WITH National Championship fixtures coming forth in a flurry and state-based of combines to come, there is still plenty to play out with regards to the 2021 AFL Draft class. State league competitions have now officially wrapped up nationwide, leaving only one carnival clash left before 120 prospects turn their attention to the fitness testing, and all budding draftees await the two-day draft on November 24-25. Draft Central’s October Power Rankings update sees a top talent reclaim his crown, with plenty of movement among the very even 15-30 range – including a fresh face to round out the list. We again run you through our top 30 selection of players in the penultimate rankings edition for the year. Note, the list is ordered purely on our opinion of each players’ current ability and potential, not taking into account the bidding system, or AFL clubs’ lists and needs.
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder
21/06/2003 | 184cm | 78kg
September Ranking: #2
A midfielder with next to no weaknesses whose power bodes well for tough ball winning and impressive aerial marking, as well as damaging scoreboard impact. Heralded as the clear number one choice coming into 2021, Horne-Francis retained his crown for our first two rankings updates and reclaims it now. The South Adelaide talent impressed in his debut SANFL League outings as a bottom-ager, and has since transitioned into a more prominent midfield role with guidance from former Carlton and Adelaide player, Bryce Gibbs. He has long been a standout among the South Australian crop, participating in back-to-back Under 16 carnivals and being crowned his state’s MVP in 2019 as captain. Only 18 in June, Horne-Francis boasts a well-balanced game with plenty of damaging strengths and very few weaknesses, with his exposure at senior level another factor which sees him well in contention for number one status.
#2 Nick Daicos (COL F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Midfielder
3/01/2003 | 183cm | 72kg
September Ranking: #1
Daicos has an unrivalled understanding of the game; able to bring his teammates into it and anticipate where his next possession will come from, leading to utter domination. The Collingwood father-son prospect (son of Peter) has more than justified all the hype leading into 2021, solidifying his status as a bonafide number one contender. Daicos made his long-awaited NAB League debut in Round 1 and has gone on to dominate the competition, putting up ridiculous numbers through the engine room as the skipper of a talented Oakleigh Chargers group. Much like his brother, Josh, Daicos was only due to enter the Chargers’ program last year but was made to wait for his unveiling in Oakleigh colours. It was well worth it, though keen watchers already knew of his supreme ability having seen him hold his own in a Carey Grammar side featuring Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson. The Magpies are in for a rare talent.
Having committed to a contract extension with Collingwood on top of his original deal come draft time, the only real news on Daicos is that the Magpies will match to take him at any selection. There has been plenty of talk surrounding whether a bid comes at pick one, but either way, Daicos will don the black and white in 2022. With no football on offer for Victorians, the star midfielder will be preparing himself for the Metro combine this month – should it go ahead.
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
26/04/2003 | 189cm | 82kg
September Ranking: #3
Callaghan is a classy mover with great agility for his size, and has shown a high level of development to prove his balance of outside and inside traits. One who seems destined to crack the top five picks come draft time, Callaghan enjoyed a substantial rise in stocks in the first half of 2021. The flying wingman/half-back transitioned smoothly to an inside role, proving difficult to stop at full flight with his blend of straight-line power and swift agility. While he is working on becoming more outwardly damaging with his disposal, the 18-year-old is quite a clean user of the ball by hand and foot. He is capable of gaining good meterage on the outer with speed and his efficient kicking, and seems to manufacture time on the ball in the clinches. As a tall midfielder whose rate of development has been extraordinary as a top-ager, the left-footer has drawn comparisons to Marcus Bontempelli and oozes a similar amount of class.
The back-end of Callaghan’s season was interrupted by injury and eventually cut short by Victoria’s lockdown, so we have seen the last of him on-field as a junior. Like many of his Victorian counterparts, the combine and draft awaits. He looks almost certain to be snapped up within the top five selections.
#4 Sam Darcy (WB F/S)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Tall Utility
19/08/2003 | 204cm | 75kg
September Ranking: #4
Darcy is a fast-developing tall talent who can play in each key position post, is athletic, and marks the ball cleanly. They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is the case with Sam Darcy – the son of 226-game Western Bulldogs champion, Luke. He is a raw tall prospect capable of playing on every line, which he has proven in his time with Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League and Scotch College in the APS Football competition. He is a top three candidate on potential and the clear best tall in the draft, with his versatility and rate of improvement proving hard to ignore. Darcy initially impressed with his athleticism and aerial ability as a key defender who rotates into the ruck at NAB League level, but went on to consolidate his top-end credentials with outstanding performances up forward. Bulldogs fans, you have another key position jet on the radar.
