Eight rookies who could light up the AFL in 2014

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    It's time for Tom Boyd 's potential to pay off. (Photo:Michael Willson)

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    At the conclusion of each AFL season the clubs and their fans turn their attention to the annual draft, in which they hope to secure the best available talent from the under-18 competition.

    The analysis and focus on the players heading into the draft has exploded in recent seasons, with absolutely every statistic from their junior seasons and the Player Combine made public for everyone to see.

    There is enormous pressure on clubs to get it right, particularly from a fan’s perspective.

    Upon the conclusion of draft night, all clubs build their supporters’ hopes and dreams for the following season and the future by proclaiming that they got the player(s) they were after. Most will hope that star juniors become one-club star senior players who lead the club to the ultimate glory of premiership success.

    I have nominated a list below of the players that I most look forward to seeing debut and play during this season. They have had stellar junior careers and the challenge for every one of them is to translate their talent and potential to the big time with their respective clubs.

    James Aish (Brisbane Lions)
    Aish was touted as a top 10 pick and was duly selected by the Brisbane Lions, who possibly could not believe that he slipped through to them at pick No.7.

    The hype around the South Australian is understandable when you look at his family background, which is heavily involved with the Norwood Football Club. His father Andrew played as a midfielder, his uncle Michael was the 1981 Magaery Medallist and his grandfather Peter was a Norwood Captain.

    Aish became the youngest player to debut for Norwood at league level in 134 years, and since debuting as a 16 year-old has played in both of Norwood’s grand final wins of 2012 and 2013.

    His disposal efficiency on both sides of the body and ability in traffic is what recruiters are most impressed with. He was selected in both the 2012 and 2013 Under-18 All-Australian Teams.

    I suspect that he will see plenty of game time for the Lions in 2014, who will be keen to see which of their draftees has what it takes to succeed at senior level.

    Jack Martin (Gold Coast Suns)
    Martin was selected by the Suns as the first pick in the 2012 mini-draft and he played in the NEAFL during 2013 as he was too young to play in the AFL.

    Much has been said about Martin leading into this season, with some commentators believing that he is better than fellow Western Australian prodigy and 2013 NAB Rising Star winner Jaeger O’Meara.

    Martin moved from Broome at the age of 12 to Geraldton to play football in the Great Northern League where he debuted for the Towns Football Club aged 15.

    Martin dominated in the NEAFL during 2013 and the Suns cannot wait for him to play senior football.

    While Suns coach Guy McKenna has said all the right things in the press about earning your spot, you can bet that Martin will be lining up in Round 1 against the Tigers.

    Kade Kolodjashnij (Gold Coast Suns)
    The Suns took Kolodjashnij with their first pick in the draft after a solid season at under 18 level.

    In 2013 he co-captained Tasmania to the Division 2 Title, was awarded All-Australian selection and also awarded the Harrison Medal (jointly with Toby Nankervis and Liam Dawson) as the best player in Division 2 of the competition.

    He comes as an elite distance runner with a fantastic vertical leap playing off the half-back flank or through the midfield.

    The Suns have a seriously talented group of midfield type players and I expect that Kolodjashnij will see plenty of game time this season running off the half-back flank, with intermittent periods running through the midfield.

    Josh Kelly (GWS Giants)
    Kelly comes from a football background with his father Phil playing 61 games for North Melbourne and also winning two Sandover Medals while playing for East Perth in the WAFL.

    Kelly comes to the Giants via their second pick in the draft and impressed last year for both Vic Metro and Sandringham Dragons. He won the three kilometre time trial in a time of 9:32 – the second quickest ever recorded at the Combine.

    In a very youthful team such as the Giants, the opportunity will arise for Kelly to debut and spend significant time playing at senior level should his form be consistent.

    Dom Sheed (West Coast Eagles)
    Eyebrows were raised when the Eagles were attempting to get Elliot Yeo back to Western Australia from Brisbane, which ultimately resulted in West Coast trading their No.6 pick for No.11.

    With the eleventh pick they selected the player that they wanted in Sheed, who starred at the Under-18 Carnival during 2013 and won the Larke Medal as best player in Division 1.

