Leagues: AFL U18 Championships, Coates Talent League Boys
SNAPSHOT: “A run-and-gun defender with searing speed and agility, Nathan Philactides takes the game on with each possession.”
Nathan Philactides attacks across half-back like few others can, boasting high-end speed and pairing it with aggressive intent on the rebound. Coming from a hurdling background, athleticism forms the crux of his game and makes him difficult to contain in full flight.
The Oakleigh Chargers co-captain made his Coates Talent League debut in 2021 and was a mainstay this season aside from representative commitments. He was one of the few players to turn out for Vic Metro as a bottom-ager in 2022, and backed it up in 2023 having also earned AFL Academy selection.
A Richmond supporter, Philactides spent a week during preseason training with the Tigers and broke through for two VFL games in yellow and black. Current Tiger Daniel Rioli is one of the players he bases his game on. While invited to the National Combine, Philactides suffered a nasty-looking shoulder injury late in the Talent League season and did not participate in testing.
- Defensive craft
- Opposite foot
Philactides is the type of prospect you only need to see a few times to get a picture of how he plays. He puts speed on the ball across half-back, sparking attacks from the last line with raw pace and instinctual running forays. Much of the defender's game is aided by his explosive athleticism, which comes from a high-level hurdling background.
While injury prevented him from testing at the National Draft Combine, Philactides' testing data from preseason backs up his on-field exploits. He put up an agility test time of 7.898 seconds, good enough to place seventh nationwide. For context, no athlete notched a sub-eight second time at this year's combine.
How that translates on the field is Philactides taking off from kick-ins or chaining possessions on the overlap, often taking ground through the corridor at his most dangerous. Though, while Philactides' greatest strengths lend to the positives in his game, ironically they also filter into his improvement areas.
He tends to play in one very high gear, often backing himself to take off instantly and play a high tempo on nearly every possession. With a more composed approach at the right times and less reliance on his favoured left side, he'll run himself into less trouble, less often. It's a matter of balancing his attacking instincts to suit what the game requires.
His attacking flair can hurt the opposition when executed well, though Philactides will still be working on his defensive craft. You have to go two ways in the modern game, and the rapid rebounder can certainly enhance his ability to lock down opponents one-on-one. Though, while his tackling averages don't convey it, Philactides applies himself relatively well in the way of defensive pressure - once again thanks to his closing speed.
One aspect of the defensive game Philactides does decently well is intercepting. He mops up at ground level and is gutsy with his overhead marking efforts at 179cm. Either way, turning the ball over is another way he can set off and wreak havoc on the rebound, doing what he does best.
DRAFT RANGE: 40-60
While perhaps Philactides did not quite come on as expected in 2023, with clear areas of improvement remaining, he should still have enough fans to get a chance at the next level. His athleticism points towards great potential and suits the slingshot style that some clubs have adopted across half-back, with few others possessing the same raw speed and explosiveness. Likely to feature beyond the second round, clubs will hope to strike a balance between harnessing Philactides’ natural instincts, while also helping add the polish required.