With plenty of conjecture surrounding what will eventuate with pick one, Darcy seems likely to be bid on between picks 2-5. As the premium tall prospect available, he will likely be afforded the right amount of time to develop at Whitten Oval, before cracking the top level. Like Jamarra Ugle-Hagan before him, he will enter the AFL system as a rare top five pick taken by one of the top five teams, which will prove difficult to crack. He and his Victorian mates have been sidelined for the last couple of months, awaiting the combine and draft.
#5 Ben Hobbs
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
16/09/2003 | 183cm | 80kg
September Ranking: #5
Hobbs is a hard-nosed, hard-working inside midfielder who loves to compete both defensively and in a ball winning sense. The GWV Rebels ball winner had an interrupted start to his 2021 campaign due to injury, but has well and truly proved his top 10 credentials since getting back on the park. He featured at NAB League level as a 16-year-old in 2019 after earning All Australian honours for Vic Country, slowly getting accustomed to the rigours of midfield work in the elite talent pathway. His best traits are shown at the contest, with a hard edge and competitive streak seeing him win plenty of the ball on the inside. The nuggety 18-year-old is working on his outside game, but has such clear strength around the ball and has taken full toll with dominant numbers upon his return to action.
Last week’s Country combine would have been a welcome return to some kind of competition for Hobbs, who participated in the testing in Bendigo. He has otherwise been another victim of Victoria’s lockdown with no football over the last month, but has shown more than enough to suggest he will be a top 10 pick.
#6 Josh Gibcus
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Tall Defender
4/04/2003 | 195cm | 84kg
September Ranking: #6
An intercept marking defender who reads the play well and has a sizeable leap, Gibcus’ eye-catching form has propelled him into top 10 calculations. Once again, Gibcus is the second tall prospect on our list and has earned his spot with superb form this year. The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) defender is an intercept type who uses his strengths to advantage; reading the play beautifully and timing his movements to float onto the scene, before rising with his springy vertical leap to take series of marks and force turnovers. While he is working on his ground level game, Gibcus is so clean in the air and usually a sound distributor across the last line, showing great composure on the ball. He was one of the many AFL Academy call-ups and truly held his own in that fixture, and will continue to improve at a great rate.
With no football to be played in Victoria, Gibcus has featured among the waiting game but got a taste of competition at last week’s Country combine in Bendigo. He was typically astute in the jumping tests, producing a combine best result in the running vertical jump (89cm). As the leading tall defender available in this year’s crop, the Rebels product will be highly sought after among the top 10.
#7 Mac Andrew (MEL NGA)
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country | Ruck/Tall Utility
12/04/2003 | 200cm | 70kg
September Ranking: #7
A raw tall prospect who has proven his worth in each key position post, Andrew’s vertical leap and fast-developing craft really catch the eye. Another key position talent who rocketed up draft boards with a promising start to the year, Andrew is well and truly out of reach for Melbourne as a Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate by now. He currently sits inside the top 15 group quite unanimously, boasting raw athleticism and bucketloads of upside given his ever improving ability to be utilised at either end of the ground, or in the ruck. While he has proven his versatility, the Demons NGA talent looks most comfortable in the ruck, where his leap, work rate and clean follow-up possessions stands out.
Andrew was unable to compete at last week’s Country combine due to much of the Dandenong Stingrays region coming under Metro jurisdiction in regards to lockdown, but he has shown more than enough to suggest a top 10 bid awaits. Like his fellow Victorians, there was no football to be played during September.
#8 Josh Ward
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Midfielder
15/08/2003 | 181cm | 79kg
September Ranking: #8
A classy midfielder consistently capable of winning mountains of possessions, Ward is a centre bounce mainstay with his clean skills and work rate. Having started the year on the precipice, Ward has broken into and consolidated his spot well among the 2021 crop’s first round bracket. The Northern Knights midfielder is one who works hard both ways and gets stuck in at the contest, able to win his own ball and distribute with clean skills to the outer. He is also beginning to showcase more of his own traits on the outside and can impact while resting forward, but holds clear value as a reliable ball winner at the stoppages. A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Ward won the same honours this year as a rising draft eligible Under 19 talent.
