The Peter Jackson VFL has consistently stood out among senior state leagues in terms of producing AFL draftees and rookies. Which current VFL-listed players could be the next in line?
Premiership-winning stars at the elite level such as Sam Mitchell (drafted from the Box Hill Hawks in 2001), Josh Gibson (Port Melbourne, 2004), Dale Morris (Werribee, 2004), Shane Mumford (Geelong VFL, 2007) and Isaac Smith (North Ballarat, 2010) have all joined AFL lists from VFL clubs.
Even just from last year’s crop of VFL draftees and rookies, seven of 13 selections have already made their AFL debut – Ben Long (ex-Footscray), Tom Stewart (Geelong VFL), Mitch Hannan (Footscray), Luke Ryan (Coburg), Tim Smith (Casey), Robbie Fox (Coburg) and Ben McNiece (Essendon VFL).
So which current VFL-listed players could potentially form the next crop of mature-age AFL debutants? vfl.com.au asked VFL clubs and among the responses received were the players featured below.
BOX HILL HAWKS
Anthony Brolic: “Anthony is enjoying a break-out year, having played every senior game so far. He showed plenty of ability in 2016 with a standout Development League Grand Final performance when he kicked six goals. He’s got terrific skills and would be suited in a half-forward role at an AFL club.”
Chris Jones: “Chris is a very important player at Box Hill and this year has played mainly as a key forward. His marking ability is his biggest strength and he was rewarded for his form with a spot in the VFL state team.”
Sam Switkowski: “Sam had an outstanding 2016 season and has continued on with some stellar performances in 2017. His ability to hit the scoreboard and compete overhead as a small forward is very impressive. He has no trouble pushing up the ground and winning his own footy.”
Ben Allan: “Ben is in his third year in the system and he’s having a tremendous season playing as a line-breaking midfielder. His ability to take the game on with his speed should be catching the eye of recruiters.”
Luke Bunker: “Many felt Luke was a massive draft chance in 2016 and although that didn’t happen, he hasn’t dwelled on it and has worked hard on his game. Since a senior call-up he’s really shown he’s more than capable at VFL level. Inside ball-winning ability and defensive pressure are his main strengths.”
Sean Gregory: “Sean in in his third year at the club since being cut by Essendon (AFL) and is looking to follow (current Essendon AFL defender) Michael Hartley’s path of being delisted, coming to Coburg and then getting redrafted. He plays on the best AFL-listed forwards week in week out and acquits himself very well.”
Marty Hore: “Plying his trade in the back half, Marty’s versatility has seen him play on both tall and small opponents. His intercept marking has been a feature of his game as well as his composed ball use out of defence.”
Lachlan Tardrew: “Lachlan has impressed this season as an inside midfielder, winger and half back at times. His ability to find the ball both inside and outside the contest has been a feature and his disposal efficiency ranks as elite within the competition.”
Alex Boyse: “Alex is into his second year in the program and was named as an emergency for the State Game. He’s capable of kicking multiple goals and has great speed and agility, making him a difficult match-up at 191cm if AFL clubs are looking for a third tall, hit-up forward.”
Nick Hind: “Nick was a mid-season signing in 2016 and has continued to develop his game and body to become a very consistent VFL player. Nick was also named as an emergency for the State Game and provides plenty of drive from either half back or the midfield.”
James Peters: “As a first-year VFL player out of the Calder Cannons, James has already managed six VFL matches averaging over a goal per game. He has based his game this year around his ability to tackle, defend and pressure the opposition in the forward half.”
Nick Jamieson: “Neat by hand and foot, Nick is an accomplished ball-winner who would provide good depth to an AFL midfield. He plays a hard-running, link-up role and has continued to improve this season, with VFL state-team selection being a highlight.”
Liam Nash: “After a breakout year in 2016, Liam has continued to mature as a footballer. He is tough, aggressive and would be a great addition to an AFL club looking for a hard-nosed inside midfielder.”
Andrew Tashevski-Beckwith: “Andrew is extremely versatile and can be used as a running defender or inside midfielder. He has great endurance, is a tough competitor and was selected as a development player in the VFL state squad.”
Cameron O’Shea: “Cameron hasn’t missed a beat in his first season at Preston City Oval following a six-year stint at Port Adelaide. The uncompromising defender has averaged over 20 disposals a game and has given his chances of another shot in the AFL a boost as one of Northern’s most consistent performers.”
Marcus Stavrou: “The Eastern Ranges product has slotted in seamlessly to life in the VFL, being something of a surprise packet for the Blues in his first year. With an ability to play both down back on any opponent and as a big-bodied midfielder, Marcus has mixed it with some experienced AFL names and has more than held his own.”
Brody Mihocek: “Brody is our reigning best-and-fairest winner who has had a similarly consistent first half of 2017. The key defender has continued to display his innate ability to intercept opposition thrusts across the half-back line and has proven his ability at VFL level to match up well against some of the AFL’s most powerful forwards.”
Eli Templeton: “Eli is an ex-St Kilda midfielder who has been dynamic with his pace, skill and ability to hit the scoreboard. Still only just 21 years of age, it would not surprise to see him on the radar of AFL clubs and be given his second chance at the elite level.”
Lachlan Waddell: “A 22-year-old ruckman who has shown significant signs of development and improved his marking and second efforts so far this year. They say ‘big blokes can take time’ and we think Lachie is only now starting to really hit his straps.”
Kade Answerth: “Kade finished runner-up in our best-and-fairest last year in his first season of senior football. He has played the majority of his football at the Zebras as a midfielder/winger, also going through the forward line at times. Kade is an extremely courageous, hard-working, relentless young player and has been described by coaches as Sandringham’s version of Joel Selwood.”
Elliot Le Grice: “Elliot is in his fourth year at the Zebras and has gone from strength to strength as a key defender. He is able to lock down on tall or small forwards and regularly plays on the opposition’s most dangerous forward. Elliot is extremely quick off the mark for his size and is very strong overhead.”
Ryley Barrack: “After managing five senior games in a variety of roles in 2016, Ryley has become one of our most important and consistent contributors. His strong marking and spoiling and ability to read the ball in the air have provided the starting point for many rebounding plays out of the back line.”
Matthew Hanson: “Matt is enjoying another standout season in our engine room. Despite close checking from opposition teams all too aware of his ability to influence games, he continues to prove hugely important at the stoppages, winning plenty of contested ball and clearances and exerting huge tackling pressure.”
Louis Pinnuck: “A product of the Murray Bushrangers, Louis has played senior games as 23rd man and as part of the 22 this year. Identified as a good defensive prospect, he has also shown the ability to play through the middle and push up forward to hit the scoreboard.”
Brett Bewley: “Brett’s left foot is a weapon that gains so much territory for us. He is going from strength to strength with every game playing as both an inside and outside midfielder. We want the ball in his hand.”
Josh Newman: “Even his older brother (and current Sydney player) Nic thinks Josh was a better player. An attacking small defender who looks to dominate with his offensive play, he’s quick, great above his head and generates a lot of rebound.”
Lachlan Schultz: “Lachlan is a power rocket who is quick across the ground and amazing above his head for his size. He loves a high mark as much as a bone-crunching tackle and all eyes should be on him after his game against Essendon in Round 10.”