Leagues: AFL U18 Championships, Coates Talent League Boys
SNAPSHOT: “A physically imposing key forward whose defensive application is unique, Jed Walter also has a penchant for clunking big marks and kicking bags of goals.”
Headlining arguably the single best Northern Academy cohort ever produced is Gold Coast’s Jed Walter, who many consider one of the top two prospects in this year’s draft. The hulking key forward is a physical beast and has long been considered one of Queensland’s most promising talents – though, he hails from Western Australia. Having moved to the Sunshine State aged nine, Walter joined the Suns Academy at 12-years-old and progressed through the ranks to make his debut with the Under 18 side in 2021.
As a bottom-ager last year, he was included in the AFL Academy and earned All Australian selection with the Allies, honours which he emphatically backed up during his top-aged campaign in 2023. Walter set the National Championships alight and skippered the title-winning Allies side in their maiden win over Vic Metro, also finishing runner-up in the Suns’ Academy Series MVP vote. Such was his aura, Vic Country brought a defender into their squad specifically to match up on the strong-marking goal kicker.
Among Walter’s standout performances this year, he had an enthralling battle with standout West Australian Dan Curtin during the National Championships, kicking three goals in an 88-point thumping. He also bagged eight majors from 19 disposals and nine marks (six contested) against the Northern Territory at Heritage Bank Stadium. Exposure at VFL level was in the offing for Walter, though a cautious approach was taken to his recovery from a knee injury sustained in the opening champs game. Having played sore, he also sat out the National Draft Combine.
+ Contested marking
+ Defensive pressure
+ Scoreboard impact
- Four-quarter consistency
Walter has been an out-and-out favourite for recruiters to watch this year, and there's little wondering why. Some couldn't help but chuckle in the grandstands as the Queenslander hunted down opposition defenders and bullied them in one-on-one contests. He was simply dominant throughout the National Championships and gave life to the seemingly fixed debate on who could be the number one prospect.
There are so few players like him, particularly in his position. Walter's defensive application is as good, if not better than any other key forward to have come through the talent pathway. He chases and harasses opponents with ominous closing speed and brutal physicality, hustling at the fall of the ball with as much intensity as he leaps at it with. Despite only averaging two to three tackles this year, his wrath was felt.
While his defensive game is astounding, Walters' attacking exploits are equally damaging. He comes to life in scintillating bursts, particularly at the start of games, looking unstoppable in the air and on the lead en route to goal. Taking on opponents like Dan Curtin, Ollie Murphy and Will McCabe, Walter booted 11 goals in Allies colours and averaged seven marks per game (two contested).
What makes Walter such a difficult matchup is that he adapts to the defenders' style of play. If they look to engage, he'll outmuscle them in one-on-one tussles, but if they sag off and allow him a run at the ball, he'll just as likely beat them in the air. He's also the kind of forward who doesn't mind doing the tough stuff and is more than accustomed to taking bodies with him when crashing packs.
Rounding out Walter's powerful skillset is his penetrative kicking. While his set shot conversion is hit or miss at times, Walter strikes the ball cleanly and can clear 50 metres with both feet. It's an underrated aspect of his game, along with the ability to snap at goal from both pockets. No matter where Walter is situated inside 50, if he has a sight on goal or can assist a teammate, his side is bound to score.
Along with conversion, arguably the main improvement area for Walter is his endurance. Having lit up the early stages of many games this season, he tended to fade out of the second half and can build up a better tank to either run out four quarters, or more frequently advance outside 50. It would only make him an even tougher, more unrelenting matchup in the long run.
DRAFT RANGE: 2-5
Some consider Walter to be the best player available in this year’s draft, while most others rate him only behind Harley Reid at a minimum. That’s the reason why Gold Coast was so keen to part with pick four during trade period, with plenty of groundwork done to ensure the Suns can not only match a top five bid on Walter, but also attain Ethan Read and Jake Rogers in the first 15 picks, and Will Graham thereafter. He’s clearly the best key forward available and has traits which are quite unique for such a dominant player in his position, standing out defensively to compliment his marking and scoring threats. It will be a case of which club pulls the trigger first on Walter’s bid, with Reid likely to be selected first, and the Queenslander poised to be called out anywhere within the next few picks.
AFL U18 Championships