Another top-end Metro talent, Ward’s season is effectively over but he has risen substantially this year on the back of outstanding form across multiple competitions. His reliability is a key desirable trait and he should attract a suitor in the second half of the top 10. The combine and draft day await.
#9 Neil Erasmus
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder
02/12/2003 | 188cm | 80kg
September Ranking: #9
Initially an exciting forward who has since transitioned wonderfully well into midfield, Erasmus lays claim to eye-catching traits both aerially and at ground level. Arguably Western Australia’s leading prospect, Erasmus has built on the promise he showed in last year’s WAFL Colts grand final which saw him come into 2021 as a first round bolter. He burst onto the scene with four goals in that 2020 decider, showcasing clean hands up forward after putting in a terrific PSA Football campaign. While he was played off half-forward and the wing as an AFL Academy call-up, Erasmus has proven himself to be quite the consistent ball winner through midfield this year, bringing some spark to the engine room. He has a great vertical leap and can impact both aerially and at ground level, with scoreboard impact remaining in his back pocket.
Having made a brief return to action in August on the back of a massive PSA season with Hale School, Erasmus’ troublesome corked quad flared up and ruled him out of representative action in September, and this month’s combine. He was named vice-captain of WA’s Under 19 squad and despite a lack of football, holds his spot within the top 10. Local fans are unsurprisingly interested in the South African-born talent, who showcased high-end potential when able to get on the park.
Glenelg/South Australia | Wing
22/02/2003 | 188cm | 70kg
September Ranking: #18
A smooth-moving wingman with plenty of tricks, Wanganeen-Milera can carve up the opposition with his combination of agility and elite decision making by foot. Wanganeen-Milera comes from good pedigree as the nephew of Gavin Wanganeen and son of Terry Milera, but is blazing his own trail en route to first round contention. Class is the word which often comes up when describing the flying Glenelg wingman, as he dances around opposition players and delivers pin-point passes by foot. The 18-year-old started out in the Bays’ Reserves team this year but has since made an impact at League level, and was a late call-up to the AFL Academy squad in April. He has proven one of the most exciting draft prospects to watch over the last two months, performing well against high levels of competition and holding his own. The scary thing is, he still has plenty of room to grow and improve.
The flying wingman built on an outstanding month of football with another irresistible body of work in September. He made his last League outing at the start of the month in a loss to Port Adelaide, but returned to the Reserves for finals and got another state game in. His most recent appearance came in the Bays’ Reserves premiership victory, where he contributed 19 disposals, seven tackles, three clearances and a goal. He has looked a class above in each Under 19 state game or trial, making him a genuine chance to feature in the 8-12 range.>> SANFL Player Focus
#11 Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro | Midfielder
27/01/2003 | 181cm | 76kg
September Ranking: #10
A smooth-moving midfielder with terrific poise and class, Sonsie opens up the play with his clean disposal and ability to find the goals. One of the most highly-touted Victorian prospects before a ball had been bounced in 2021, Sonsie’s absolute best is exceptionally good. The Eastern Ranges prospect was Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP in 2019 and is one of the few 2003-born NAB Leaguers to have already experienced the Under 19 competition. He was part of his region’s 2019 minor premiership-winning side, rolling forward off a wing. Now a draft eligible talent, Sonsie has moved more permanently into midfield and while he is developing his defensive running, has plenty of attacking traits to offer. His ability to exit stoppages with poise and make good decisions with ball in hand is top notch, with that exceptional skill level also translating to dual-sided finishing in front of goal.
While injury threatened to curtail Sonsie’s finish to 2021, he was not granted the opportunity to return given Victoria’s NAB League and representative plans were scrapped. He will hope to participate in the possible Metro combine, should he be fully recovered from his knee injury.
