suit the Kangaroos? The Roos, too, could do with more midfield depth, particularly someone who has the kicking efficiency that Dow has. Dow’s no-fuss approach would also fit in at Arden Street, should he land there.
Adam Cerra (Eastern Ranges)
Of the all the Pick 1 candidates, Cerra has probably struggled the most for continuity predominantly due to injuries. And he’s sidelined for the rest of this season due to a shoulder injury. But whichever club picks up Cerra will have a beauty on its hands. Like Dow, there isn’t much Cerra can’t do, from winning the ball to efficient ball use to hitting the scoreboard.
Does he suit the Lions? Cerra would add that midfield depth the Lions crave, plus the Lions would need another goalkicking midfielder to support the likes of Dayne Beams and Dayne Zorko. But if the Lions are looking for some explosiveness as a point of difference, Cerra arguably isn’t their man.
Does he suit the Kangaroos? If the Roos had Pick 4 or 5, they’d probably take the classy Cerra. But with Pick 1 or 2, they might be more tempted to opt for more explosive types like Rayner and Dow, who just offers that little point of difference.
Jarrod Brander (Bendigo Pioneers)
With the Giants losing bid-matching rights and Will Sutherland opting for cricket, Brander now becomes the No. 1 key-position target in the open draft. Brander has the ability to play both back and forward — traits that were on display during this year’s Under 18 championships for the Allies.
Does he suit the Lions? Key-position talents are hard to come by. Incredibly, though, the Lions have plenty already up their sleeve, in particular Josh Schache and Eric Hipwood up forward. They might be tempted to draft Brander as a defender, but they also have two academy picks in Connor Ballenden and Jack Payne that loom as key defensive prospects.
Does he suit the Roos? Probably not. The Roos have drafted an array of key-position prospects over recent years, such as Daniel Nielsen, Ben McKay and Ed Vickers-Willis. It’s unlikely they’d go for Brander, unless they wanted someone to partner Ben Brown up forward heading into the future.
MYSTERY OVER ACADEMY LION
UNLIKE recent years, there won’t be a lot of club-linked academy players copping bids in the early stages of this year’s draft. And when the first bid comes remains a mystery.
But what most draft on-lookers believe is that key-position prospect Connor Ballenden — tied to the Brisbane Lions’ academy — should be the first that cops a bid.
Ballenden has played six games for the Lions in the NEAFL this season, including their last four of the home and away season. He played predominantly forward in his first four games to boot eight goals, with at least one in every game, before moving back in the most recent two games, highlighted by his 16-disposal, seven-mark performance against the Suns.
It comes after Ballenden was moved around the ground while representing the Allies at this year’s national carnival. He started forward but was pushed back in his final two games where he had the most impact, finishing with five intercept marks in his side’s upset win over Vic Metro.
Premiership Magpie Luke Ball, who helped out Allies coach Adrian Fletcher during the Under 18 championships, said Ballenden was an exciting prospect that was still learning his craft at both ends of the ground.
“I think it’s important for key-position players in particular to learn how to play at both ends of the ground,” Ball told foxfooty.com.au.
“His best couple games for the carnival were when he was swung down to half back and read the ball really well and go for his marks.
“It will be interesting to fall where the cards fall on draft night for him.”
Another player who has impressed in the NEAFL this season is Adam Sambono, who was recognised with the NEAFL Rising Star award on Sunday night.
Sambono, who only played his first competitive game of footy three years ago, kicked 29 goals from just 10 games — including six on debut — playing for the NT Thunder to win the honours.
The 20-year-old was granted special permission to play with the Allies squad during the mid-year Under 18 national championships, while he was also invited to the national combine in early October.
NT Thunder skipper Shannon Rioli said Sambono was a “genuine freak”.
“I don’t think there are many players before that have been like him,” Rioli told the NEAFL website.
“He can take those marks at the highest point — you don’t even see him coming and there he is gliding across the pack super gracefully.”
– with Tom Morris
UNDER 18 EYE-CATCHERS
THERE’S only two rounds remaining in the TAC Cup, which means many of this year’s top draft prospects have returned to the competition after completing school footy commitments. And several stood out for their respective clubs last weekend.
— The Western Jets’ two stars, Cameron Rayner and Lachlan Fogarty, had big afternoons to lead their side to victory over the Northern Knights. Rayner, a potential No. 1 pick, was electric, booting 2.2 from 28 disposals and six marks in a commanding forward-midfield role. Fogarty was named best on ground by the Jets, also contributing two goals to go with 26 disposals and 10 tackles.
— Ball magnet Jack Higgins did his top-10 hopes no harm, starring in Oakleigh’s close win over the Sandringham Dragons. Higgins, a small forward that has been likened to Toby Greene, was arguably the difference between the two sides, booting 3.3 from 21 disposals and seven tackles. For the Dragons, Andrew Brayshaw’s draft stocks rose again with an excellent outing, finishing with 28 disposals. As the season has progressed, Brayshaw has improved — to the point where he could be selected in the first round come November’s national draft. The ever-improving Charlie Constable (1.1 from 29 disposals) won a stack of the ball and could also be in first-round contention.
