Leagues: SANFL Reserves, SANFL Under 18s
Image Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL
SNAPSHOT: “Murley is a speedy, attacking-minded midfielder who can win his own ball and use his athletic traits to damaging effect on the outside. He runs all day, uses the ball efficiently and can also fill a role up forward.”
Cooper Murley captured the attention of AFL recruiters last season after producing a stunning bottom-age year in Norwood’s premiership-winning Under 18s side. Primarily used in the midfield, the Tea Tree Gully product shone to finish just one vote behind eventual first round pick Tom Powell in the McCallum-Tomkins Medal count. This season, the AFL Academy member was forced to overcome an ankle injury in April, before playing four Reserves games with the Redlegs, where he averaged 12 disposals and three marks. Upon returning to the Under 18 set-up, he gathered 34 disposals, seven clearances and two goals against South Adelaide to remind onlookers of his high-end talent and class. Murley’s season was unfortunately cut short when he sustained a broken collarbone in the opening minute of the Redlegs' Round 13 clash with the Panthers, effectively ending his season prematurely and denying him of the chance to don the tri-colours at Under 19 level. He was an important member of the talented South Australian Under 16 side in 2019, claiming All Australian honours alongside Jason Horne-Francis.
Clearly Norwood’s best draft hopeful in 2021, Murley boasts an exciting blend of athleticism and natural footballing capabilities. Murley looks best when he is given the licence to line up at stoppages, but also use his speed and clean kicking on the outside of the contest. At stoppages, he is always on the move, hitting the ball at pace and accelerating through congestion. The Norwood junior has proven he knows how to find the football around the ground, too. At Norwood, he racked up a number of possessions in a second-receiver role, where he is able to utilise his natural attacking strengths to damaging effect.
Murley has the speed and acceleration required to compete at the highest level as a smaller prospect, and he compliments his pace with a high work rate. Murley works tirelessly up and down the ground, running into defence to support his teammates before quickly looking to transition on the rebound. His acceleration off the mark is arguably his most eye-catching trait to the naked eye. He is able to both burst through a pack and surge forward, and apply immediate closing pressure when the opposition has the ball. Murley is a smart runner who spreads into favourable areas of the ground, which has allowed him to accumulate plenty of possessions during his time with the Redlegs.
A classy mover, Murley is also a clean user of the football, particularly going inside 50. He frequently lowers his eyes and looks for the best short target, but is also capable of hitting long-range passes on his right boot. While sometimes compromised at full tilt, his kicking technique is generally sound in general play and in front of goal. Perhaps Murley’s most underrated skill is his ability to distribute cleanly by hand. In congestion, Murley’s quick handballing just about always finds its target. His cleanliness at ground level is also a feature. He is a smart footballer who sums up situations well, makes good decisions and has the skills to execute under pressure.
Standing at 178cm and weighing 70kg, Murley is a smaller midfielder who will need to add some weight to his frame at the next level. Whilst he has shown he can win his own ball at Under 18s level, question marks linger over his ability to win contested ball against an AFL-calibre midfield, where many of the players have 20kg on him. If selected, Murley will likely fill a role across half-forward or the wing early on, where his speed and skill will be useful. His smaller stature could restrict his midfield minutes, but Murley’s athleticism and skill could see him fill a range of roles around the ground. After suffering a couple of frustrating injury setbacks this season, Murley will be hoping his body can hold up so he can build on what is a very exciting blend of AFL-relevant traits.
DRAFT PROJECTION: Second-Third round
Cooper Murley’s 2021 campaign didn’t quite go to plan, with ankle and collarbone injuries denying him of the chance to push into first round calculations. It would have been interesting to see Murley compete against the best players in the country at the Under 19 National Championships, given he has spent most of the previous two seasons at SANFL Under 18 level. However, recruiters won’t have forgotten the AFL-quality traits he so frequently displayed throughout 2020. His blend of speed and endurance is enticing, so too his clean ball use by hand and foot. Although his slight frame suggests he is more likely to play an outside-leaning role at the next level, Murley is high-potential player whose attacking flair should see him find a home at AFL level at some stage towards the middle of the National Draft.