#12 Josh Rachele
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
11/04/2003 | 180cm | 78kg
September Ranking: #12
A mercurial forward who has drawn comparisons to GWS star Toby Greene, Rachele has unbelievable smarts, skills, and a keen eye for goal. Rachele is rightly a standout among his draft class, having taken out the Under 16 Division 1 MVP award for Vic Country in 2019. He quickly went on to represent the Murray Bushrangers, averaging a tick under 18 disposals and two goals in four games as a 16-year-old. The exciting forward hails from an elite soccer background and has quick feet to show for it, as well as the smiling celebrations you’d expect on the end of well-finished goals. Rachele is lauded for his skills and smarts in the forward half, but has shown an aptitude for midfield work with his turn of speed and ability to find the ball at ground level. He’s capable of highlight-reel moments.
Given his tendency for the spectacular, Rachele could have been one to really push his case for top 10 status with a bit more game time, though he may well be in that kind of contention as the leading small forward of this year’s crop. He is also one who should produce some handy combine testing results.
#13 Arlo Draper
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
20/01/2003 | 185cm | 71kg
September Ranking: #13
Draper is a classy midfielder-forward who utilises his agility in tight spaces through the engine room, and brilliant marking ability to impact when stationed inside attacking 50. One of the more intriguing and versatile prospects in the draft pool, Draper has garnered attention with his promising bottom-age form and continued success in all three SANFL grades this year. The smooth-moving midfielder has had no trouble getting his hands on the ball with more consistent time in midfield, before impacting in his resting stints up forward. He is yet another South Adelaide prospect in the mix, with his stylish form and clean hands making him easy on the eye to keen draft watchers. He is one who will feature highly on many draft boards despite being snubbed by the AFL Academy, and has great upside in his current role.
Draper’s season was cut short last week as he finished South Australia’s Under 19 clash against Western Australia with his right arm in a sling. He had been playing across half-back in that game and got to show a bit of his class, but will have an interrupted start to his first AFL preseason having hurt the AC joint in his shoulder. Earlier in the month, he turned out for South Adelaide’s Under 18s and contributed 25 disposals and six clearances in the Panthers’ semi-final loss. Despite the injury and subsequent combine miss, Draper remains a first round candidate.
#14 Jye Amiss
East Perth/Western Australia | Tall Forward
31/07/2003 | 195cm | 85kg
September Ranking: #14
You’ll hear plenty of puns regarding the key forward’s ironic surname but it’s true that Amiss is more hit than, well, miss. The East Perth spearhead dominated the 2021 WAFL Colts season, booting 51 goals in 15 games with a ridiculously good conversion rate of 77 per cent from his scoring shots. He proved undeniable for selection in a West Australian state squad stacked with key position talent, and doesn’t need a wealth of opportunities to make an impact. With sound overhead marking and an improving ground level game, Amiss is an irresistible threat inside attacking 50 who has shot into top 10 calculations.
Like Draper, Amiss suffered a season-ending injury in the second South Australia-Western Australia Under 19s clash and will not participate in combine testing. The tall forward looked sore in goalless displays for his last two WAFL Colts outings, as East Perth was bundled out of the WAFL Colts finals in straight sets. In his final appearance, he came down hard in a marking contest and was revealed to have suffered a posterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee.
#15 Matthew Johnson
Subiaco/Western Australia | Midfielder
16/03/2003 | 193cm | 80kg
August Ranking: #19
With smooth agility and clean hands at the contest, Johnson is one of the premier tall midfielders in this year’s draft crop and has plenty of upside. Hailed as the best tall midfielder in this year’s crop coming into the season, Johnson is one with a point of difference and a good amount of development left. The 193cm Subiaco prospect continues to put on size and can win the ball at the coalface, but stands out most with his smooth movement in traffic and clean skills around the ground. He suits an in-vogue modern day prototype and will inevitably yield comparisons to some of the currently dominant midfielders over 190cm. Johnson is already well versed in terms of representative duties and was part of Subiaco’s WAFL Colts premiership side in 2020. He also earned a senior debut this year and would have done so earlier if not for injury on the eve of season proper.
Johnson proved his value in September, striking a rich vein of form to rise back up the order where he had previously featured. After winning best afield honours for his state against South Australia, Johnson played in Subiaco’s Reserves grand final loss this past weekend and rounded out a solid campaign at the level with 15 disposals and 10 tackles. His last four Reserves games were outstanding, and provided exactly the type of consistency he has been after all season. With 21 touches and five clearances in his last state game, Johnson should again feature in the Black Ducks’ engine room for game three against SA before the combine on October 17.
