PerthPerthKey Defender, Ruck


Jaiden Hunter

height: 194cm

weight: 81kg

D.O.B: 20-04-2002

Image Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Key Defender/Ruck

DRAFT ANALYSIS: "Hunter is a versatile and athletic tall who thrives aerially to impact either as a key defender, or makeshift ruckman." - Michael Alvaro

Perth's Jaiden Hunter rode the wave of a standout WAFL Colts campaign in 2020 to earn plaudits deserving of his efforts and shoot onto the AFL Draft radar. The versatile key position prospect is usually billed as a defender, but was instead forced to fill the Demons' ruck role for most of the season against taller and heavier opponents. Hunter often cut the difference with his athleticism, going on to average 34.5 hitouts and 4.1 marks per his eight outings to stake a claim as one of the competition's standout talls. The 18-year-old's efforts were recognised with selection in the Western Australia Under 18 All-Stars fixtures, where he was able to revert back to his usual defensive post against high-quality opposition. Hunter also earned a call-up to his state's draft combine, which proved an opportunity to further showcase his promising athletic traits. The nod from AFL recruiters only confirmed their interest in Hunter, as he stands a late chance of making the elite grade.


  • Vertical leap
  • Aerial presence
  • Athleticism
  • Versatility
  • Upside


  • Size/strength
  • Endurance

Much of Hunter's best work is done in the air as he propels himself above the opposition with a sizeable vertical leap. It was a key reason why the 194cm talent was able to adjust so seamlessly to rucking this year, undersized as he is. Hunter beat the likes of Kalin Lane (204cm), Shannon Neale (202cm), and Michael Mallard (200cm) head-to-head in terms of hit-outs in 2020, a remarkable effort given the size advantage afforded to each opponent. In fact, he beat every adversary he faced this season as Perth's primary ruck, winning as many as 44 hit-outs against East Fremantle and only hitting a low of 28. His aerial aptitude was proven with a top 10 result in the standing vertical jump at the draft combine, leaping 69cm to finish equal-ninth nationwide.

Hunter's aerial presence extends further than his rucking too, as he was initially moulded as a key defender. He is able to utilise his leap to mark or provide contests around the ground, most often getting a run at the ball from behind to clunk grabs down the line. His mobility proved too much for less agile bigmen to handle this season, as Hunter could better adjust to the flight of the ball and also impact at ground level when required. In terms of his ruck craft, Hunter mixes up his hits quite well by combining some deft directional play with thumping spikes forward. It means he is able to make proper use of his hit-out dominance and keep the opposition midfielders guessing so they could not simply read his taps each time. It was an area he grew in over time and showed terrific presence of mind to do so.

As a defender, Hunter found himself matched up against likely top two pick Logan McDonald in the Under 18 All-Stars showcase. He held his own against the highly-touted prospect without dominating, shutting him down for the most part inside 50 and matching him for athleticism in the marking space. At 194cm, Hunter will have to lean on that athleticism to properly thrive as a key position player in the AFL and has plenty of filling out to do. His 81kg frame is an improvement on preseason and was necessary in order to compete in the ruck, so further building that stature will only help him adjust to the rigours of senior football. Hunter's tank is not too bad for a tall player either, though could be improved given the way he plays and the running capacity that some of the better key forwards possess in the modern game. Given the versatility he has shown thus far, Hunter should have little issue finding many roles which suit him nicely.


Having risen steeply in stocks over a short period of time, Hunter remains a smokey in terms of this year's draft intake. His versatility as a key position player should appeal to recruiters on top of his obvious athletic upside. The character Hunter showed to shoulder Perth's primary ruck duties and excel in an area outside of his natural position also serves as a big tick, and a handy point of difference to other talls available in the same kind of range. Hunter really has done all he could his year to stake his claim and there is proven interest in his talents given the combine invite he received. A club which has the list space and time to develop a key position player could snap him up, though impending cuts to list sizes makes it all the more difficult to commit to.

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