As we reach the mid-way point of the 2011 AFL season, the best under 18s are strutting their stuff trying to catch the eyes of prowling recruiters and player managers alike.
Over a month of games the best talent is split into two divisions culminating in the double day doubleheader at Etihad Stadium early in July.
With Greater Western Sydney and the Gold Coast Suns making the most of the draft concessions, players will be looking to embark on their future as AFL footballers once October rolls around. For now, the young stars of the country will fight for state glory and the chance to take home a national championship win.
Nick Riewoldt, Luke Hodge, Brendan Goddard, Tom Scully and David Swallow, all former number one draft picks, all showed their hand at the National Championships and got the recruiters talking. With players being watched from around the age of 14, pressures to make all representative teams are high, and these players have risen to the occasion.
These are the players to watch from Division 1 of the champioships come draft day 2011:
Jonathan Patton (Vic Metro): A 195cm powerhouse forward, built to the likes of Jonathon Brown, his marking brilliance was on show in his sides demolition of Queensland where the key forward took 11 marks and had 19 disposals, half of which were shots on goal – Patton kicking 6.4 for the day. He has shown at TAC level he is becoming a strong force kicking 22 goals from his seven matches.
Verdict: Should go within the top 10, most likely will end up in the orange, silver and black of Western Sydney. Pick three.
Chad Wingard (South Australia): The Sturt midfielder has taken to league football brilliantly in the SANFL and has proven over his four games for Sturt that he can kick goals as well as win the ball in tough contests.
His form across both championship matches has been solid racking up 20-plus possessions against Queensland and NSW/ACT.
Verdict: The midfielder has yet to really prove himself and become that name on everyone’s lips, with good performances across his remaining matches and a good showing at the combine, this Adelaide boy could be a show around the top ten mark.
Stephen Coniglio (Western Australia): A born talent, the Swan Districts running half-forward is captaining his side in the championships, and has proven this season he is ready for league football. Has played nine senior games on top of his championship commitments averaging 22 disposals in his two games so far, kicking six goals. A star cricketer, Stephen had to make the decision of choosing between his two loves.
Verdict: A prodigious talent, this young man shows extraordinary ability, come the end of these championships he will have gathered the eyes of a few talent scouts and I wouldn’t be surprised if he went towards the top three tier of this year’s draft – heading to GWS at one or three.
Devon Smith (Vic Country): A Geelong Falcons ball winner caught the eye of many scouts against NT, after the missing the first game of his sides championship assault, Smith collected 27 possessions and seven inside 50’s coupled with his six goals, was best on ground. Smith has only managed one TAC Cup game on return from hip surgery, he racked up 33 touches and kicked five goals against the Murray Bushrangers.
Verdict: Fit and firing the Geelong Falcons, may have another champion on their hands, if they can keep him on the park across not only the championships but the rest of the TAC Cup season I can certainly see this kid playing AFL football. His ball winning ability coupled with his knowledge inside 50 is impeccable.
Draft range – five to 10. With three more games to be played by each one of the sides, there is still a mountain of football. The young stars of tomorrow are putting their hand up in order to showcase their talent.
Having bowed out of two consecutive preliminary finals to the eventual premiers, the GWS Giants entered the 2018 season under pressure to take the next step and claim the flag that so many had automatically assumed would be theirs given the talent on the list.