#16 Josh Sinn
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Defender/Midfielder
7/01/2003 | 186cm | 82kg
September Ranking: #11
A line-breaking half-back who has shown promising development in midfield, Sinn’s greatest strengths are his speed and kick penetration. Another established leader among the Victorian crop as one of Sandringham’s co-captains, Sinn’s best is as damaging as anyone in the overall draft pool. He is regarded as the most damaging and technical kick in the Dragons’ program and is given the license to look for options others simply wouldn’t. His penetrative boot and line-breaking speed make him a meters gained machine, observed most significantly with his well-timed runs off half-back or on the wing. Sinn has also moved onto the inside to good effect, showing a handy balance of traits and utilising the size he added during last year’s lost season. His campaign has been interrupted by injury, but he looked close to regaining top form at times.
Injuries plagued Sinn at different times in 2021 just as he looked set to hit his stride, though he still lays claim to a bunch of desirable traits which will appeal to many clubs in the first round. He started the year embedded in the top 10 and could well fulfil that potential, but sees others pass him on this list with no football to be played in Victoria and just the combines left to play out.
#17 Josh Goater
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Midfielder/Defender
02/06/2003 | 190cm | 79kg
September Ranking: #17
A big-bodied midfielder with explosive athletic traits and clean hands on the inside, Goater is a prospect with great potential and versatility. Goater lays claim to one of the more impressive athletic profiles in the draft pool, particularly in a power sense. His explosive turn of speed and impressive vertical leap are traits which catch the eye at testing events and are transferred on-field, with the Calder Cannons product able to produce exciting passages of play. He has proven his worth in midfield with good ball winning strength and clean hands on the inside, but can also roll out to a wing, pinch-hit up forward, and has proven his class off half-back. He is another who stakes his claim on high upside.
One to watch should Metro prospects get their shot at combine testing, Goater built into exceptional form before the NAB League season was cut short, but has not had the opportunity to expand on it over the last month.
#18 Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 81kg
September Ranking: #15
Roberts is a hard-working and consistent midfielder with senior experience who racks up plenty of the ball, but can also rotate forward. Another member of South Adelaide’s football factory, Roberts’ form over the last few seasons has seen him prove difficult to deny of first round contention. Like Horne, he represented South Australia at back-to-back Under 16 carnivals, playing a key role as he split his time between midfield and the forwardline. The 18-year-old broke through for his League debut in 2021, skipping the Reserves grade after a scintillating start in the Under 18s competition. As one of the hardest and smartest runners in the draft crop, looks towards fellow left-footer Marcus Bontempelli as a model for his own game. His ability to hit the scoreboard matches said archetype, though Roberts also has a hard edge and competitiveness which sets him apart.
Horne-Francis may have stolen the headlines, but Roberts also played a handy role in South Adelaide’s preliminary final dig last month. He booted two goals playing mostly forward, working high up the ground and leaning on his running capacity to break back towards goal. His return from a mid-season ankle injury has been strong, and Roberts even got back to representative action this past weekend against the Allies. His tendency to rush disposals, and a lack of substantial run-and-carry see him drop again, but the South Adelaide talent is a relatively safe midfield pick with terrific work rate and versatility, who has already had a taste of senior football.
#19 Campbell Chesser
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Country | Outside Midfielder/Defender
27/04/2003 | 186cm | 83kg
September Ranking: #16
A speedy and productive mover on the outside, Chesser breaks the lines from half-back or the wing but has also shown a good balance in his ball winning. A third Sandringham Dragons prospect in the top 20, Chesser also lays claim to damaging outside traits – weaponising his run-and-carry and use by foot. While he hails from Lavington, in Murray’s region, the 18-year-old boards at Melbourne Grammar and thus turns out for the Dragons. He is another of his age group who had NAB League experience under his belt prior to 2021, and has stayed true in terms of position to impact off the wing and half-back line. Chesser had only just cracked Sandringham’s stacked midfield in a bid to showcase his balance, having lacked continuity while battling a knee injury earlier in his campaign.
Another Victorian prospect who has dealt with injury and interruptions this season, Chesser would have liked one final go at it on-field but the opportunity has not presented. He is also a very good tester usually, so can impress with his combine results before the draft.
