Image Credit: AFLNT
POSITION: Ruck/Key Forward
SNAPSHOT: "A raw and mobile ruck-forward with clean hands and promising athletic traits, which collectively see him thrive aerially."
Pegged as one of the Northern Territory's top talents coming into 2021, Ned Stevens has battled through an injury interrupted campaign. The versatile 196cm prospect relocated to the Gold Coast this year as he linked with the SUNS Academy, training with the senior squad and getting a taste for the top flight. He was named in this year's AFL Academy but missed out on April's showcase fixture, instead managing some late-season games with Labrador in the QAFL Reserves and representing Queensland's Under 19 side against Tasmania.
+ Vertical leap
+ Clean hands
+ Overhead marking
Stevens is the type of tall who is mobile enough to impact both in the air and at ground level, but certainly looks most dangerous overhead when at full flight. With a springy leap and clean hands in marking situations, he handles the ball well and adapts these key traits to craft both in the ruck and up forward.
At 196cm, Stevens is arguably a little undersized to be a permanent ruck at the next level, but will be able to pinch hit there to good effect. He represented the NT in basketball and that side of his profile shows when rucking, as he uses deft touches and great game sense to help his side navigate the stoppages.
Up forward, Stevens is a viable target and gets busy deep inside 50. He reads the play well and can pluck the ball in flight over opponents, while also proving difficult to handle with his follow-up work. His mobility makes him more than a one-trick pony, and allows for dynamic play towards scores.
When Stevens pops up and works into the game, he looks quite promising, but those moments perhaps don't occur consistently enough. Having battled a groin injury throughout the year, he has had limited exposure at high levels and struggled to get his game going at times given that lack of competition.
With a good amount of potential and promising athletic traits to go with his footballing development, Stevens would certainly benefit from a full season of play. Being able to build on what he showed as an under-ager, prove his durability, and up his production will all be at the forefront of his progression.
DRAFT PROJECTION: Late/Rookie
Having earned plenty of plaudits coming into the year, 2021 hasn't quite turned out as expected for Stevens with injuries and a lack of opportunity coming his way. Tied to the Gold Coast Academy, SUNS staff may prefer to see a bit more of what the 18-year-old can produce over an extended run, especially given he has already relocated locally. He earned AFL Academy selection and a draft combine invite though, so the interest is there.