Leagues: AFL U18 Championships, Coates Talent League Boys
SNAPSHOT: “Max Knobel is an exciting ruck who is a long-term project player, but has some exciting traits that catch the eye for a bigman”
Max Knobel is a Gippsland Power bigman who has come along in leaps and bounds in season 2022. Though far from the finished product, Knobel has some eye-catching moments that suggest he could be a top-flight player in the future. Though some rucks are readymade beasts and others are athletic freaks, Knobel is neither, but more something in between. He is mobile enough to get around the ground and provide an option, and strong enough to be a presence when forward.
Like any tall, Knobel is not a player a club would draft to bring in for Round 1, 2022. The son of former Brisbane, St Kilda and Richmond’s Trent, the Power ruck is not eligible for any of the clubs as an attached selection, with his father’s 41 games in the red, white and black the most of any of his three stints. Having been a rookie elevation himself, Knobel’s father knows what is is like to have reached the top level the hard way, and learnt alongside some of the early 2000s top rucks.
For Max, he just keeps growing. Having entered 2022 as a 204cm, 86kg, 17-year-old surpassing his dad’s playing height of 202cm, Knobel is now up to 206cm and 91kg, putting on some much needed size to go with his towering figure. It enabled him to averaged 16.6 hitouts throughout the 2022 NAB League season with the Power, and earn a spot as Vic Country’s first choice ruck. Knobel was widely regarded as the standout ruck behind South Australia’s Harry Barnett at the championships, with the All-Australian Croweater admitting Knobel was his toughest opponent.
Though not tipped to be a high selection, if indeed at all, Knobel is a value late-rookie pick given his clear upside and ability to get around the ground despite his size. He has done enough to suggest he could be a long-term AFL ruck, and the fact he can provide a presence inside 50, makes him a perfect development player who could be one to learn off an elite ruck in their late 20s or early 30s.
+ Ruck nous
+ Inside 50 presence
Knobel is a terrific long-term talent who is best suited to a ruck role, but can certainly rest forward and assist in ticking over the scoreboard. Though not completely reliable with his set shots - despite kicking 5.0 in the NAB League - Knobel is a strong mark and one who, if he does not take the ball at the highest point, will bring it to ground. Now at 206cm, there are few players able to spoil an opponent of that size, particularly when his hands are pretty sure.
Though not an Aaron Cadman by any means when it comes to his contested marking, Knobel has safe hands and is a reliable down-the-line option for a defender. The Power ruck is able to impact from the stoppage, with a neat leap that will see him more often than not, win the hitout. He is a high-hitout player, and while his total of 16.6 hitouts per game looks about average, he usually shared the ruck role 50-50 with another Power tall such as Harvey Howe.
If given his chance, Knobel is one who will develop through the VFL, and continue to bulk up to increase the sureness of his hands when going up for grabs. At underage level, it is easy enough for Knobel to use his height over opponents, but against bigger bodies and smarter opponents, he will need to level up in terms of his strength and positioning. His smarts are good, but he still has those 'ruckman moments'. In one example against the Northern Knights at Morwell, Knobel dropped a sitter at the top of 50, then quickly recovered to pick it up, snap it round his body and it sailed home with a move that a player of his size should not be able to do.
In other words, Knobel has 'it' and is one who, with the right development could be a valuable pickup late in the draft, or even as a rookie. He is raw, and has a low production rate at this stage, particularly outside the ruck stoppages, as a leading player inside 50 or option from the kick out. He is not one who will consistently work up and down the ground, and is still ironing out areas of his game to make him more complete, but from a long-term perspective, Knobel is a player with serious potential.
DRAFT RANGE: Late/Rookie
Max Knobel is a long-term project player who has some attractive traits that could be applied at the top level. Though considered a later draft prospect, and certainly no guarantee for this year, Knobel will be one who is likely to be on club’s radars for years to come. If he can continue to work on his areas of improvement, expect him to continually put his hand up for clubs if not taken in the AFL Draft next month.
AFL U18 Championships
Coates Talent League Boys