There has already been one mature-ager taken in the 2021 AFL Draft, with Leek Aleer finding his way to GWS in the first round.
For many it was a surprise to see him taken that early, but not if you were watching the SANFL this season. Aleer was a dominating force for Centrals in the second half of the year, controlling the airwaves with his intercept marking prowess and showcasing some neat ball use as well.
Who are the mature-agers your club is looking at in the 2021 AFL Draft?
2021 AFL Draft mature-agers: WAFL
South Fremantle | Key Defender/Forward
25/09/2000 | 199cm | 99kg
20 games | 15.3 disp | 16 goals
After a stint with Geelong as a Category-B rookie, Schlensog came into the WAFL with a point to prove and made it emphatically. He was one of the premier defenders in the competition, able to shut down his direct opponent and intercept for his teammates as well.
He also showed ability as a forward with bags of goals, though has some work to do on his forward craft if he were to continue his career there.
At 99 kilos, Schlensog is already equipped to take on the big forwards of the AFL despite being just 21 years of age.Embed from Getty Images
Perth Demons | General Defender
14/06/2002 | 190cm | 83kg
10 games | 16.5 disp | 5.0 marks
Avery has transformed into a brilliant defender in 2021. At 190 centimetres, he’s able to cut off passes while also remaining a focal point of build-up play.
In the Colts he averaged 43 touches a game, then going up to League level he averaged 16.5 disposals and five marks. He was the main rebounder for Perth out of the backline and was composed with ball in hand.
There’s a spot for Avery on an AFL list with his size and versatility an enticing prospect.
Subiaco | Midfielder
24/05/1997 | 194cm | 94kg
19 games | 27.1 disp | 10 goals
Clark was simply dominant in the WAFL Finals, producing 27 tackles across two games as an inside midfielder. At 94 kilos he would come into the AFL as one of the biggest midfielders in the league, but he still gets around the ground well and is physically imposing in congestion.
South Fremantle didn’t have an answer for him in the Grand Final, with Clark one of the most ready-made players in the draft.Embed from Getty Images
Claremont | Midfielder
22/03/1997 | 185cm | 85kg
21 games | 26.9 disp | 1.1 goals
The League’s Sandover Medallist (best and fairest), Rogers has been superb in his move to the midfield after spending time as a defender.
He’s prolific inside and outside of contests, able to win the hard ball but also spread from contests quicker than his opponent to hit the scoreboard. Rogers tackles hard, plays unselfish football and is a quick-thinker with ball in hand, meaning he doesn’t hold the ball up when he gets it and keeps working when he gives it off.
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2021 AFL Draft mature-agers: VFL
Williamstown | Key Defender
19/06/2001 | 195cm | 86kg
9 games | 15.1 disp | 7.3 marks
Dean was initially overlooked at the end of his draft year in 2019, where he played as a key forward with the Sandringham Dragons. He kicked 17 goals in 10 games, but ultimately wasn’t considered in favour of the likes of Mitch Georgiades, Harry Jones and Charlie Comben.
Joining Williamstown for the 2020 season but ultimately playing no games due to the season cancellation, Dean showed that he had completely reinvented his game the following year. Training as a defender instead, he became one of the competition’s best intercept markers, and won the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal as the VFL’s best young player accordingly.
His ability to read the play and cut off an opposition attack makes him perfectly suited to a modern AFL backline. Likewise, that same footy IQ makes him dangerous as a run and jump leading forward. Dean’s versatility in either 50 would have many clubs going into the third round and beyond considering the 20-year-old.Embed from Getty Images
Box Hill Hawks | Small Forward
20/12/97 | 187cm | 75kg
9 games | 13.8 disp | 30 goals
After just a year out of the AFL system where he played five games with the Western Bulldogs, mercurial small forward Fergus Greene has shown that he can still offer more above state league level.
The 23-year-old was the highest scoring small forward in the shortened season with Box Hill, kicking a remarkable 30 goals in nine matches. Greene finished third in the Frosty Miller Medal, the VFL’s goalkicking award.
In a demolition job of the Gold Coast Suns, he kicked six goals to go along with 20 disposals and seven marks. He lit up City Oval all year round, crumbing off packs, leading and marking into the pockets, and breaking away from marking contests with eyes only for the big sticks.
Carlton Reserves | Small Forward
19/02/97 | 185cm | 84kg
9 games | 8.3 marks | 29 goals
Crocker put his hand up for the mid-season draft, but didn’t get much interest for a third AFL lifeline despite a scintillating start to his year with Carlton in the VFL.
