Armstrong rates Tasmania’s “enormous upside”

As South Australia celebrated winning the division one Under 18s Championships, a much less publicised division two crowning was issued the next day at Victoria Park. Tasmania managed to secure victory by percentage and quietly go about their business effectively. Tasmania’s under 18 development program is silently erupting with talent which includes Kade Kolodjashnij, Eli Templeton and Zac Webster who have attracted plenty of interest over the course of year. Yet over the course of the national championships, Tasmania has produced several relatively unknown bolters who according to AFL Tasmania’s high performance manager, Matthew Armstrong, have “enormous upside”.

Armstrong has been the high performance manager for a few years and claims that this year; Tasmania was blessed with the breadth of talent that has come through the ranks. Armstrong conceded that the training and development system hasn’t had too many drastic changes, but said it was more about the luck of the draw in regards to having a higher amount of AFL ready players this year.

Top 20 talent Kade Kolodjashnij is widely regarded as one of the best rebounding defenders in the draft. His size and versatility have made him highly sought after, but Armstrong raved about some others who have been flying under the radar but still have endearing qualities: “Kade is an extremely hard worker. He’s quick, shows leadership and has a great work ethic.”

The lesser rated twin, Jake Kolodjashnij has become a bit of a bolter with his solid Under 18s Championships performance. At 194cm, Jake is a solid rebounding key defender but he’s still a bit lean. Like his brother, Jake is a “very good athlete” who has “great potential”. Jake doesn’t have the same versatility to run through the midfield, but he can run off his opponent and set up the play if need be.

One of the more exciting project players this year is Alex Pearce. He’s been trialled in a number of positions, from the wing, to centre half back, to full forward. Armstrong marveled at Pearce’s journey, saying he essentially came from nowhere to become one of the most promising developing talents. A guy who is close to 200cm and can play in the midfield is certainly rare, but Armstrong admitted it will take a long time for Pearce to develop. “He’s never lifted a weight in his life” Armstong jested, but did say “he’s only shown 50 per cent of what he’s capable of. If he’s given a shot, his potential could be enormous.”

The second highest rated prospect is midfielder Eli Templeton from Burnie. Against Vic Country, he was the clear standout, gathering over 30 possessions and just getting to every contest through his endurance running. He’s a bit light, but he is an excellent ball user and racks up disposals. In two or three seasons, he could easily become a high class midfielder. Armstrong rated Templeton as one of the better leaders in the Tasmanian team.

Brother of St Kilda’s Jimmy, Zac Webster has impressed many with his speed and ball carrying abilities. Whilst his offensive capabilities are well known, he has worked on his defensive side including learning the trade of tagging. Like Templeton, Webster is a bit light, but that will come in time. He didn’t have the best Under 18s Championships, so he might slide. But as a mid to late pick, Webster could be an excellent midfield prospect.

The biggest bolter this year could be Toby Nankervis. Being virtually unknown a few weeks ago, Nankervis exploded onto the scene against Vic Country with his ruck work and his marking around the ground. Ruck stocks are thin this year so Nankervis could rise to be either a mid second rounder or an early third rounder.

This may be the strongest Tasmanian group in years, so keep an eye out for these names on draft day.

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