Leagues: WAFL Colts
Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos
POSITION: Small Forward
SNAPSHOT: “An electric prospect with all the tools to be an elite small forward, boasting speed, smarts, a defensive appetite and definitive x-factor.”
One of the most exciting and fast-improving talents in this year’s crop is Jahmal Stretch, a native of the fabled Halls Creek region. Fremantle had the chance to snap him up under its Next Generation Academy (NGA) umbrella but missed the application, meaning Stretch is available to all clubs in the open draft. The Claremont product had not played a heap of organised football prior to his 2021 WAFL Colts campaign, which saw him boot 16 goals in 14 games and earn state Under 19 representative honours. With many of the traits necessary to compete as an elite level small forward, Stretch has shown a terrific rate of development to stamp his draft credentials this year.
+ Clean hands
+ Vertical leap
+ Defensive pressure
At his best, Stretch is a match-winning influence inside 50 who impacts the game in the air, on the ground, in an attacking sense, and on the defensive end. His well-rounded skillset as a small is aided by explosive athleticism, catching the eye with bursts of speed and enormous leaps. Standing at 181cm, Stretch is the type who can sit on heads and is not afraid to back himself aerially. He proved his vertical prowess at the West Australian draft combine, registering a running leap of 93cm – the fourth-best score nationwide.
At ground level, the 18-year-old is a menace. His speed makes him difficult to contain both in open play and on the lead, while also boding well for blanketing defensive pressure. With all-action bursts, Stretch makes things happen when the ball enters his area. He creates panic with little twists, turns and an innate goal sense, helping to manufacture scoring opportunities, but also proving selfless enough to bring others into the game close to goal.
While all the right tools are present, Stretch has come from a long way back compared to his peers and is developing his consistency as a footballer. He is moreso an impact player at the moment and had some quite low-production Colts games this season, but saw his overall impact prove greater than pure numbers. Averaging 8.2 disposals and just over a goal per 14 outings, Stretch came to life at times but also had quiet patches. Ironing out those peaks and troughs with a better endurance base and more experience will boost his consistency.
Having not played much organised football throughout his journey to Claremont, gaining that exposure at high levels is key to his continued development. Stretch is a player who, with time in an elite system, could really accelerate and build on the diverse base of skills he already has. Adding some size to his 62kg frame and adjusting to the structures of elite level game plans is always a jump, but Stretch has held his own thus far and can improve even further.
DRAFT PROJECTION: Late/Rookie
While a raw and prospective option, Stretch could well prove a high-reward selection at the draft table given his upside and proven rate of development. He has all the natural nous and athletic traits suited to small forward play, all of which could help him become a seriously dangerous goalsneak down the line. He will need time to develop, but can do things others simply cannot, so should garner attention with a late or rookie pick.