#20 Darcy Wilmot
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Small Defender
31/12/2003 | 182cm | 70kg
September Ranking: #20
Wilmot is a tenacious and brave half-back whose most flashy weapons show on the attack, as he breaks the lines with great speed and ball use. Wilmot has thrust his name into contention with increasingly impressive performances for the Northern Knights in 2021, as well as an impressive senior debut at local football level. The small-medium defender has all the typical class and running prowess you would expect on the rebound, but is also willing to compete above his size in aerial contests. The 17-year-old still has plenty of development left as a December 31 birth, meaning he only just makes the cut to be eligible for this year’s draft. His run-and-gun style is sure to catch many more eyes as the season continues, with Wilmot a prospect truly on the rise.
Wilmot’s final impression in 2021 was a good one, but he is among the raft of Metro talents left in waiting ahead of draft day with no football left to play in Victoria.
#21 Sam Butler
GWV Rebels/Vic Country | Forward/Midfielder
10/02/2003 | 184cm | 73kg
September Ranking: #22
Butler has wonderfully clean hands and searing pace, traits which have translated well from an initial forward role to an eventual midfield venture. Another prospect with ties at the elite level, Butler is the brother of St Kilda forward, Dan. He is an exciting player in his own right though, with sharp skills by hand and a terrific turn of speed which serve him well in a creative sense. Having proved himself in the forward half, Butler went on to impress with his clean ball winning ability in midfield before injury struck. He missed out on representing Vic Country as an Under 19 having done so at Under 16s level, but is a player who catches the eye and would have been a lock for said honours if the opportunity presented once again.
Like his Country-based counterparts, last week’s combine was something to look forward to for Butler. He blitzed the 20m sprint with a time of 2.970 seconds (first overall), with impressive scores in the running vertical jump (87cm) and standing vertical jump (71cm) to come second overall in both. Unfortunately, we have seen the last of Butler on-field for 2021 but he remains a strong chance of top 25 selection.
#22 Tom Brown
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Medium Defender
30/07/2003 | 186cm | 71kg
September Ranking: #24
A dashing half-back with terrific athleticism in the form of speed and a vertical leap, Brown is a bolting talent who you’ll likely miss if you blink. While Geelong gained access to sister, Millie via father-daughter rules, Tom Brown is ineligible to be drafted by the Cats under the father-son category as his father Paul falls just short of the 100-game qualification. Nonetheless, the Murray Bushrangers prospect has plenty of eye-catching traits which will help him blaze his own trail. A Vic Country Under 16 and now Under 19 representative, Brown is capable of playing on each line but looks to have found a home across half-back, where his dashing style and overhead marking shine. An ankle injury kept him out for a large chunk of the season, but he since returned and looked raring to break into first round contention.
Brown’s flashes of form in between injury and interruptions have proven his credentials as a versatile prospect with all the athletic upside recruiters look for. He hasn’t since had the opportunity to build on that though, sidelined along with his fellow Victorians over the last month. He did appear at the recent Country combine though, coming second in the 20m sprint (2.983 seconds) and first in the standing vertical jump (72cm).
#23 Jacob Van Rooyen
Claremont/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Defender
16/04/2003 | 194cm | 88kg
August Ranking: #30
van Rooyen is a tall forward who presents well with strong hands and a booming kick, but has also shown great potential as a swingman and even in midfield. Having been earmarked as potentially Western Australia’s best tall prospect coming into the season, van Rooyen has overcome some adversity en route to recapturing his best form. He was part of Claremont’s WAFL Colts side which went down in last season’s Grand Final, booting 19 goals in 10 games as a bottom-ager. He donned the Black Ducks jersey in 2020’s West Australian All Stars fixtures and was a lock for the AFL Academy intake in 2021. A glandular fever diagnosis halted his progress a touch, but van Rooyen started out the season in the League grade and has shown he is physically a level above the Colts competition.
van Rooyen continued his rise up the order, producing more of the form expected from him after his bottom-age exploits. He was his Western Australia’s hero against South Australia as he snuck forward to kick a match-winning goal in the dying stages, having already impressed in his usual state role down back. That role changed in the WAFL Colts, as van Rooyen kicked 13 goals across four games in September, including two bags of four. His last one came in a losing grand final, where he was locked down by Rhett Bazzo after a three-goal opening term.
