Your club’s next breakout player, part one

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    For the past two years I have compiled a list of players who I believed were poised to break out into the type of players your chosen team could count on to perform every week.

    The basis of the analysis was that each player had less than 30 games of AFL experience. My last two editions have provided some booms and busts, so let’s do it all over again. This is part one. Parts two and three will follow over the next week.

    Adelaide Crows: Wayne Milera
    Last year I also nominated Milera. I feel as though I may have missed how dominant Adelaide would be during the home-and-away season, which therefore saw role players like Milera doing exactly that – playing a minor but pivotal role.

    Season 2018, especially with Adelaide’s loss of dash in Charlie Cameron, looms as a big one for Milera. He was highly touted when Adelaide used their first pick on him, and it appears that expectations will be higher than ever three preseasons into his career.

    His ability to hit the outside of the contest at top speed and burst away is something that Adelaide will utilise a lot this year, and I expect him to improve in all facets of his game.

    Brisbane Lions: Alex Witherden
    Its hard to go past Witherden here, the boy from Geelong who started his career in Round 14 this year and quickly became one of the hottest rookies in the game. Playing across half-back, he showed a brilliant mix of aggression and poise and entrusted his right boot to hit targets in dangerous areas of the ground. In just his second AFL game he racked up 29 touches, and two games later he was awarded a rising star nomination.

    He finds himself under the tutelage of one of the games most respected defensive midfielders of all time in Luke Hodge, so I’m expecting his natural progression to carry him further into AFL relevance this campaign.

    (Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

    Carlton Blues: Charlie Curnow
    Carlton once had an AFL cult hero and extraordinary talent in Anthony Koutoufides, and those of us who have kept a close eye on young Charlie Curnow know that he’s not too dissimilar to the great man.

    A powerfully built young star who has natural explosive power and general running ability and capacity, he’s a pinch hitter who can run the midfield and then proceed to go one out deep in the forward line like our games champions Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield and Nat Fyfe.

    Given Carlton will likely miss out on the finals again this year, this 27-game player is the sort fans need as a bright light in dark times.

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Fremantle Dockers: Sean Darcy
    Darcy was another player who at the end of last year benefited from the injuries of those above him, and while he is the understudy of one of this decade’s most dominant big men in Aaron Sandilands, he is now 35 and feeling the pinch.

    While he may not feature in every game, he has raw potential to become a dominant tap winner. His frame is massive, and at 19 he was bullying some of the game’s most seasoned campaigners. The 2018 season may not be a big one, but Fremantle fans could see their big man for next ten to 12 years begin to flourish.

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    Essendon Bombers: Andrew McGrath
    The Bombers’ lack of depth of players below 30 games is somewhat surprising, which is why I’ve settled with last year’s rising star winner Andrew McGrath. McGrath proved his class by being drafted number one and then justifying his pick. His ability to switch between defence and midfield is first class and his willingness to compete and win the ball is admirable.

    He had games last year where he accumulated more football, but his job on Eddie Betts late in the year was a performance that even the best lockdown defenders would be incapable of. The ability to nullify Eddie’s impact went a long way to keeping the Bombers within touching distance a red-hot Adelaide outfit. He meets Eddie again on the second night of the season, so we can measure up his performance and look forward to his 2018 season.

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Collingwood Magpies: Matthew Scharenberg
    The Pies have been crying out for a dominant key position player for years, and while Scharenberg has certainly made them wait, at least he has provided a sliver of hope.

    During his junior years in South Australia many of the state’s most informed voices penned Scharenberg as perhaps one of the most precocious talents the state had ever produced. Mark Williams was quoted as saying that he was the best schoolboy talent he had seen since Wayne Carey, so it was easy to understand why Pies fans were thrilled when Scharenberg landed in their lap at pick six in the 2013 draft.

    Years of foot and knee issues have restricted Scharenberg to only 14 games, but when he strung ten together at the end of last year it was clear that the talent is still there. He averaged 20 touches and eight marks at centre half back, providing just a glimmer of what could be possible for him in season 2018.

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    The Crowd Says (56)

    • January 4th 2018 @ 9:19am
      Mick_Lions said | January 4th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      As good as Witherden may be next year, Hugh McCluggage has bulked up and impressed over the Lions pre season.
      And if Hipwood starts clunking marks, everyone on your list will be second best!