    West Coast have been accused of being very conservative in the draft and trade periods in years gone by, sticking with West Australians where they can.

    In Sheed they have picked up a tough and strong inside midfielder, and all the noises from the West indicate that he will debut in Round 1.

    Patrick Cripps (Carlton Blues)
    Selected by Carlton with their first pick, Cripps comes to the AFL with a reputation as an inside ball-winning midfielder. He had a solid NAB Under-18s Championship and was selected in the All-Australian team as a result of his efforts.

    Cripps amazingly went from being the smallest player in his team at Under-15 level to one of the bigger bodies, growing 20 centimetres in two years to stand at 192cm for the WA Under-18 side.

    He will be looking to break into the Carlton midfield led by Mark Murphy and may have an opportunity early in the season now that Judd is out for at least the first two rounds after undergoing surgery on his Achilles.

    Tom Boyd (GWS Giants)
    The No.1 pick for 2013, Boyd is an imposing figure at 200cm and 100kg and will be looking to form a formidable partnership with Jeremy Cameron and Jon Patton in the GWS forward line.

    As the youngest player in Vic Metro’s Under-18 Championship winning team in 2012 and also the TAC Cup leading goalkicker, Boyd was inducted into the AIS-AFL Academy and carried the tag of No.1 draft pick throughout season 2013.

    His greatest strength is his height and power and he will be an absolute headache for defenders this season. He has strong marking ability – be it one-on-one or in a pack – and is an accurate kick for goal, which will help him navigate his first season in the top flight.

    There will be plenty of opportunity for Boyd this season as GWS desperately need to find help for Cameron, who carried the forward line on his own in 2013.

    Jesse Hogan (Melbourne Demons)
    Another recruit from the mini-draft of 2012, the Demons snagged the key position forward and he played for their VFL Affiliate, the Casey Scorpions, throughout 2013.

    He finished fifth in the VFL goal-kicking with 39 for the year and won the Casey Best and Fairest as reward for his efforts and fantastic play.

    The Demons faithful would love to see Hogan play in a forward line with Clark and Dawes, rather than being thrown to the wolves as their other draft picks have experienced during one of the darkest periods in Demons history.

    He offers hope for the future for Demons supporters along with other youngsters Tyson, Salem, Viney, Toumpas, Trengrove and Michie.

    The above is an exciting list full of potential who now are now firmly ensconced at the various clubs around the country doing their first grueling AFL pre-season (some are doing their second).

    They have it all ahead of them and can be assured that they will have every resource available to them to become the best footballers that they can be. They will also have the opportunity to grace the premier sporting arenas across the country as their careers unfold.

    There are many I have not included in this list who are in the same boat as those above, but these are the kids I am most looking forward to seeing at some stage during 2014.

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • Roar Guru

      February 13th 2014 @ 6:00am
      Tim Holt said | February 13th 2014 @ 6:00am | ! Report

      The start of every season is always exciting for the next generation of players. The one on your list I most want to see is Martin, he has huge wraps on him. As for others, I am a Hawks fans, so cannot wait to see Dayle Garlett and Tim O’Brien, From other Clubs, I am intrigued by Marcus Bontempelli from the Scrays, Dom Tyson, and how he goes at the Dees, and equally Adamms at the Pies

      • Roar Guru

        February 13th 2014 @ 11:02am
        SportsFanGC said | February 13th 2014 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        Bontempelli is an interesting one. Many thought that the top end of the draft this year was super talented from picks 1 to about 15/20 and dropped away a bit after that. So going on that Bontempelli was considered top 20 but I don’t recall if he was considered top 10 and the Doggies have taken him with their first pick 4. He seems like a project player, but it remains to be seen whether the Dogs punt will pay off in the long run with the other talent that was selected after him.

        Garlett is a good one to keep an eye on when he does debut. He had the pain/embarrassment of being touted top 10 in 2012 and everyone overlooked him. He has said that he went away, left behind friends he realised were not going to help him reach his potential and worked incredibly hard on his game to have a solid season last year in the WAFL.

