Leagues: AFL U18 Championships, Coates Talent League Boys
SNAPSHOT: “A genuine utility with enormous running capacity, capable of playing small and tall in each third of the ground.”
There aren’t many prospects who truly suit the utility tag, but Jason Gillbee is certainly one. Having played both sides of midfield and as a medium-tall at either end of the ground, the Bendigo Pioneers running machine is a proven quantity in all thirds of the field.
Hailing from Balranald in the Riverina district of New South Wales, Gillbee made the move down to Bendigo to further his education and football, gaining valuable bottom-age experience with the Pioneers last year before being named among the 2022 AFL Academy intake.
He has taken great strides since, turning out 10 times throughout his latest NAB League campaign en route to Team of the Year honours, and earning selection in the Allies squad. In an one-off quirk, he also represented Vic Country this year prior to the Under 18 National Championships.
+ Outside run
+ Work rate
- Hurt factor
- Inside game
At the crux of Gillbee's game are his running capacity and versatility. At over 190cm, he models his game on the likes of Nik Cox, presenting as a tall outside player who runs all day, can clunk an overhead mark, and distributes the ball by foot.
His endurance is high-level, with the 18-year-old running around the six-minute mark over 2km and using it on-field to offer value in a range of roles. The most obvious fit for him is on a wing, but Gillbee is also an apt intercept/rebound asset off half-back, and a third tall or high half-forward in the attacking half.
He is somewhat of a coach's dream in that sense - just ask Bendigo's Danny O'Bree. He kicked two goals playing forward against Gippsland in Round 5 before being thrown back to lock down Zane Duursma, and shifted forward to kick a crucial late goal in his side's Wildcard Round upset of Oakleigh having spent the whole game on a wing.
Most likely to play as a wingman or dashing defender at the next level, Gillbee has proven himself capable of racking up possessions at an incredibly consistent rate - sitting between 19 and 26 touches per his 10 NAB League games this year.
As alluded to, he prefers to go by foot, doing so nearly 65 per cent of the time with Bendigo and 76 per cent with the Allies. He is more an accumulator rather than a burst impact player, usually taking on the kick-in duties and spreading the play from the back half.
Though relatively neat and able to gain good meterage, he is not as damaging a kick as others in the draft pool, even though he takes on those switching and centring options. He went at 59 per cent kick efficiency during his three National Championship games, highlighting the growth he can make in that department.
The other area of growth for Gillbee going forward is his contested game. He went at a 77 per cent uncontested rate in Allies colours this year, and is suited to the outside with his light running frame. While trialled on the inside early on, he proved much more effective when carrying the ball in space.
Gillbee is the type of character to improve on his deficiencies though, as a spiritual leader among the Bendigo group. He's a standard setter and popular teammate whose willingness to adapt to different roles throughout the season points towards high coachability, something invaluable to AFL clubs.
DRAFT RANGE: 30-50
Forward or back, small or tall, or on the wing, Gillbee has plenty of AFL traits to work with. His high-level running and tendency to go by foot suits the flow of modern-day football at the top level, and makes him an intriguing draft prospect. His value comes in his versatility and adaptability, something which the Pioneers will surely sell to clubs who hover around the second-to-third rounds of the draft.
AFL U18 Championships