    • January 4th 2018 @ 9:19am
      Birdman said | January 4th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      hmm. only Milera and Witherden are really the only ones here due to ‘break out’ IMO.

      Maybe it should be more about reaching their potential.

    • January 4th 2018 @ 10:14am
      Macca said | January 4th 2018 @ 10:14am | ! Report

      I think C Curnow will have a break out year with the blues, but I seriously doubt he will be the only one.

      Cuningham is one (there are plenty of others) that won’t have come up in he radar of too many non Carlton people but if he can get a good run with injury I think he will emerge as a genuine AFL player

      • January 4th 2018 @ 10:36am
        The Original Buzz said | January 4th 2018 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        Exciting times ahead for the Blues Macca. I think there might be a few coming up through the ranks that are not on the radar yet. SPS is another one that stands out to me. Pickett and Fisher are another two possibilities along with the untried Dow and O’Brien to be given the opportunity to earn rising star awards.

        I thought Scharenberg was going to end up at the Blues and kind of happy that he didn’t due to the injuries. He will be a star if he can have an injury free season. The Lions also have a few that could surprise this year.

        Got to agree with Wayne Milera on the list. I will be surprised if he doesn’t step up and reach his full potential with Eddie as a mentor. I am already a fan of his.

        • Roar Guru

          January 4th 2018 @ 11:05am
          Col from Brissie said | January 4th 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

          Gee Buzz, you are inviting some interesting feedback by saying that there are exciting times ahead for the Blues. Curnow will explode into the top ranks next season but as you said it will be the improvement in players like Weitering, SPS, Fisher, Pickett, Cunningham, Williamson, Silvagni and Marchbank that is getting me excited.

          Another player who if he can get through a season injury free will make opposition supporters acknowledge him as a star as Carlton fans do now will be Cripps. I am also looking forward to see what impact Kennedy and Lang can have in our midfield as well as what impact will Garlett, Mullett and O’Shea have.

          Having seen big Harry up close, if he can get a decent run of games he certainly now has the size to worry the opposition.

          Yes Buzz, exciting times ahead for us Bluebaggers.

          • January 4th 2018 @ 12:01pm
            Macca said | January 4th 2018 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

            Col, I keep hearing that Fisher now has a much better build for AFL, what did you think when you saw him?

            • Roar Guru

              January 4th 2018 @ 3:09pm
              Col from Brissie said | January 4th 2018 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

              He certainly looked a bit bigger than when he first started. I think he is a similar type as Kade Simpson who is stronger than he looks.

          • January 5th 2018 @ 2:41am
            Brendon the 1st said | January 5th 2018 @ 2:41am | ! Report

            Good luck with O’Shea… Worst kick in the afl, he gets ball, burns ball.

            As a Port fan that wants Carlton to do OK, you don’t want him running the ball out of the back line.

            • January 5th 2018 @ 9:21am
              Macca said | January 5th 2018 @ 9:21am | ! Report

              There would be a few in front of O’Shea for a game at the blues but if he continues his VFL form Fromm last year he will create good depth and competition which is great for a team.

              If he can’t hit a target he won’t play under Bolton.

            • January 5th 2018 @ 9:37am
              The Original Buzz said | January 5th 2018 @ 9:37am | ! Report

              I think we finally have the depth where every player will be fighting for a spot and O’Shea will need to improve from his time at Port to get a spot in the 22. I don’t know how he is currently playing so can’t really comment on him.

              Like you Col, I am interested in seeing how the ‘recycled’ players fare on the field. I think most should have an impact and hope they do cover the loss of Gibbs.

              • January 6th 2018 @ 3:23pm
                Steve009 said | January 6th 2018 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

                Not sure which of the recycled players will make our best 22, but you are right about the improvement in depth on the list. Credit it to SOS.

                The competition for a spot in Carlton’s best 22 this pre season will be hot.

          • January 6th 2018 @ 9:08am
            Steve009 said | January 6th 2018 @ 9:08am | ! Report

            Slightly unrealistic expectations being put on Curnow by Carlton fans and the media. I am assuming like most that he will continue improving next year, but the jump to one of the competitions elite in his third afl season is a real stretch.
            He was a goal short of averaging 1 goal a game last season, I’d like to see him double that next season, significant improvement, but 44 goals for a key forward is hardly elite.
            Curnow certainly has the potential to become one of the elite players in the comp, but he still has a long way to go before (and if) he gets there.
            Would love to be wrong on this one however.

