Leagues: AFL U18 Championships, Coates Talent League Boys
SNAPSHOT: “An outstandingly consistent inside midfielder from Geelong Falcons who was able to crack in and showcase high-level contested ball-winning ability and clean skills”
It almost seems fitting that as Geelong premiership skipper Joel Selwood heads off into the sunset following a glittering career, that a teenager who embodies the retiring Cat enters the league. Unsurprisingly, Jhye Clark takes after his older clone, and is known for his leadership, consistency and unrelenting contested game. With few flaws in his overall profile, Clark is one of the top onballers in this year’s AFL Draft.
The Geelong Falcons skipper is one of those players you can just lock in to 250 games without a second thought. If he can remain injury-free, then the hard inside midfielder is one who will provide the club that drafts him plenty of memorable moments over the next decade. In season 2022 alone, Clark shone as captain for the Falcons, and then as co-captain for Vic Country, where he was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) for his state, and a member of the starting midfield for the All-Australian team.
Few players could hold a candle to Clark’s sheer consistency on the inside, cracking in each and every time, and like Selwood, the number five leaves nothing out on the field. Though unlike many top-line midfielders Clark does not have the explosive speed or complete outside game to match his inside exploits, he just does everything well across the board. Not only is he a skilled, high-production player, but one who fans will love and wears his heart on his sleeve, willing to bleed for his sides.
+ Contested work
+ Clean skills
+ Dual footed
- Explosive speed
- Outside game
Jhye Clark is one of those players that will gain league-wide recognition fairly early in his career. If not for his ability with ball-in-hand, then for his intent and willingness to do whatever it takes to drag his team over the line. In the Geelong Falcons' loss to Western Jets, Clark just about single-handedly tried to carry his team on his shoulders despite heavy attention at stoppages. He sticks up for his teammates, and plays as fair as they come, but as hard as he needs to, in order to ensure he wins the hard ball.
From a production perspective, there is little that Clark does not do. In his top-age NAB League Boys year, Clark averaged 25.4 disposals, 4.7 marks, 4.8 tackles, 5.9 inside 50s and 2.7 rebound 50s, whilst booting five goals in that time. He might not have a perfect outside game, but through sheer work rate he finds space and is strong overhead for a player of 181cm. He competes in the air, and at ground level, and uses both sides of his body well. When he does get forward and hit the scoreboard, he inspires his team to keep going, even when the game seems lost.
His leadership is a non-negotiable. Like Selwood, Clark just screams future leader and early on in his career too. He sets the standards and delivers on-field, and is a player who will be able to fit into any football program and excel. Like successful Geelong Falcons graduate before him Sam Walsh, Clark is a professional in every area. Possessing clean skills by both hand or foot, while not deemed an elite user by any means, he just does everything with a touch of class and does not make too many mistakes on either side of his body.
Though Clark has so many pluses, he naturally has areas that he can still work on. Not an explosive speedster from the stoppage, the Falcons skipper has become a prolific first-possession winner. He is not the type to burst out of a stoppage, but rather give off by hand after drawing an opponent, or fire away a handball whilst being tackled at ground level. When in space, he makes good decisions, though spending more time on the outside and having a greater influence is still an area that Clark can develop. Though none of his areas to improve hinder his current output.
DRAFT RANGE: 5-10
Jhye Clark is a budding superstar in the making. One of the safest picks in the AFL Draft, Clark is effectively a teenage Joel Selwood and one who will immediately win over fans with his attack on the contest and appetite to win. He is a contested ball-winner, but also has that touch of class that makes him rarely turn the ball over. He could still have more of an influence on the outside, but aside from lacking explosive speed from the contest, there is little to worry about when it comes to the young star midfielder.
AFL U18 Championships