Leagues: AFL U18 Championships, Coates Talent League Boys
SNAPSHOT: “A goalsneak with great attacking instincts and high footy IQ, Jack Callinan lives up to his pedigree.”
A true chip off the old block, Jack Callinan is one of the most crafty small forwards in this year’s draft pool. He’s the son of 32-game Crow Ian, and grandson of Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame member Des James, but has blazed his own trail though the AFL talent pathway.
Callinan was born in Hobart and spent time growing up in Adelaide while his father forged a career at AFL and state league level. A Crows fan, he presented his dad with his debut guernsey and looks towards former-Adelaide forward Tyson Stengle for inspiration on his game.
Callinan caught the eye last year with his performances for Tasmania Devils, booting 21 goals in 15 games and also breaking through for senior footy with Clarence in the TSL. His feats were enough to earn AFL Academy selection in 2023, and he duly turned out twice in national colours this year.
It was a successful season of representative football for Callinan, who also played all four games in the Allies’ title-winning Under 18 National Championships. But for the most part, he appeared in the Coates Talent League with 11 games and an improved 23 goals at the level, earning a National Combine invite.
+ Clean hands
+ Footy IQ
+ Goal sense
+ Ground balls
- Four-quarter consistency
Callinan's strengths are quite typical of any genuine small forward throughout the eras. He's crafty at ground level, reads the play well, and gets to dangerous positions to make use of his sharp goal sense. Averaging over two goals per his 11 Coates Talent League games this year, it's clear Callinan knows where the big sticks are.
He was kept goalless just thrice during the season, with two of those games predominantly spent roaming off half-back or in the midfield. Goals in quick bursts are common place for Callinan too; he kicked off the campaign with three in six minutes against Western, and booted four in the first quarter against the NT en route to seven overall.
That kind of scoreboard impact, with six of his 11 Devils games yielding multiple goals, can be game-turning. Callinan's pair of quick goals against Western Australia for the Allies got them going in term two, and he's the type of player who can spark his side in big moments with spurts of energy and plenty of niggle.
In terms of the other elements in his play style, Callinan is a terrific crumbing player who gets busy at ground level. His smarts lend to perfect positioning at the fall of the ball, often stationed front-and-centre under the talls' feet or in a good spot to impact at stoppages.
When opportunities to take the ball arise, Callinan is clean enough to do so on the move and even while absorbing contact. For a 179cm player, he's deceptively strong overhead too, able to take marks or bring the ball to ground where he often recovers first. He also jumps at the chance to lay hard tackles on unsuspecting opponents.
With such strong forward craft, attack is likely where AFL clubs will see Callinan thriving at the top level, though he is accustomed to rolling through midfield and has spent time up on the wing and in defence. Callinan's best instincts are displayed close to goal though, as he tends to get less value for possessions further afield.
In the way of improvements, Callinan can work on his kick penetration and overall disposal, to catch up with his usually sharp finishing and decision making. He's a good player in spurts, but could be more consistent over four quarters, and may not be blessed with the lightning speed of other smalls.
DRAFT RANGE: 35-60
Despite the obvious ties to Adelaide, Callinan is not father-son eligible and will thus be available in the open draft. He supports the Crows, but as a Tasmanian native says he is open to moving anywhere to pursue an opportunity at the top level. While not as quick as other smalls, Callinan’s smarts and ability to play in each third of the ground should bode well for his draft chances – most likely in the second half of the intake.
AFL U18 Championships