            • January 6th 2018 @ 9:16am
              Slane said | January 6th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

              Surely Carlton fans are salivating at the prospect of Curnow playing in the midfield.

              • Roar Guru

                January 6th 2018 @ 11:17am
                Col from Brissie said | January 6th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

                I am Slane. He has the height and strength to play as a key forward and the tank and speed to play in the midfield.

                Steve009, I don’t think the expectations of Carlton fans are unrealistic. Curnow showed last season what he is capable of and with another preseason in him he is certainly capable of moving into the top tier of AFL players.

                I don’t see him playing as a permanent forward as he will no doubt spend time in the midfield, particularly with the hopeful emergence of McKay as a key forward along with Casboult.

              • January 6th 2018 @ 1:01pm
                Macca said | January 6th 2018 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

                Slane – I have said all along that Curnow and Cripps will pair well, Curnow will play mainly as a forward and pinch hit through the middle while Cripps will play mainly as a mid fielder and pinch hit up forward. As Cripps himself said playing Kennedy, Cripps and Curnow in the mis field at the same won’t happen as they would be too slow.

              • January 6th 2018 @ 1:23pm
                Steve009 said | January 6th 2018 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

                I’m not sure what the obsession is with Curnow becoming a midfielder. He played his junior football as a key forward, he played his best football as a key forward last year and from what I’ve watched over the last few years Carlton could probably benefit with a reliable marking goal kicker.

                I’m sure he will spend time in the middle, but with his tank, athleticism and marking ability I hope that is predominantly as a Nick Riewoldt style, roaming CHF.

                I hope Carlton have learnt from pushing Weitering into the role of forward before he had established himself as a backman. The position he played when we drafted him and where he has played his best football in the AFL.

              • January 6th 2018 @ 2:43pm
                Macca said | January 6th 2018 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

                Steve – the Riewoldt comparison is a good one IMO, I think he will be very similar but with a bit more flair

              • January 6th 2018 @ 2:57pm
                Steve009 said | January 6th 2018 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

                And like Riewoldt could spend time playing on a wing as a marking target.

                Early on in career I know, but I’m not yet sold on Curnow’s ability at ground level or the quickness of his disposal by hand (or boot) for him to become a genuine inside midfielder. Maybe a few bullocking runs in the middle at times like Roughhead does for the Hawks.

            • January 6th 2018 @ 11:55am
              The Original Buzz said | January 6th 2018 @ 11:55am | ! Report

              Probably not so much as expectations, although the expectation is there. It is the excitement and hope that is brought on by the signs that the club is finally heading in the right direction after wallowing at the bottom for the last 15 or so years. We finally have a plan that is long term and the people in place to execute that plan.

            • January 6th 2018 @ 1:09pm
              Macca said | January 6th 2018 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

              Steve – I don’t think anyone is thinking he will be “elite” his year but I think he could go from kicking 20 to more than 30 goals.

              Also if you look at his stats he didn’t kick a goal in his first 4 games and had just 2 shots on goal and before round 12 (inclusive) he had 5 games where he didn’t get 10 possessions compared with none after with just 3 below 15.

              Just performing like he did in the back half of th year for a full season would see a massively statistical improvement before we even get to any improvement from another pre-season and hopefully getting more help from the likes of McKay, Silvagni and Pickett up forward.

              • January 6th 2018 @ 1:47pm
                Steve009 said | January 6th 2018 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

                His back half of the season was great to watch and why I think he is well capable of becoming a 2 goal a game player next year if he predominantly plays as a centre half forward.

                And it wasn’t just the goals or stats in the second half of the season that impressed with Curnow, it was his attitude and the way he started to attack the ball in the air. He looked like a player who realised that he wasn’t just capable of playing afl football, he could be dominant at it.

              • January 6th 2018 @ 2:41pm
                Macca said | January 6th 2018 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

                Exactly Steve, that realisation is very important and is the big reason I think he will improve again in 2018, to have a full pre-season with that attitude could be enormous

              • January 6th 2018 @ 3:09pm
                Steve009 said | January 6th 2018 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

                It’s the steady improvement of not just Curnow, but that whole young group of Weitering, SPS, Fisher, Plowman, Cunningham, Williamson, Silvagni and Marchbank, and Kennedy (possibly even Lang) that has me excited not just 2018, but beyond.

