Leagues: Under 18s Championships, NAB League Boys
SNAPSHOT: “The premier key position player in this year’s AFL Draft pool off the back of a consistent season for both GWV Rebels and Vic Country as a strong marking forward.”
Coming into the year, Aaron Cadman was considered one of the leading key forward prospects out of Victoria. By midway through the season, he had not only taken that mantle, but became the number one key position player in the entire country. As others struggled with consistency, Cadman flourished and put up some ridiculous numbers not only from a goal sense, but from a work rate perspective up the ground as well.
In 2022, Cadman moved up from a likely first round prospect into a potential Top 5 talent, and one who stands alone when it comes to what he offers. He slotted 34 goals in 12 games at NAB League level to win the leading goalkicker award. Just once in those 12 games was he held goalless, and on nine or more occasions he bagged multiple goals. His 34.23 final tally included two bags of five and three bags of four.
Showing that he could equally match it with the best from around the country, Cadman went on to have the most scoring shots in the Under 18 National Championships with 20, but inaccuracy (10.10) stopped him from taking out the overall leading goalkicker there.
He also had the most disposals of any of the key forwards, proving he could impact further than on the scoresheet. When talking about Cadman, it is easy to describe him as a hard working key forward, but he has genuine impact on games outside his final goal tally.
Alongside his leading goalkicker award at NAB League level, Cadman won NAB League Team of the Year honours, GWV Rebels best and fairest award, and the Rookie Me Central Medal.
+ Contested marking
+ Forward craft
+ Leading patterns
+ Scoreboard impact
- Set shot consistency
- Ground balls
Cadman has developed into one of the top prospects in the 2022 AFL Draft, so it is no surprise that there are plenty of strengths to his game that have allowed him sustained and consistent success at elite junior level. His prime strength compared to his peers is his contested marking, with his sticky and safe hands the clear standout trait that has him in the elite category for that area.
What allows Cadman to take so many marks - averaging 5.5 per game at NAB League and 6.3 in the AFL Under 18 Championships - are his forward craft and his leading patterns. He knows when to lead and when to engage in a wrestle, and though his natural body strength is another area that works in his favour, Cadman is best known for finding the space inside 50, leading into the space and taking the ball cleanly.
More than capable of crashing packs, Cadman is more of a clean grab marker that enables him to more often than not pull down the contested grab. He took six of them - at 1.5 per game - for Vic Country and is hard to spoil when his arms are outstretched. Though taller players might have longer reach. Once the ball is in his hands, it is near-impossible to spill it from there.
Cadman plays a simple but effective game for a key forward. He works hard on the lead, picks the right time to go, and has the safest hands to be able to pull down the mark. His mobility - which while not an elite athlete like a Max King - is still an asset, with Cadman able to move reasonably well for a readymade forward who is well along the way to being fully developed. Unlike others who are better described as beanpoles, Cadman has the best of both worlds in being strong, but also mobile.
Once Cadman has done all the hard work of finding the space, leading and taking the mark, his set shot goalkicking can let him down. Though, it is not a case of him being a technically poor set shot for goal. In fact, sometimes Cadman can be nailing majors from anywhere within 60m of the big sticks, but it is more his consistency when it comes to set shots - as it showed when Vic Country fell short of Vic Metro, booting 3.3.
In Round 5 of the NAB League he booted 1.3, then returned in Round 8 against the Jets to slot 5.0. The next week he kicked 4.4, then 5.1. Back-to-back weeks of 2.5 and 3.3 were followed up by 4.0 in the final round of the regular season. Effectively, a confident Cadman is a match-winning dominant player, but he can have his woes in front of goal.
Another area of improvement which is not as crucial to his role as a key forward is his ground ball ability. Cadman is so good in the air, and mobile, that he also competes well at ground level. If he can be a touch cleaner below his knees, he can take his game to another level.
DRAFT RANGE: Top 10
Cadman is a unique prospect in this year’s AFL Draft. While there are plenty of talls on show in 2022, unlike other years, it is hard to argue that the GWV Rebels tall is not the best of the lot right now. His development in just a few months came such a long way, and is a player who could very well play from early on his AFL career, similar to Logan McDonald at Sydney. With Will Ashcroft destined to fill one of the first couple of picks, expect one of the early clubs to pull the trigger on Cadman, with the bigman unlikely to get past Hawthorn at Pick 6.
NAB League Boys
Under 18s Championships