Leagues: AFL U18 Championships, Coates Talent League Boys
SNAPSHOT: “Zane Duursma is a smooth moving, natural forward who takes one-grab overhead marks and has no trouble consistently hitting the scoreboard.”
The third Duursma sibling paving a way to the AFL, Zane may well be the best yet. The Gippsland Power product has compiled a decorated junior career since making his Coates Talent League debut in 2021, playing five games in a struggling side back then. He went on to earn consecutive Team of the Year honours and was the competition’s leading goal kicker this season, booting 29 majors in 10 home-and-away appearances. Including finals games, Duursma has kicked over thirty goals in the last two Coates Talent League seasons.
As a bottom-ager, he turned out twice for Vic Country and showed his wares in the annual Futures showcase on AFL Grand Final day. Selection in the National Academy for 2023 was almost inevitable at that point, with Duursma deemed a potential top prospect in the draft crop. With the accolades, including All-Australian honours, continuing to pour in this year, Duursma has delivered on the promise he has shown for some time. He even got to turn out at VFL level, playing two games with Casey Demons to compound his senior experience.
Rounding out the year, the 18-year-old was named Gippsland’s best and fairest, while also taking out the Rookie Me Central Medal. He earned an invite to the National Draft Combine and impressed on the floorboards of Margaret Court Arena, posting a second-best running vertical leap of 97cm. His all-round athleticism is evident on the field too, with the smooth moving forward proving a constant aerial threat and damaging pinch-hitter through midfield. He is likely to feature in the top-end of this year’s intake with significant interest in his upside.
+ Aerial ability
+ Clean hands
+ Forward craft
- Midfield craft
Duursma's skillset is extensive, possessing a range of natural footballing traits and excellent craft in the forward half. He's a player who immediately passes the eye test too, moving fluently and with great style in the attacking phase of the game. His high-end athletic profile shows strength in the way of speed and leap, with Duursma finishing second in the National Draft Combine's running vertical jump (97cm), and posting a 20m sprint time of 3.055 seconds. For a player approaching the 190cm-mark, he has that dual-threat of being aerially dominant while also having the capacity to carry the ball and side-step opponents into pockets of space.
Arguably Duursma's best asset is his one-touch marking. His hands are incredibly clean, even at ground level, but the way he leaps at the ball, extends and clunks it overhead is a real point of difference among medium types. Duursma averaged 6.3 marks across his 12 Coates Talent League games this year, either burning opponents on the lead with speed off the mark, or beating them under the high ball closer to goal. His one-touch handling also translates when pinch-hitting through midfield, where Duursma has a happy knack for snatching the ball off ruck taps and streaming away with it.
Compounding Duursma's impact is his ability to consistently hit the scoreboard. He booted over 30 goals in consecutive campaigns for Gippsland and proved a game-winner in Vic Country's final dig against Vic Metro this year. In that match, he got to showcase his craft as a permanent fixture inside 50, splitting the big sticks four times from 22 disposals and 10 marks. His best haul for the year was a bag of six against Bendigo, and having kicked goals in every Talent League appearance, he snared multiple majors in eight of 12 outings. Finishing is clearly a strength, doing so over the mark and in open play from a range of distances and angles.
It's clear that forward is his best position, but Duursma can certainly develop his midfield craft and spent plenty of time there this year. The key to a more permanent shift will be endurance, with consistent impact through the middle remaining an area of improvement. Duursma ran a 6:54 2km time trial at the combine, which can easily be trimmed down with a big preseason. Should he develop his tank, accumulating possessions at a more regular rate would only benefit whatever team he ends up at, as he usually makes excellent decisions with each touch and already has high score involvement numbers.
For all the concrete skills and attributes that Duursma brings to the table, there is also an element of the unknown and intangible. He has great upside in the way of his on-field feats, but is also a terrific character who seems popular among teammates and hardly gets ahead of himself. He persevered through a slow start to the season to hit an absolute purple patch at the right time, working to only confirm his status as a prospect who belongs in the top echelon of this year's intake. There's improvement left, and that's pretty scary to think about.
DRAFT RANGE: Top 5
Cleary one of the most talented players in the draft crop, Duursma will likely be snapped up within the top five selections on night one. A natural forward whose midfield craft is promising, the 18-year-old is already a match-winner with strong scope for improvement – especially if he can strengthen his running capacity. There isn’t much Duursma can’t do on the field in the way of skills, and he’ll likely start his career at the next level as a half-forward who can venture up the field, but provide a marking presence inside 50 and frequently hit the scoreboard.