                I actually think Kennedy is primed for taking that big step up as a player next year. He looks to want that responsibility.

                And then there is the next group I’m excited about, Harry McKay, Pickett, Ciarin Byrne, paddy Dow and Lochie Obrian, hopefully establishing themselves as AFL players in 2018.

              • January 6th 2018 @ 3:33pm
                Steve009 said | January 6th 2018 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

                Silvagni is another who I think could take that jump from being a 20 goal player to 30, all the while still competing for a spot in the 22. Smart player, like his effort level, can find space and the goals, but I think he will have to take another step as player next year to keep his spot as a permanent player in the side. I really hope he does, I like him as a player and not just because of his blood lines

              • January 7th 2018 @ 12:59am
                Macca said | January 7th 2018 @ 12:59am | ! Report

                Steve, Col, Buzz – I forgot to share my Christmas present from my in laws KK with you – a number 31 jumper signed with Christmas wishes form Tom Williamson. should be worth a pretty penny once he fills Dochèrtys AA spot this year! 😉

              • January 7th 2018 @ 11:59am
                The Original Buzz said | January 7th 2018 @ 11:59am | ! Report


              • January 8th 2018 @ 6:38pm
                Steve009 said | January 8th 2018 @ 6:38pm | ! Report

                Nice gift. Pool room or worn with pride.

                Goes under the radar a bit Williamson, probably due to the amount of young high draft picks we have had come to the club recently, but last year he was more than just a young player they were getting games into. Very reliable, efficient and a solid contributor in his first season.
                I hope that jumper of yours has a high asking price in ten years Macca

              • Roar Guru

                January 7th 2018 @ 11:06am
                Col from Brissie said | January 7th 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

                Lucky you Macca.

              • January 8th 2018 @ 7:19pm
                Macca said | January 8th 2018 @ 7:19pm | ! Report

                Steve – if Williamson goes as well as I think it will definitely be pool room, it will only ever be worn I find he bombs completely which seems unlikely

    • Roar Guru

      January 4th 2018 @ 10:40am
      TomC said | January 4th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

      Good read, Hamish.

      I think some of these might be more the steady improvers than break out players. McGrath, Witherden and Darcy could all merely maintain their current levels of output and still have respectable years. Arguably that’s also true for Scharenberg but getting through a season injury free would just about qualify as breaking out.

      Curnow however looks like he could be anything. Very exciting prospect and it appears to be a matter and when rather than if he capitalises on his potential and has a really huge season.

    • January 4th 2018 @ 1:21pm
      Chris said | January 4th 2018 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

      The Collingwood faithful would like to see Scharenberg develop into a key position player who could hold down that position for many years to come. There are six players there that are pure X-factors that could go to the next level of AFL prominence. Brayden Maynard, Jordan De Goey, Adam Treloar, James Aish, Jack Crisp and Tom Phillips. If these guys go in the right direction, Finals are guaranteed at Vic Park. Moreover, a few teams may get hidings in the true Collingwood tradition. There is enormous scope for improvement in all these fellows who have shown glimpses but not had the consistency you would expect from A graders. They all have A grade talent, so it is up to the coaching staff and fitness team to get them right and play them in position. I believe that this year will be nothing short of sensational because of the youth, depth and consistency that will be on display.

      • Roar Guru

        January 4th 2018 @ 2:05pm
        TomC said | January 4th 2018 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

        Maynard looks promising, but I think the other five players you’ve mentioned are already approaching their ceilings. De Goey, Phillips and Crisp all look like honest workers to me, rather than future stars. Treloar is already very good, but probably doesn’t have the consistent disposal to become one of the game’s top players. Aish looks likely to continue to be a fringe player at most.

        On the other hand, Darcy Moore very much looks like he has the weapons to become a very good player.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 4th 2018 @ 6:13pm
        Hamish Hutton said | January 4th 2018 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

        I tend to agree with Tom, i feel as though Maynard has plenty of room to improve but Crisp and Phillips will merely fill the fringes of the first 22, Treloar is a gun even though he cant hit a target, so once he sorts that there’s no doubting his potential superstar status. Aish was a fantastic junior talent and i feel like hes got this year and if he’s unsuccessful it’ll be time to go home to South Australia. Collingwood will improve this year, see them between 6-11.

