Leagues: SANFL Under 18s, AFL U18 Championships
SNAPSHOT: “A big-time ball winner who can hit the scoreboard in bunches.”
Few players boast some of the stat lines that Billy Dowling produced this season. He was simply impossible to slow down in the SANFL Under 18 competition, averaging more than 30 possessions a game on his way to being named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
His Round 16 performance against eventual premiers Glenelg was one of many season highlights, with Dowling collecting 44 disposals to go with 4.3, in a clear best on ground display. Selected to represent South Australia at the Under 18 National Championships, Dowling played every game in the tournament and was one his state’s best and most consistent contributors.
A strong accumulator who hits the scoreboard, Dowling also possesses the athletic attributes that will simplify his transition to AFL football, should he be given the opportunity. His physical profile and overall ability suggests that he could fill a variety of different roles at the elite level.
+ Ground coverage
+ Scoreboard impact
- Impact per possession
The numbers tell the story for Dowling, he's one of the best accumulators in this year's draft class. At 187cm, Dowling is a great size for a midfielder and his ability to cover the ground allows him to win a large percentage of his possessions uncontested. His ability to work between both arcs, supporting his teammates in defence, while also pushing forward to hit the scoreboard, makes him a tough cover for any opposing midfielder.
Dowling is a pretty safe user by foot. From the back half, he rarely tries to take on an aggressive kick, preferring to hit up shorter targets and maintain possession. Improving his capacity to be a more creative user would help take his game to another level. This would likely require a shift in mindset, as Dowling appears to have the talent and skill level required to be more damaging with his disposal.
Where Dowling maximises the value of his possessions is inside forward 50, where he can be a legitimate scoring threat. Sharp on the lead, capable in the air and clean below his knees, Dowling is a tough match up when stationed inside forward 50. He doesn't need to be positioned in the forward line to hit the scoreboard though, his ability to cover the ground allows him to push inside 50 from the midfield to create goalscoring opportunities.
Though certainly outside leaning, Dowling is a capable midfielder at stoppage, showing plenty of ability to read the ball off the ruck and stack up the clearances. Although he'll need to build more strength to compete on the inside at AFL level, his natural ball winning instincts at the contest suggests he could develop that inside-outside balance.
What will also appeal to AFL clubs is Dowling's versatility and ability to potentially fill a variety of roles at AFL level. The South Australian has spent time through the midfield, on the wing and across half forward throughout his junior career, but with his aerial ability and athletic profile, a role across half-back could also be an option for Dowling at the next level.
DRAFT RANGE: 40-60
Dowling’s versatility, ball winning ability and physical profile are factors which suggest he could be an attractive option for an AFL club looking to add a midfield prospect, or a player with the tools to potentially carve out a role at either end of the ground. Seemingly a strong candidate to hear his named called in the National Draft, Dowling appears most likely to feature from the second or third round, onwards.
AFL U18 Championships
SANFL Under 18s