NEAFL stars eye AFL Draft

Connor Owen-Auburn playing the 2016 NEAFL Grand Final


Connor Owen-Auburn
Age: 18
Position: Defender
2016 NEAFL Games: 14 (Giants)

Western Sydney product Connor Owen-Auburn has been a member from the GIANTS Academy since he was 13. He has played 14 NEAFL games in the 2016 season, where he joined the Giants in their premiership win over the Sydney Swans.

Owen-Auburn missed out on the U16 NSW/ACT Rams squad back in 2014. Owen-Auburn continued to improve over the next two years, where he was selected in the U18 NSW/ACT Rams squad. Unfortunately the defender missed out on the final selection to play in the National Championships.

From then, Owen-Auburn said he would focus on playing in the NEAFL, “to come from not getting selected to a 15, 16-year-old and then coming back the next year and getting selected in the U18 squad, it was a pretty big step for my footy and it’s kind of gone up from there playing NEAFL.”

AFL NSW/ACT talent and Coaching Manager Darren Denneman described Owen-Auburn as “versatile strong bodied utility type who has impressed at NEAFL level. His ability to consistently run and break the lines has been evident this year.”

The proud Western Sydney resident is determine to make his AFL dreams come true “But if I don’t get picked up by an AFL Club this year, I’ll just come back next year even harder.”

Lucas Meline
Position: Midfield
2016 NEAFL Games: 10 (Giants) 7 (Canberra Demons)

Lucas Meline represented the NSW/ACT Rams as an overage player after missing most of last season with an injury. A tall, mobile wingman, Meline has spilt his time between the Giants and Canberra Demons.

Meline was invited by two or more clubs to attend the 2016 State Draft Combine in October. The midfielder achieved the beep test at level 13.9 and finished the 20-meter sprint test in 3.11 seconds.

Meline said if he misses out on this year’s Draft it will only motivate him for 2017 “It’s hard to know what’s going to happen with the draft, there is so much unknown. I have had interviews with a few clubs, so fingers crossed I get picked up. Hopefully come Draft night, I do get picked, but if I don’t I will just have to knuckle down next year.”

“Meline is versatile athletic type who always performs at a consistent level. Can switch hit effectively and quickly between roles in defence and attack and adjust accordingly. After a year off with injury in 2015 has impressed this season.” Denneman said.

Nathan Cooper
Position: Defender
2016 NEAFL Games: 8 (Sydney)

Nathan Cooper who had previously played rugby, was nominated for an AFL Sydney Rising Star in 2015 and joined the Sydney Swans in the 2016 NEAFL Grand Final.

Cooper has been apart of the Swans Academy since he was 13. The Swans’ NEAFL side train with the senior Sydney Swans group once a week to further aid their development, which has benefitted his football greatly.

Cooper believes 2016 has been a year for improvement “I do feel like I’ve improved a lot this year, especially the back end of the season,”

“I think it’s a combination of last year I was doing my HSC as well as playing club footy, NEAFL and couple of TAC Cup games. You’re playing for a different team every week and it’s a big year.”

“Nathan Cooper is extremely athletic tall who can play in either defence or attack. Game still has genuine upside as his skill level continues to be developed. Was a multiple goal kicker on many occasions during the 2016 season.” Said Denneman.

Connor Byrne
Position: Midfield
2016 NEAFL Games: 11

Wagga Wagga local Connor Byrne earned a NEAFL Rising this year in round 12. The midfielder helped the Giants with their win in the NEAFL Grand Final.

Byrne has returned back home to Wagga, after a year at boarding school in Ballarat, where he played 17 games for the Rebels in the TAC Cup. He has also represented the NSW/ACT Rams at the National U18 Div 2 Championships earlier this year. Byrne unfortunately missed out on the Allies Squad, but he believes it has motivated him to go the extra mile.

“It was a short term goal to make the Allies. Obviously I was very disappointed, but you’ve got to adjust and focus on the back end of the year and having a good last few months in the NEAFL and give myself the best chance for the future.”

Denneman said “He is a consistently high level ball winner who has great awareness in traffic and can use ball effectively on both sides of his body matched with elite endurance.”

The clever midfielder has his eyes set being on a AFL list “The AFL is the dream. I love the game, I love everything involved with it, and it would be massive to achieve it.”