        • January 5th 2018 @ 4:53am
          Tricky said | January 5th 2018 @ 4:53am | ! Report

          I’ll disagree on De Goey and Treloar, still think there’s more than minimal improvement in both of them. They’re 22 (in March) and 24 respectively – and while Treloar is more consistent he has more games under his belt. Consistency will come for De Goey.

          On a poor disposals front I’d argue the club is addressing the whole playing group in this area and you’ll probably see an improvement for the bulk of the list.

          • January 5th 2018 @ 4:54am
            Tricky said | January 5th 2018 @ 4:54am | ! Report

            In Fact I’d argue it’s De Goey and to a lesser extent Maynard that are going to have break out years rather than Sharenberg

            • January 6th 2018 @ 6:18am
              Chris said | January 6th 2018 @ 6:18am | ! Report

              Brayden Maynard, Jordan De Goey, Adam Treloar, James Aish, Jack Crisp and Tom Phillips are the ones the Club will look to as either future leaders or fringe players. They all have room for improvement. The first three should aim to become AFL stars and form the basis upon which to build the team while the second three ought to step up into the second tier six. As for Darcy Moore, I think the jury is still out on him because the recent interference of Dad was not to my liking. His dad ditched T-shirt Tommy and had too much of a say on how the team functioned in the early eighties. I just hope the son forsakes the politics that most big men play at Collingwood and simply buckles down to playing football. Notable front benchers: Neil Mann, Murray Weideman, Len Thompson, Peter Moore and even Darren Jolly.

    • January 4th 2018 @ 3:56pm
      johno said | January 4th 2018 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

      Interesting to pick Darcy. I think he’ll have a good year but will still be on that long development curve upwards for big men.

      I like the looks of Cox, Blakely and possibly Logue.

      Cox has all the attributes to become a James Hird like forward, agility, good hands and a tank to match. What he needs is that set shot.

      Blakely had a great 2017 before injury and with a switch to more time in the midfield thanks to the recruitment of Wilson and departure of Weller I think Blakely will take over from Mundy as a starting centre.

      Logue needed some time to warm up the the seniors, but he has pace, height and aggression. I reckon with a little confidence he can start to impose himself on the field.

      • Roar Guru

        January 4th 2018 @ 5:59pm
        Dalgety Carrington said | January 4th 2018 @ 5:59pm | ! Report

        Darcy’s rate of development has been quite remarkable though. For a bloke of his bulk and size to come on the way he did, shows him to be the brilliant learner all his pre-draft coaches said he was. With more of a tank and further core strength conditioning, he’s a pretty solid pick to go up another few levels in 2018.

        Blakely is also a good pick as one to watch next year. He’s had a few years in the system, played some absolutely outstanding games last year, he frequently took control in clutch moments and was in great nick right before the shoulder injury put him out of commission. He should have a great run at the preseason and hopefully be in top notch condition as the season rolls around. Agree that he’s likely to get a lot more time in the middle next year.

        Cox and Logue will be interesting to watch in their second years. Sometimes that can mean a little drop off in form, but we shall see.

        Another player who is likely to buck the second year trend, being a more mature draftee, is Luke Ryan. Ryan and Wilson could be one of those great pairings that help Freo get some real sting coming out of the backline.

        • Roar Rookie

          January 4th 2018 @ 6:08pm
          Hamish Hutton said | January 4th 2018 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

          Ill be honest i did miss Blakely, he had a fantastic year last year and im sure his form will continue as he has all the attributes to continue winning plenty of ball, Freo have no shortage of young talent and all their supporters can hope for is that they all are hitting their straps as their A-Graders like Fyfe and Neale enter their prime. A first premiership is coming within the next 10 years in my opinion.

          • Roar Guru

            January 4th 2018 @ 6:43pm
            Dalgety Carrington said | January 4th 2018 @ 6:43pm | ! Report

            The shoulder injury coming about 3/4’s through the season probably helped keep Blakely out of mind for many when scanning for up and comers. It was amazing how many times commentators were thrilled by a passage of his play, Brereton was raving about his savagery at the contest at one stage as one example, but there were plenty of others. If he were playing for a high profile Melbourne club, he’d be as feted as someone like Curnow. I’m happy for him to continue to fly relatively under the radar at this stage.

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