      • February 14th 2014 @ 1:47pm
        alicesprings said | February 14th 2014 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

        Dayle Garlett and Jack Martin are going to turn heads this year! Both have been tearing it up in the WAFL and NEAFL respectively.

        Im beating that they will have years that will have them compared to Judds first yr for West Coast. Big call i know but these guys are going to be unbelievable, esp Martin.

    • Roar Guru

      February 13th 2014 @ 7:44am
      TomC said | February 13th 2014 @ 7:44am | ! Report

      Good list.

      Also interested in Luke Macdonald, at the Roos. Lots of excitement at North about him.

      • Roar Guru

        February 13th 2014 @ 11:02am
        SportsFanGC said | February 13th 2014 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        Luke McDonald should do well I think. He played the whole season last year at VFL with the pressure to prove that he was worth the Kanga’s first pick. They have made the call so I think he will play again this season under similar pressure to prove they made the right call. He has shown he can handle the pressure so should be good to watch him go around.

    • February 13th 2014 @ 9:24am
      Olivia said | February 13th 2014 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      It’s my real fear with my Swans that, in their overwhelming desire (should that be brain snap?) to capture Franklin, all other thoughts of drafting new blood(s) went out the window. No disrespect to Zak Jones but he is of a body type we could almost field a team of. The standout Swans pick for me is Toby Nankervis but the challenge will be to keep him in later years. Aliir Aliir could literally be anything and is one of those incredibly exciting “what if’s” that so often become “if only’s”, and even the recruiters admit the others drafted are long term prospects who will see no game time in 2014.

      Let’s look at an alternative scenario; we left Franklin to GWS and invested heavily in a Tippett/Reid/Parker/Jetta forward set up. White and Armstrong to the Pies for a good teens pick, Mumford and Lamb package to GWS, MELBOURNE, Brisbane or the Saints for a top 10 pick, something small for Everitt and our own picks. Use free agency and his brother to have snared Heath Shaw and all of a sudden we would have had an exciting forward line, a killer midfield, a new attacking defender with two other senior stalwarts returning from injury destroyed seasons 2013, and some of the better top 20 talent as the cream of our usual very canny recruiting. 2014 should have been the most exciting year for Swans fans in a long time. Now, we are out here wondering when the “if only,s” will start.

      Go Bloods. I pray you prove me totally wrong.

      • Roar Guru

        February 13th 2014 @ 11:07am
        SportsFanGC said | February 13th 2014 @ 11:07am | ! Report

        Olivia, while the Swans have lost some depth with Mumford, Lamb, White, Everitt and Armstrong leaving, I think the Swans still have some good backup should a big name go down with injury.

        Richards (Xavier), Mitchell, Rampe, Rohan, Jack (Brandon) all played last year and played pretty well.

        Goodes, Reid, Jetta, Johnson all injured to varying degrees and missed part (most) of the season.

        Add to that you will have Tippett on board from round 1 along with Buddy and a seriously talented group of midfielders who just keep getting better year after year along with a solid defence I cant see how the Swans can miss the top 4.

    • February 13th 2014 @ 10:21am
      Macca said | February 13th 2014 @ 10:21am | ! Report

      I think the likes of Graham, Cripps & even Dylan Buckley for the blues will put enormous pressure on the likes of Robinson & Carrazzo – especially as Bell appears to be set to have a big impact in the blues midfield this year – and that pressure can only be a good thing.

      • Roar Guru

        February 13th 2014 @ 11:08am
        SportsFanGC said | February 13th 2014 @ 11:08am | ! Report

        Macca – that pressure can only be a good thing from a Carlton point of view. They struggled last year when injuries hit and they have certainly traded/drafted for midfielders at the end of last year.

        • February 13th 2014 @ 11:14am
          Macca said | February 13th 2014 @ 11:14am | ! Report

          Midfield depth is key these days and the blues definitely have added a lot in that area over the summer – Bell has apparently been a stand out over the preseason and in both intra club games and Gibbs’ late season form in 2013 both of which point to a much improved midfield over and above the recruitment of Thomas and Cripps.