The former Magpie and Crow kicked 16 goals in his first four matches, including an absolute day out against Brisbane at Ikon Park with seven goals and 11 marks. Crocker showed that he’d added an aerial element to his game as a small, averaging 3.5 a game in his 33 game AFL stint.
Questions were raised over his consistency throughout matches, with a tendency to either start slow or fade out late. Fourth in the league goalkicking is nothing to sneeze at however, and he should be considered as a rookie selection.Embed from Getty Images
Frankston | Utilty
24 | 190cm | 81kg
11 games | 21.9 disp | 15 goals
While Nathan Freeman grabbed headlines with his ridiculous disposal tallies week after week, there was another Dolphin who impressed regularly.
Finishing third in the Frankston best and fairest count, Cox is a true utility who took his opportunities in the midfield when he had them. In the absence of Freeman against the Northern Bullants, Cox racked up 28 disposals running through the midfield, and kicked five goals when stationed up forward.
At just 24, Cox can be utilised in multiple roles through the midfield, down back, and up forward. He started the year as an interceptor before breaking out up forward. He could be moulded into any one of those roles at AFL level if a club is willing to invest.
Footscray | Inside Midfielder
25 | 180cm | 82kg
10 games | 25.5 disp | 4.7 tackles
Touted as ‘the next Anthony Scott’, Footscray midfielder Robbie McComb has earned himself a few accolades to close out the VFL season. The Team of the Year rover and club best and fairest winner is a shot at making the step up.
Averaging 4.7 tackles, he brings both grunt and class into a midfield looking for a smaller-type that can also push up forward. McComb kicked five goals in his 10 games for Footscray with two coming against Frankston.
The Bulldogs have been known to bring in talent from their VFL list, with Scott, Ryan Gardner and Mitch Hannan all going through Footscray apprenticeships before making the jump to AFL level.
Aspley | Key Forward
08/03/96 | 198cm | 88kg
10 games | 42 goals | 5.9 marks
Boasting a remarkable 4.2 goal a game average for bottom-of-the-table Aspley in 2021, former Brisbane Lion Matt Hammelmann is currently one of the premier state league key forwards.
He was initially delisted by Brisbane at the end of the 2017 AFL season after playing 12 games. The key forward would return to Redland in the NEAFL and then made the switch to Aspley when it made the jump to the VFL competition for just one season before moving to the QAFL, Queensland’s top level state league.
Hammelmann has now kicked 243 goals in 98 games at state league level, one of the most prolific talls not on an AFL list. He’s a bonafide big man who can clunk packs and has a deadly accurate set shot. Any team looking for an immediate key forward solution would do well with him.
2021 AFL Draft mature-agers: SANFL
South Adelaide | Small Forward
18/05/00 | 180cm | 76kg
18 games | 12.5 disp | 4.3 tackles
One of the SANFL’s premier pressure forwards, Wilkinson is a consistent goalkicker with a remarkable defensive game, suited to the needs of a modern AFL small forward.
He kicked 19 goals in his 2021 season, just over a goal game, including eight in his last month of the season. Wilkinson laid nine and six tackles respectively in the semi and prelim finals, his intensity going up a level on the big stage.
Ronald Fejo Jr.
West Adelaide | Winger
16/12/01 | 178cm | 70kg
18 games (two senior) | 18.2 disposals | 2.8 inside 50s
A silky smooth winger with the foot skills to match, Fejo Jr. made the move down to the SANFL from the Northern Territory in 2021 in hopes of greater opportunity.
He spent the majority of the season in the reserves competition, but did play two senior games with West Adelaide in the middle of the year. He averaged 13 disposals at an unmatched 96 per cent, hitting almost every single one of his targets.
Fejo Jr. is still slight of frame and is easily out-bodied, but has brilliant pace and one of the best kicks outside of the top few midfielders in the draft pool.Embed from Getty Images
Woodville-West Torrens | Utility
24 | 192cm | 91kg
20 games | 19.7 disp | 22 goals
The ultimate utility, Hayes is capable of playing basically anywhere on the field and excelling at it. He possesses a rare set of skills for a player of his size.
He can drop behind the footy (taking 20 marks, seven of those intercepts against West Adelaide), be a marking third tall up forward (kicking four goals against Central District), and can shift into the ruck to do a bit of tap and clearance work (12 hit outs and seven clearances in the grand final).
Awarded the Jack Oatey Medal as the best player on ground in the SANFL Grand Final, Hayes is the picture of versatility and a swingman unlike many others.
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