Central DistrictCentral DistrictKey Defender


Will McCabe

height: 197cm

weight: 86kg

D.O.B: 29-09-2005

Leagues: AFL U18 Championships

  • Snapshot
  • Analysis
  • Summary

SNAPSHOT: “An athletic key position prospect with eye-catching aerial prowess and serious speed, Will McCabe’s upside is enormous.”

Among the top club-tied talents in this year’s AFL Draft crop is Will McCabe, a Hawthorn father-son candidate. He’s the son of Luke, a 138-game Hawk who currently sits as the club’s football director, and grew up supporting the brown and gold. McCabe has risen steeply through the South Australian pathway, taking out the Croweaters’ Under 16 MVP award as an over-ager in the category last year, while also playing a key role in Sacred Heart’s dominant school football side. He graduated to the state Under 18 setup this year and turned out for Central District, even cracking a Reserves debut in Round 13.

Capable of playing at either end of the ground, McCabe is an aerial specialist who continues to develop. He found a home down back at representative level and was tested in the way of defensive craft, while also having to work through seperate injuries. A foot complaint flared up during the National Championships, and McCabe then sustained an adductor issue in his return game, which meant he was forced to watch on at the National Draft Combine. Still, clubs are well aware of his potential and the Hawks will be buoyed by potentially filling a need in the key defensive slot.



+ Aerial ability
+ Intercept marking
+ Speed
+ Upside
+ Versatility
+ Vertical leap


- One-on-one defending
- Strength

McCabe's aerial ability is arguably his most eye-catching trait, and one which strongly demonstrates his athleticism. At 197cm, he has good range and reach, but also leaps at the ball stylishly and isn't afraid to attack the contest. While applicable at either end of the field, it's an attribute he uses most prominently when intercepting down back. McCabe reads the play well and has good toe off the mark to get to the ball first, or close in on other contests as the third man up. He averaged 5.9 marks and 6.1 intercepts per his nine SANFL Under 18 games this season, highlighting his ability to cut off opposition attacks via the aerial route.

Another aspect of McCabe's strong athletic profile is his pace - with the ball. He can run-and-carry like few players his size, taking off on the rebound and often showing opponents a clean set of cleats. He also has a good enough tank to make such plays repeatable and seems to enjoy taking the game on. In those instances, he puts speed on the ball and acts as a dual-threat with his ability to turn defence (intercepting) into attack (rebounding). Compounding his hurt factor, McCabe is also a handy field kick and ran at 81 per cent efficiency at Under 18s level, opting to kick 67 per cent of the time from his average 21.8 disposals.

For all his upside and potential, McCabe is still very much a developing prospect with improvements to make. He has come a long way when it comes to holding contested marks, converting his ability to get hands on the ball to clunking clean grabs high above packs. While still filling out his frame, becoming a stronger and more accountable one-on-one defender may also be an area McCabe looks to enhance. He was made to adjust at the National Championships when matched up on the likes of Jed Walter, who drew even aerially and won comprehensively in physical tussles. Generally, McCabe is a more effective attacking outlet from defence.

Durability may be another question mark over McCabe, having had a couple of setbacks this year. Stress related injuries are just about commonplace among growing athletes and McCabe proved no exception, but suffering a seperate knock in his return game was less than ideal. Should he get a clean run at it in an elite environment, the 18-year-old could skyrocket in terms of his development. Aside from those queries, he looms as an exciting talent whose versatility and production levels, particularly at his height, are high-level. He has come a long way and has plenty more tarmac to take along his footballing journey.



McCabe has quite a high ceiling with regards to what he could be at the next level, presenting as an athletic and versatile tall with terrific skills. His year was interrupted by injuries and there were tests along the way, but at his best he’s a seriously unique talent who is a joy to watch. Hawthorn is in the process of confirming its nomination of McCabe as a father-son candidate, who grew up supporting the club and is keen to end up there. Coincidentally, he may well fill somewhat of a list need for the Hawks, adding key defensive depth and essentially being a free hit at another young top 20 talent. Expect a bid to come in either late in an extended first round, or somewhere in the second – he’d be too good not to keep Hawthorn accountable after that. The Hawks will also have to consider having enough points to match a later bid on Calsher Dear.

Aerial ability
Intercept marking
Vertical leap
Defensive craft

AFL U18 Championships

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