#24 Jack Williams
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Tall Forward/Ruck
01/12/2003 | 195cm | 91kg
September Ranking: #21
Williams is a versatile tall prospect who thrives aerially and consistently kicks goals up forward, while also rotating through the ruck or even to defence. One of the bolting key position players in this year’s draft pool, Williams has been in sensational form at WAFL Colts level. The 195cm East Fremantle talent has shown his best form as a forward in 2021, booting 40 goals in 15 WAFL Colts games and showcasing his exceptional aerial ability. While he has been swung into attack this season, Williams can also pinch-hit in the ruck and is accustomed to defensive roles too. His clear versatility and upside saw him selected in this year’s AFL Academy intake, and he showed good signs in the academy’s showcase fixture against Geelong VFL.
While he missed game two of the Under 19 National Championships, Williams rounded out his WAFL Colts season well with eight goals in his last four games. He didn’t find as much of the ball as usual, but popped up at crucial stages in the forward line to help win East Fremantle important games, or get the Sharks back within striking distance. Williams should slot back into the state side for game three, before the WA combine on October 17.
#25 Zac Taylor
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro | Small Midfielder/Forward
31/01/2003 | 180cm | 74kg
September Ranking: #25
A crafty small prospect with outstanding vision, skills and decision making, Taylor has no trouble finding the ball and makes things happen when in possession. A Vic Metro representative at Under 16 level, Taylor proved undeniable for repeat honours in the Under 19 grade this year given his outstanding NAB League form. The 180cm midfielder-forward combines toughness with high level smarts; not afraid to work hard to win his own ball, but most effective when able to accumulate and tear sides apart with his sharp skills. The 18-year-old has a great turn of speed and looks to be creative with each possession, breaking into space with his zip before hitting targets further afield. He is particularly reliable by foot and puts up ultra-consistent numbers each week, making him a deserved entrant to the top 25 up our September update.
While unsighted on the football field along with his fellow Victorians, Taylor was recognised with Calder’s best and fairest award to go with NAB League Team of the Year honours.
#26 Jesse Motlop (FRE NGA)
South Fremantle/Western Australia | Small Forward/Midfielder
23/11/2003 | 176cm | 74kg
August Ranking: #29
A highly skilled small forward with great goal sense, speed and smarts, Motlop comes from good pedigree and can make his presence known in a flash. Another player with ties to the elite level, Motlop is the son of former Port Adelaide and North Melbourne forward Daniel, but is ineligible for father-son selection. He is part of Fremantle’s NGA, though it will be difficult for the Dockers to secure his services via bidding as Metro-based WA prospects can only be matched on with a bid after pick 40. To any club, Motlop offers an exciting mix of speed and skill as a small forward, able to find the goals regularly with clever finishes while also providing forward pressure. An Aquinas College student, he topped the PSA goalkicking charts last year as a bottom-ager and has cracked the WAFL League grade this season, spending more time in midfield against his peers.
Motlop played right through the League finals series with South Fremantle, booting a goal in all four games as his Bulldogs brought their premiership defence all the way to the decider. While his highest disposal tally was three, Motlop added a bit of spark and x-factor when required and will likely return to the State Under 19 fold with WA’s combine also to come on October 17.
#27 Blake Howes
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Wing
07/04/2003 | 190cm | 79kg
September Ranking: #26
One of the best athletes available in this year’s draft, Howes boasts a terrific aerial game but also competes well at ground level and shows promising versatility. While unranked last month, Howes is one who previously featured in our top 25 and is a player who should be well known to keen draft watchers. He was an All Australian at Under 16 level, plying his trade as a high-marking medium forward with wonderful athleticism and clean hands. While he started the year off in that usual forward post, Howes has since shown his versatility with a shift to the wing and is a classic high-ceiling type of prospect. He was included in this year’s initial AFL Academy intake and continues to back up that selection with form fitting of his potential as a mainstay in the Sandringham Dragons’ side.
Howes would have benefitted greatly from even more time on the field, but can look forward to showcasing his athleticism should Victoria’s Metro pool get the opportunity to complete combine testing.