          With Judds injury the likes of Cripps, Graham & Buckley get a chance to grab a spot – hopefully one of them will take it.

          • Roar Guru

            February 13th 2014 @ 11:50am
            SportsFanGC said | February 13th 2014 @ 11:50am | ! Report

            I think the Blues have done pretty well during the trade period. Thomas will be back this year and there is no way that Carlton would be paying 700K a season if the ankle was not going to be ok for the future.

            Everitt adds depth, Cripps was a great get out of the draft particularly at pick 15, and Docherty could yet be a player with more opportunity than he had at the Lions.

            The important thing for the Blues is injury free (and suspension free in the case of Waite) seasons to key positon players. Jamieson back to full fitness along with the ruck stocks injury free should see the Blues in the 8. Obviously a lot needs to go right.

            • February 13th 2014 @ 11:58am
              Macca said | February 13th 2014 @ 11:58am | ! Report

              A lot does need to go right but if Watson can hold down CHB, as he appeared to be able to late last year, and a fit Waite can be the “third tall” with Henderson and Kreuzer/Casboult playing as the back up ruckman/forward and Menzel emerging then they have plenty of forward options.

    • February 13th 2014 @ 12:27pm
      PaulD said | February 13th 2014 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

      Can’t wait for the season to start so we can start seeing if some of the myriad of predictions are correct or not.

      Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great article, but there’s been so many “here’s the top draft picks for each club let’s see how they go” articles over the off season, that Jack martin is fast becoming one of the best known names in football and hasn’t even played a game yet.

      One hopes that they find a new file photo for him as well. Every article I’ve seen about him on AFL has that same damn pic of him shaping to kick.

      • Roar Guru

        February 13th 2014 @ 1:41pm
        SportsFanGC said | February 13th 2014 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

        Agreed PaulD – I enjoyed the Cats/Pies game last night, plenty of youngsters on show that played pretty well Schroder for Geelong and Adams for Collingwood being two off the top of my head.

        Freeman (Pies) and Burbury (Cats) also played pretty well until injury struck.

    • Roar Guru

      February 13th 2014 @ 4:30pm
      Steve J said | February 13th 2014 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

      In all 6’s favour is that they are playing for teams that finished out of the 8 (Blues were 9th until the Bombers got kicked out) and should have a lot of opportunity for game time. Cripps may benefit from Judds achilles injury as far as game time goes.

      As far as the top 4 teams go the news kids picked up this year probably won’t be getting much game time. There has been talk about Nankervis (Swans) and Garlett (Hawks), but both face stiff competition for a place in their sides.

      • February 13th 2014 @ 4:40pm
        Macca said | February 13th 2014 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

        SteveJ I think you are genereally correct but Cripps does have significant competition for a spot, Nick Graham was very impressive last year and will be looking to take the spot Judd has created and Thomas has also taken another midfield slot from last years team. For mine Bell is a certainty to be a midfield regular this year and Gibbs just has to be given a more expansive midfield role after his late season form.
        So that would be Murphy, Gibbs, Thomas, Bell, McLean, Curnow and Carrazzo plus Cachia, Ellard, Graham, Robinson, Lucas, Armifield and Buckley competing for spots in the midfield come round 1 without including the likes of Simpson & Scotland who could push back into the midfield with the arrival of Docherty.

        • February 13th 2014 @ 9:35pm
          Darren said | February 13th 2014 @ 9:35pm | ! Report

          And macca we will need that many to compete with Sydney’s 12 man midfield.

          • February 14th 2014 @ 9:18am
            Macca said | February 14th 2014 @ 9:18am | ! Report

            True Darren, these days you do need at least 10 but if you included Judd in the first bracket we have 8 high quality mid’s plus Simpson makes 9 then just need 3 of Scotland, Graham, Cripps, Robinson, Armfield, Cachia, Lucas, Ellard & Buckley to get to 12 – assuming the likes of Tuohy, Walker, Menzel & Garlett are excluded from the expanded mid field group. I think that would stack up OK.

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