James Van Es
Leagues: AFL U18 Championships, Coates Talent League Boys
SNAPSHOT: “James Van Es is an intercept marking machine for the GWV Rebels, with his positioning and strength one-on-one among his best traits”
James Van Es is a strong key defender with upside for the future given his remarkable athleticism that could still be further implemented on-field to add extra weapons to his game. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels defender is a natural leader who was impressive for St Patrick’s College in the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final loss to Whitefriars College.
Van Es is a reliable backman who earned Vic Country representative honours, often being a critical interceptor, but also one who could play on an opponent and nullify them. Being a strong defender who had athletic traits makes him a player who has potential if a club can give him a chance. He averaged 11.3 disposals, 4.0 marks and 3.3 rebound 50s at the AFL Under 18 Championships, and was able to have a mix of defending one-on-one and finding space to step into.
In a draft crop where there are strong defenders, and then athletic defenders, Van Es is a player who could be a mix of both, but he could further showcase his athleticism – mainly his 2.91-second 20m sprint – on-field. Overall though his year has been a successful one for his draft stocks, with the 197cm and 99kg prospect developing strongly in a GWV Rebels side that produced the best bigman in the draft crop in Aaron Cadman.
+ Intercept marking
- In-game athleticism
- Ground balls
James Van Es is a potentially value selection lower down in the AFL Draft order, but is the type of player that could raise interest from certain clubs depending on what they are looking for. On face value, Van Es is just a strong key defender who reads the ball well, positions himself accordingly behind the play, and then holds onto big grabs with consistency. Though on-field he does not always look like being overly athletic, Van Es is a player who has the upside to impact more offensively as per his superb testing results at the National Draft Combine.
At the recent testing event, Van Es topped all-comers in the running vertical jump (98cm) and second in the standing vertical jump (75cm), while ranked second from the key defenders who tested in terms of his agility. Combine that with his 2.91-second 20m sprint, and Van Es on paper is a well-rounded athlete. When he is able to really start punishing teams more by using that on-field, he can take his game to another level. Right now he can leap consistently and easily beat his opponent in that area, but is often a one-on-one defender without a lot of freedom other than when receiving uncontested in the back pockets.
Van Es is a long kick, who will often look to put it down the line or to high percentage positions. He has seldom had stints up the other end of the field, but has been such a rock solid player in the back 50 for both the Rebels and Vic Country. A more readymade option than most to play in that defensive third, Van Es has some of the safest hands behind the ball and has the smarts to peel off his opponents when required.
Another area where Van Es could improve include is his ground balls, which is not a surprise for a player of his size who can impact so effectively in the air. Often most of his touches come from intercepting aerially, averaging the 1.8 tackles per game at NAB League level. It is not a major flaw for a player who has hands as safe as the Rebels defender does, but is a way to further enhance his game.
Though those areas are ways to improve, Van Es does have that rare balance of readymade strength, smarts and scope for athletic improvement. If it can all come together for him, then Van Es could prove a value selection. However it would not be a shock if the Rebels defender was taken earlier in the draft given his testing success and consistent year at an intercepting key defender.
DRAFT RANGE: Late
James Van Es is a reliable, rock solid key defender who influences games through his ability to hold up play with a critical mark. Though not always showing his high-level athleticism on-field, his testing results suggest he could be much more. If a club thinks it can best develop the bigman to become that athletic, strong and smart tall, then he could be one who flies under the radar and is plucked out earlier than anticipated – especially given the lack of high-end tall defenders available.
AFL U18 Championships