#28 Mitchell Knevitt
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
08/01/2003 | 193cm | 81kg
September Ranking: #27
A big-bodied midfielder with great size and reach, Knevitt dominates at the coalface and impacts around the ground with his strong overhead marking, a feature also sighted up forward. One who was marked by his teammates as one to watch during preseason, Knevitt has taken full advantage of finally getting the opportunity to impress with some outstanding form in 2021. The 193cm midfielder provides range and size which proves difficult to combat at the coalface, as he digs in to win contested ball and stands up in tackles while dishing it out. The Geelong Falcons product is also developing his outside game and is athletically sound, getting to more contests around the ground and making an impact with his contested marking. He fits the modern day midfielder-forward prototype given his built and ability, with the performances to match his potential now coming to the fore.
Knevitt is one of the many rising Victorians who hit their stride before the latest lockdown, but has not since had the opportunity to build on that form. He did participate in the Country combine and produced some more terrific results, coming third in the 2km time trial at 6:18.
#29 Josh Fahey
GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies | Medium Defender
11/11/2003 | 186cm | 76kg
September Ranking: #23
A run-and-gun rebounding defender who gives his all and boasts a raking left-foot kick, Fahey is arguably this year’s leading Northern Academy talent. Our top-ranked Northern Academy prospect in 2021, Fahey is clearly the best prospect out of the Allies crop and a real top 30 contender. He returned to the GWS GIANTS Academy program this year to confirm his eligibility as an academy product, having previously shifted to Queensland and joined forces with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy. The Queanbeyan native has impressed onlookers across both states with his dash out of defence and penetrative kicking, both damaging weapons for a player of his position. He has earned a VFL berth with the GIANTS and was named best afield in April’s AFL Academy showcase against Geelong VFL.
It has been a quiet month for those in the NSW-ACT pool, with no football to speak of for many of them and Fahey proving no different. He remains the leading Northern Academy prospect and has weapons the Giants will enjoy, despite seeing less of him than expected in 2021.
#30 Corey Warner
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Balanced Midfielder
07/10/2003 | 182cm | 74kg
September Ranking: NR
Warner is a hard-running midfielder who can play both inside and out, breaking forward with intent and a penetrating left foot kick. There is another ‘C. Warner’ running around, this time of the Corey variety after brother Chad was drafted to Sydney in 2019. The younger sibling skippered Aquinas College this year and managed four League games for East Fremantle, plying his trade out on the wing. He traded that outside role for one at the centre bounces when playing against his peers, averaging 24 disposals in nine Colts games and matching that average across his three finals appearances. While somewhat dependant on his left side, Warner gets good penetration on the end of bursting runs forward, carrying away from midfield with purpose. He also made a State Under 19s appearance in 2021 and has risen steeply into second round contention.
Warner returned a fantastic finals series with East Fremantle’s Colts, matching his season average of 24 disposals per the three games. He was one who really lifted the Sharks when required, providing energy around the ball and pumping it forward with a bit of vigour. He showed a high work rate and handy balance of traits in those instances, with another state game left to prove his worth ahead of this month’s WA combine.
IN THE MIX: Judson Clarke is the unlucky player to come out of September’s list of 30 as others rise on the back of greater opportunity. West Australian Rhett Bazzo was one who came very close again after his exploits both in the state side and in Swan Districts’ Colts premiership, with this kind of range proving incredibly even. Toby Conway was another who came into consideration, having put his hand up as this year’s leading ruck prospect. St Kilda fans remain buoyed, but slightly nervous at the rise of NGA talents Marcus Windhager and Mitch Owens, both of whom have improved since the start of the year and could be considered around the top 25 mark.
On the back of vast opportunity, there are plenty of West and South Australians also putting their hands up. The likes of Angus Sheldrick, James Tunstill, and Josh Browne have produced terrific form in midfield, while Claremont wingman Arthur Jones earned a late draft combine invite for his exploits on the big stage. Over in South Australia, Port father-son candidate Jase Burgoyne returned strongly from a groin niggle, while Adelaide NGA talent Blayne O’Loughlin earned best afield honours in SA’s narrow loss to WA last month. In the over-age category, Leek Alleer is very much in the second round frame, while Cooper Murley is a talent who should not be forgotten despite his injury troubles.