Leagues: AFL U18 Championships, Coates Talent League Boys
SNAPSHOT: “A tall prospect with enormous upside, Jefferson’s range and mobility make him an aerial threat who needs few opportunities to impact each game.”
When buzzwords like ‘upside’ are brought up, Matthew Jefferson is a draft prospect who comes to mind. The 194cm Oakleigh Chargers talent projects as a high-end selection based not only on how good he is currently, but arguably moreso on what he could become.
The raw and rangy forward has long been on the radar, showing his wares for Vic Metro’s Under 17s and even cracking a NAB League debut last year. Fast forward to 2022, and he became a focal point when available to Oakleigh, as well as for Wesley College and Vic Metro’s Under 18 side.
With his set position in attack, Jefferson looks towards the likes of the King twins and Essendon’s Harrison Jones for inspiration on his craft. His feats this year, including a breakout seven-goal game against Western Australia, were ultra impressive and he even battled through injury to see off his top-age campaign on a positive note.
+ Aerial ability
+ Overhead marking
+ Scoreboard impact
- Set shot consistency
It's easy to see the excitement in a player like Jefferson, who could truly become something special with time to develop at AFL level. Currently, he cuts a skinny figure at 194cm and 76kg, but defies that frame with super sticky hands and ridiculously good reading of the ball in flight to dominate aerially.
On paper, Jefferson looks a low-production type with his average of around nine disposals per game. He's the type of player who needs only a few looks to make an impact though, with over half of his touches earned through marks and many resulting in goals. He kicked 14 in four games for Vic Metro, 13 in six for Oakleigh, and many big bags for Wesley College.
A confident Jefferson can tear games apart. His best was showcased in a memorable breakout performance against Western Australia at this year's National Championships, where Jefferson booted seven goals - including five in a single quarter - to help drag Vic Metro to victory.
Usually, he utilises his speed off the mark to lose defenders and take grabs out in front, but has also proven capable of reading the high ball better than anyone else and using his sheer reach to advantage. He's mobile at ground level too, following up nicely and navigating space well for a player his size.
That kind of dexterity is something which lends to his versatility. Jefferson came into the season keen to develop his intercept marking game in defence, and doesn't mind having a gander up on the wing. When forward, he looks most at home inside 50 and could certainly benefit from using his best traits to impact further afield.
For all his eye-catching attributes, there are also some clear areas of improvement for Jefferson. Strength and physicality can easily be ticked off in time, though he will unlikely stray far from his rangy stature. Another is set shot consistency, which is hardly down to technique but moreso about finding a routine and better capitalising on the opportunities he earns. For his 7.0 against WA, there was a 0.6 against Calder.
DRAFT RANGE: 5-15
Jefferson could not have done much more to press his claims as a top 10 contender, and looks like being taken right in that range. He is one of the few high-end key position options available after Aaron Cadman, which may see clubs reach for him in the first round. His capacity to grow and become a high-impact tall forward will excite many clubs, with Jefferson fitting the mould of athletic and versatile key position outlets.
AFL U18 Championships
Coates Talent League Boys