‘We don’t know Victoria well enough’: The draft prospects to look out for this NAB League season

Two years of either fixture cancellations or disruptions because of Victoria’s lockdowns have recruiters slightly unsure of what to expect when they analyse the best under-19 talent in this season’s boys’ NAB League.

The new season begins on Saturday, when the 13-team competition – 12 from Victoria, one from Tasmania – take to the field.

While the teams have a focus on winning, for AFL club recruiters it’s more about individual talent, and who they can snare later this year in the national draft.

Mitch Szybkowski of the Dandenong Stingrays, Will Ashcroft of the Sandringham Dragons, and Elijah Tsatas of the Oakleigh Chargers.Credit:AFL Photos

The good news is that the talent level is high – whether that be fresh faces or high quality father-sons or brothers of current AFL players – but recruiters admit they don’t have a full grasp of what’s in store.

“We haven’t seen them. (Normally) we haven’t seen the 16s, we would have seen the 17s, you would have seen the 18s, but we haven’t seen any of them in this state,” one veteran Victorian club recruiter said.

“We don’t know Victoria well enough at this point.”

As has been the case in the current AFL and AFLW seasons, the pandemic has continued to have an impact. And that’s likely to the case in the feeder program. But what is clear is that there will be at least three prospective No.1 draft picks running around in the NAB League.

Midfielder Will Ashcroft, the son of Brisbane Lions’ triple premiership star Marcus, is a father-son prospect and is widely considered at least a potential top-five selection, following top-five father-son selections Sam Darcy and Nick Daicos last season.

There are recruiters who even feel the Sandringham Dragons product starts the season as the top pick because of his class through the midfield.

Will Ashcroft, the son of Brisbane great Marcus.Credit:AFL Photos

The Oakleigh Chargers, under coach Jason Devonport, have a loaded squad, headlined by two potential No.1 picks, Elijah Tsatas and George Wardlaw. Tsatas is a midfielder-wingman who can run and carry, has a knack of finding space at stoppages, and has excellent disposal. He had 25 disposals, including multiple score involvements, in an under-17s match for Vic Metro last season.

Wardlaw, one of Vic Metro’s best against Vic Country last year, is a tough inside midfielder who thrives in the contest. Fellow Charger Luke Teal, a versatile defender-midfielder who reads the ball well and enjoys rebounding from half-back, is also highly rated, and shapes as a potential top-10 pick.

There are several highly-touted, emerging midfielders, including Jhye Clark (Geelong Falcons), Oliver Hollands (Murray Bushrangers) whose brother Elijah was taken with pick No.7 of the 2020 national draft by the Gold Coast Suns, and Paul Pascu (Calder Cannons), who can dominate on the inside or generate run when open.

Lewis Hayes, an Eastern Ranges’ key defender, and the brother of Port Adelaide ruckman Sam Hayes, impressed for Vic Metro in the under-17s last season. He is regarded as a good mark who makes solid decisions with ball in hand.

Jonti Schuback, a Gippsland Power half-back, and son of former Adelaide small forward Jacob Schuback, and Sandringham Dragons small forward Harry Sheezel will also attract the eye of recruiters.

For football romantics, there are several father-sons to monitor.

Cooper Harvey, son of North Melbourne all-time games record holder Brent, is a goal-kicking midfielder-forward who will line up for the Northern Knights. Two-time premiership Kangaroo David King has already said Harvey will be a “star”.

Essendon’s Alwyn Davey exercises with his children Alijah, Jayden, and Alwyn Jnr back in 2012.Credit:Sebastian Costanzo

Essendon will have to make a call on former forward Alwyn Davey’s twins Alwyn Jr and Jayden, who are with the Chargers but have spent time with the James Hird Academy at Tullamarine. Unfortunately for Jayden, he will miss the new season, having undergone a second knee reconstruction. The Bombers will also monitor Josh Misiti, the son of Joe, and Luca Alessio, the son of Steven, who are with the Cannons. Misiti, a late bloomer, was overlooked in last year’s national draft. Carlton has access to Darcy Hogg, the son of 1995 premiership player Matthew, and Dane Whitnall, son of Lance.

Collingwood will keep a close eye on Nicky Christian, the son of current AFL match review officer and 1990 premiership player Michael, while Geelong has access to Osca Riccardi, the son of former dashing wingman Peter.

Keep up to date with the best AFL coverage in the country. Sign up for the Real Footy newsletter.

Most Viewed in Sport

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article