Jacob van Rooyen
Leagues: WAFL League, WAFL Colts
Image Credit: Claremont FC
POSITION: Key Forward/Defender
SNAPSHOT: "A physically imposing key forward who can also swing to defence, van Rooyen offers ominous aerial presence and contested nous."
There are few draft prospects this year who boast the level of physicality Jacob van Rooyen does. The Claremont product came into 2021 as one of the most highly fancied tall talents, and ended his WAFL Colts career having played in back-to-back grand finals. Having staked his name as a strong-marking and competitive forward at club level, van Rooyen showcased a different string to his bow playing as a defender while representing Western Australia's Under 19s. With a key role in either side, the 18-year-old also made an early season rise to League football but his progress was slowed by a glandular fever diagnosis. That was soon put behind him with a blistering end to the year, which included 24 goals in his final six Colts outings.
+ Contested marking
+ Scoreboard impact
- Four-quarter production
Much of what has made van Rooyen such a standout among his peers this season is his physical makeup and aggressive intent. He measures up at 194cm and 88kg, and at his best, is not afraid to throw every bit of that frame around. Playing to his strengths inside 50, van Rooyen often makes defenders panic with his size and draws free kicks when obscured in the action of pushing off, protecting the ball drop, and marking for a chance on goal.
The 18-year-old is a player who clearly knows what he does best and can make his assets real weapons. He is a terrific contested marker, using shrewd forward craft to own his space and position best as the ball comes in quickly. When defenders engage or give him clear space to leap at the ball, he is nearly impossible to stop and can take over games in an instant.
Speaking of, van Rooyen took over games on many an occasion this season. He most famously booted three goals in the opening term of this year's Colts decider, but also popped up in dominant spurts to turn his own fortunes around on quieter days, and help guide Claremont into winning positions.
That kind of burst impact where van Rooyen is unstoppable in the air and in front of goal is not always sustained, though. While a hard-working type in full flight, van Rooyen has been developing his endurance base and that factor could make him a more viable match winner across four quarters. Much of his forward work is also done inside 50, but his aerial presence and booming kick could also be used further afield.
On top of working up the ground and diversifying his impact, van Rooyen showcased handy versatility while doubling as a defender for WA's Under 19s. He took on the role with aplomb and read the game beautifully, proving an apt intercept marker. He also showed nice signs of follow-up work and ground level impact in both roles, maintaining his intensity and fierce attack on the ball in all levels of play.
While seemingly too physically developed to prove fair competition at Colts level, van Rooyen could not quite garner the same form during his five League outings. In seperate stints, he averaged just 7.4 disposals and kicked three goals, proving that he can still work to round out his game and become a more dynamic senior footballer.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 12-25
Many a West Australian club fan has been following the progress of van Rooyen in 2021 with hopes of seeing him become a marquee local pick come draft time. Both Fremantle and West Coast are well positioned with early picks, but perhaps the Dockers hold the most realistic selection (currently 19) for van Rooyen. He could also tempt other clubs in for a physically developed key position player in round one, having proven his value in the back-end of the season.