The coaching staff involved in assembling this team should take a bow.
This the final instalment of my series on the upcoming stars for each AFL club.
This piece will feature young stars from Port Adelaide, Richmond, St Kilda, Sydney, West Coast and the Western Bulldogs.
All six of these squads will have their sights set on the bright lights of September and to get there will need the contributions of their budding stars.
Port Adelaide: Sam Powell-Pepper
A case could be made that SPP has in-fact already broken out, though he still is well below his potential ceiling and that’s a good thing. Walking into the AFL as a first-year player and being able to dominate inside the contest is no mean feat but SPP handled it with class, his power and remarkable ‘stiff arm’ allowed him to fight for the ball and use a great turn of foot to accelerate out of the contest.
He averaged 17 disposals and while that is very good for a first-year player this is where I see improvement in SPP’s game for 2018. If he can accumulate more of the footy and still be elite inside the contest both offensively and defensively then he will go a long way to helping the Power back into the finals.
Richmond: Jack Graham
This kid has won more premierships than he has lost games, the South Australian captain in his last junior year showed all the clubs who passed on him what they were missing out on near the end of 2017.
He was a cool and steady head during the furnace of September and on the biggest day of all nullified Adelaide’s best player while also having an offensive impact. His body size and attack on the contest will see him starting in the middle at times in 2018 and his general unwillingness to give up on the ball will have as a Tiger fan favourite if he isn’t already.
After he captained South Australia I would also suggest he is earmarked for leadership down the track, the tigers got it right with Graham now all they need do is nurture his talent.
St Kilda: Hugh Goddard
At the end of the 2015 season Hugh Goddard was the future of the St Kilda defence, he had strung eight games together and had another year of tutelage from Sam Fischer and Sean Dempster before they would undoubtedly retire.
He struggled to reach the first 22 during the start of the 2016 season and when he did manage in Round 11 he was struck down by an Achilles tendon tear.
A year and a half later and he hasn’t made it back from injury yet, but recently St Kilda football boss Jamie Cox said that he was primed and ready for a full pre-season.
I would suggest that a prodigious talent like Goddard will benefit greatly if he can get through the summer unscathed, and if he does he’s a big watch in Round 1.
Sydney: Will Hayward
Hayward enjoyed a mixed year with a hot and cold swans team during 2017, he was able to string 17 games together and also had some eye-catching performances while booting 22 goals off the forward flank.
While Hayward’s size is small his exceptional footy skills and swift step allows him to find the footy, he also racked up as many as six tackles in games last year.
His best performance came on a Friday night versus the Cats where he and Tom Papley ran rings around the Geelong back six as he accumulated three majors and five tackles. As his body continues develop so will his game, he has all the tools and now it just about putting it together. Have also heard he’s the coach’s pet.
[latest_videos_strip category=”afl” name=”Afl”]
West Coast: Brendon Ah Chee
Ah Chee lines up in new stripes for season 2018 and I have a feeling it’ll do him a world of good.
Ah Chee has been noted for his handballing skills and general silky movement. Paul Stewart, a former player at Port Adelaide was quoted as saying that Ah Chee and Robbie Gray had the best set of hands on them at the club. If Ah Chee gets to showcase his talent between the midfield and the forward line, then West Coast have got themselves a steal.
Ah Chee will likely be afforded some opportunity as an inside midfielder especially since the retirement of Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell, he’s a big watch for mine in 2018.
Western Bulldogs: Bailey Dale
Bailey Dale received the Bulldogs’ most improved player award last year and it’s not hard to see why. After seeing some of Dale’s performances in earlier seasons I did not myself see him set for a big future, but his form in 2017 certainly made me eat my words.
After consistent play in the VFL dale was afforded an opportunity at the senior level where he came out and played with intensity. A 27-disposal and two-goal performance over the Blues last year was one of his better efforts.
If he can increase his aerobic capacity which might in turn help him push up onto the wings I would continue to expect more accumulation of the ball and in turn a larger impact.