Leagues: NAB League Boys
POSITION: Tall Utility
SNAPSHOT: “A skinny tall with plenty of upside, Serong shows great ability overhead but also some nice traits at ground level having played in most positions this year, showing his versatility in each third of the ground.”
It’s hard to believe that Jai Serong is the brother of Fremantle rising star Caleb Serong, with both sharing very different looks and playing styles; Caleb being the shorter and stockier midfielder, whereas Jai is a taller and lankier key position player. However, they do show some similarities in their leaps and overhead marking, along with their clean hands at ground level which is what has seen Jai spend time in the midfield despite his size. It is hard to give a player comparison to Jai as he has played so many different roles, but perhaps one could be Charlie Ballard, who also played numerous positions at Under 18s level and has now settled at Gold Coast as a defender.
+ Vertical Leap
+ Clean Hands
Serong has come into his draft year with a little more pressure than some draftees as the younger brother to Rising Star Caleb Serong. A lot of onlookers would assume as the taller player he could become even better, but Jai isn’t Caleb and comes with his own strengths and weaknesses. With his build, he will take a bit longer than it took Caleb to make an impact at AFL level. Serong has had a few up and down games this year as his magnet was shuffled among the bottom NAB League side, but Serong has averaged almost 17 disposals a game along with four tackles and marks respectively. He also kicked four goals from his seven games which isn't a high amount as a forward, but Gippsland as a team has struggled to kick a large score this year.
Although Serong doesn’t take a large amount of marks per game like other talls in this draft crop, when he does go for his marks he very often takes them cleanly at full stretch. With his reach and timing, he can be hard to stop on the lead. He could use his leap a bit more in marking contests, but considering his lack of strength he does well to stay strong in contested situations. With one of the best vertical leaps in the draft pool, it should surely help his versatility long-term being able to play on taller players which he did against highly fancied key defender, Josh Gibcus, taking a strong contested mark against him in Round 8 and giving Gibcus one of his toughest assignments for the year by taking him up the ground.
Touching on that versatility, it has certainly been a major strength for Serong's draft chances and he adapted well to every role he played, with his marking and goal sense real features when playing forward, which has been the area he has spent the most time in this year and looked most natural. In the midfield, Serong has shown his other key feature and that’s his clean hands at ground level. He often takes the ball with one touch and dishes out well by hand, although with his lack of body size he couldn’t make use of his frame at stoppages. That is something that could be developed, though. Down back, which is where Serong spent the least time, he showed a great ability to read the play and his kicking also looked improved, being able to see more of the ground and what’s ahead.
A few of Serong's key areas for improvement mostly come from his lack of size which can be improved at the next level. Some much-needed gym time and a stronger frame will certainly help him in any area of the ground he could play. Consistency has been another area to improve despite challenges out of his control in playing for a weaker team and being swapped around where needed, but just overall production is a key area to improve. Serong doesn’t show great dexterity or speed at ground level which makes it hard for him to avoid tacklers at times, and general improvement in his speed and hard running should also help his ability to play in any position.
DRAFT RANGE: Late/Rookie
Serong is certainly a player with upside given his light frame and adaptability, and could be a long burn for a club who takes him as the risk would likely pay benefits in the long run. Serong’s frame and untapped potential should appeal to clubs who could mould him into anything at the next level, whether that’s as a third tall forward or defender, or a taller midfielder with clean hands at stoppages. Although he is no guarantee to get drafted this year, there are promising signs he could become a dynamic player for the future.
NAB League Boys