AFL Draft | Pocket Rockets – Prospects proving if you’re good enough, you’re tall enough

NOT every draft prospect can be blessed with all the height, athleticism, and braun which have collectively made up the clichéd modern day footballing prototype. Though all of the above are certainly desirable traits, there are a bunch of emerging talents each year who seemingly take the task of proving size doesn’t always matter, personally.

Looking at the sub-180cm stocks at AFL level, guns of the game can be observed in each third of the ground. From Caleb Daniel and Liam Baker, to the likes of Touk Miller, Lachie Neale and Dion Prestia in midfield, and the electric Shai Bolton forward of centre, there are plenty of examples for aspiring smalls to live up to.

With that in mind, we profile some of the pocket rockets who clubs may visualise filling similar roles come draft time.



Listed in alphabetical order, these half-dozen players fit the sub-180cm category and have held their own across respectively impressive 2022 campaigns. They are the pick of the smalls, with all bar one earning a National Draft Combine invite – indicating a high level of AFL interest.

Midfielder, Forward

Blake Drury

Height: 176cm

Weight: 73kg

DOB: 11-01-2004

Determined as any prospect out there, Drury is a small who plays a big man’s game. It’s a factor which works both for and against him at times, but he seems to have nailed down a niche. The gutsy and competitive midfielder-forward is a weapon on the attack, able to drive the ball forward with repeat running efforts and serious dare. Though he could polish his end product, the Oakleigh Charger is well equipped when it comes to generating score involvements and will likely fit the high half-forward mould at AFL level.

Small Utility

Harvey Gallagher

Height: 179cm

Weight: 77kg

DOB: 26-09-2003

Gallagher, the sole over-ager on this list, revitalised his draft chances in 2022 with a late-season shift to defence. The Bendigo Pioneers leader put up ridiculously good and consistent numbers as his Country region broke through for a rare finals appearance, knocking off flag fancy, Oakleigh along the way. Having initially caught the eye as a zippy midfielder-forward, Gallagher’s sharp kicking skills and running capacity have made him a viable option for that dashing small defender role.

East Fremantle-logoEast FremantleSmall Utility

Jed Hagan

Height: 175cm

Weight: 74kg

DOB: 15-10-2004

There are few more decorated juniors going around than Hagan, though he had his fair share of proving to do in 2022. The East Fremantle product is accustomed to punching above his weight, and more than held his own at League level this season, helping the Sharks reach the preliminary finals throughout eight senior games. Not blessed with particular pace, Hagan’s work rate, neat skills and footy smarts to adapt his game to a variety of roles are attributes which have seen him win recruiters over.

Swan Districts-logoSwan DistrictsMidfielder

Darcy Jones

Height: 175cm

Weight: 67kg

DOB: 03-04-2004

The smallest player to earn a National Combine invite this year at 174.4cm, Jones is another who has put in the hard yards to discount the doubt surrounding his height. He cracked all three WAFL grades this season, turning out thrice in the top flight for a total of four goals and 12.7 disposals per game. Unlike a couple of others on this list, he utilises traits typical of his size, boasting a blistering turn of speed and line-breaking intent. He went on to break the draft combine’s all-time agility test record, clocking in at 7.702 seconds. It translates to an electric style on-field.

Small Forward

Jacob Konstanty

Height: 176cm

Weight: 70kg

DOB: 09-11-2004

Potentially the best pure small forward in the draft crop, Konstanty is a rare type who harbours the same hunger defensively as he does on the attack. His tackling pressure is a major point of difference and considering his primary role, is ultra appealing to AFL clubs. The Gippsland Power goalsneak can find the big sticks too, and while others find it hard to escape his grasp, he proves elusive in possession. He offers just about everything required to be a top small forward.

Midfielder, Small Forward

Noah Long

Height: 177cm

Weight: 73kg

DOB: 23-08-2004

Perhaps a player who has flown under the radar this year, Long was made to wait his turn but overcame adversity to stake his claims as a draft prospect. Highly touted as a bottom-ager, he had a disrupted preseason before injuring his collarbone in Round 1 of the NAB League. As a result, the sharp inside midfielder was made to double as a forward and did so with aplomb. A three-goal game for Vic Country showcased the smooth transition, but Long just as easily found plenty of the ball with greater midfield minutes in Bendigo Pioneers colours. That versatility will play massively in his favour.

Jack O’Sullivan in possession for Oakleigh | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central


With the six players above poking around the top 40 range, there are others in line to be drafted, albeit perhaps a touch further down the order. Jack O’Sullivan is one who, like Long, has had his year interrupted by injury but is a very handy midfielder-forward worth his salt. He, and South Fremantle’s Steely Green were the only other sub-180cm players to earn National Combine invites.

A few club-tied talents fall into the small category. Father-son prospects Jayden Davey (Essendon) and Osca Riccardi (Geelong) have both been nominated by their respective clubs and offer traits which can translate to the top level. Small forward Beau Tedcastle is aligned to Gold Coast via its access to the Darwin zone, while the crafty Josh Bennetts falls under Hawthorn’s Next Generation Academy.

In terms of those who impressed throughout the talent pathway, Glenelg midfielder Archie Lovelock could not have done much more. The tough ball accumulator won best afield honours in his side’s SANFL Under 18 flag victory. Then there’s Brandon Leary, who shot out of Tasmania’s state league to lead the Devils’ NAB League goalkicking with 33 majors in 14 games.

Clubs may consider another Tasmanian over-ager in Baynen Lowe, who reinvented himself as a small forward at Norwood this year. He earned a state combine invite alongside tricky North Adelaide mature-ager Frank Szekely, while Wangaratta’s Joe Richards stands a chance as the sole local leaguer to attend any state combine this year.

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