— The Eastern Ranges had a day out against the Calder Cannons with a host of contributors. Jaidyn Stephenson (1.1 from 25 disposals) and Sam Hayes (2.1 from 13 disposals and 30 hit-outs) showed why they’re potential top-10 picks, ball magnet Dylan Moore (two goals from 30 disposals and six tackles) proved why he’s attracting interested and the rise of Ryley Stoddart (2.1 from 19 disposals) continued to be named in the Ranges’ best for the sixth time in seven games. Jackson Ross top-scored with five goals and is a forward to keep an eye on. Possible top 20 pick Noah Balta (two goals from 13 disposals) was Calder’s best playing in a variety of positions.
— Pick 1 bolter Paddy Dow was enormous for the Bendigo Pioneers against Gippsland, booting 2.1 from a whopping 35 disposals and seven tackles. Dow has continued to shoot up club draft boards around the country ever since the Under 18 national championships — and for god reason, as he’s a well-rounded midfielder that hits the scoreboard. Fellow top-five hopeful Jarrod Brander had an important outing for the Pioneers, booting 2.2 from 21 disposals and nine marks. It was Brander’s first TAC Cup outing for the year with Bendigo.
— Others to impress across the weekend were Murray top-ager Ben Paton (one goal from 25 disposals and seven tackles) and Dandenong on-baller Hunter Clark (one goal from 22 disposals and nine tackles). Paton is one of the best intercepting and rebounding mid-sized defenders in this year’s draft class, while Clark’s move to a more inside midfielder role is paying dividends.
In the SANFL, eligible Crows father-son prospect Jackson Edwards — the son of Tyson — continue his consistent form at senior level, finishing with 16 disposals and eight contested possessions for Glenelg. He’s now played three senior games in the SANFL as he builds confidence and strength heading into October’s draft.
— Despite his side going down by 140 points to Port Adelaide, Stefan Giro had a day out for Norwood in the reserves. The ball magnet finished with 29 disposals, 15 contested possessions and eight clearances in his 10th game for the season with Norwood’s reserves.
— Speaking of big games in the SANFL reserves, Mitch Crowden starred for Sturt in its win over North Adelaide. Crowden booted two goals from 29 disposals, seven inside 50s, five clearances and three assists to put his hand up for senior selection again.
In the WAFL, Aaron Naughton played his fifth senior game for Peel Thunder (Fremantle’s reserves side), finishing with 1.1 from 11 disposals and six marks. Naughton’s impressive senior WAFL form has seen him come into top-10 calculations come November’s draft.
— Time to get Jake Patmore playing in Claremont’s reserves or even the seniors, because he’s taking the proverbial at colts level. Against Swan Districts, Patmore racked up a lazy 48 touches — his second 40-plus game for the year — to go with six marks and six tackles. For Patmore to boost his draft prospects, though, he needs to strut his stuff at a higher level.
— Subiaco’s Brayden Ainsworth played his eighth reserves game — and it was clearly his best, booting one goal from 27 disposals, seven marks and six tackles. A ball magnet with a lovely left-foot kick, he’s a sneaky chance to be drafted later in the year.
— Claremont’s Callan England returned to the WAFL colts after four weeks off and hit the ground running, booting one goal from 32 disposals. Fellow national combine invitee Subiaco’s Kyron Hayden (29 disposals) also impressed.
TALK about announcing yourself a few months out from the WA state combine. Perth’s Cody Ninyette produced the perfect small forward-midfielder’s game on the weekend against, most impressively, East Perth — the West Coast Eagles’ reserves side. Ninyette, 19, almost single-handedly won the game for Perth, booting 7.4 from 22 disposals and nine marks to help his side register a thrilling five-point win over the Royals.
In the SANFL, state combine invitee Patrick Wilson was among Sturt’s best in its win over South Adelaide, booting 2.1 from 21 disposals, 13 contested possessions, nine tackles and five clearances. A consistent inside ball-winner, it’s no wonder why clubs wanted to have a look at Wilson at the SA combine.
— Oh and remember Jonty Scharenberg — the brother of Collingwood’s Matt and arguably the unluckiest player in last year’s draft? He’s starting to put some good footy together for Glenelg at senior level, racking up 26 disposals and five clearances against North Adelaide on the weekend. Whether he’s done enough over the course of the year to get drafted remains to be seen.
As highlighted in this week’s AFL Confidential , Geelong’s Tom Atkins finished with incredible numbers in the VFL on the weekend. As well as booting two goals from 25 disposals, Atkins laid a whopping 23 tackles — clearly the most of any player at state league level or higher in 2017 to date. He was already in the draft mix prior to Saturday — and he might be a little warmer now.
— In the same game, Marty Hore was sensational for the Magpies across half-back, finishing with 30 disposals, seven marks and nine rebound 50s. He’s been invited to the Victoria state combine later this year.
— Fellow state combine invitee Nick Hind was among Essendon’s best in its tight win against Footscray, booting one goal from 23 disposals and seven marks.
— Matt Hanson had another 30 touches for Werribee, Box Hill’s Anthony Brolic starred with 25 disposals plus a goal and state combine invitee Derek Smith had 19 disposals and 12 handball receives for Richmond.