28/02/2024

Lachie Charelson, Cooper Simpson and Oliver Poole all in action for their Talent League sides. (Photos: Stewart Chambers, Jazz Bennett, AFL Photos)

Each year, a new crop of draft prospects take centre stage as November draws nearer. While we hear about the top prospects quite frequently, what happens to the players that slip under the radar, who are the hidden gems that end up in the second and third rounds of the National Draft?

The Craft of the Draft podcast takes a comprehensive look at the under-the-radar prospects in the Vic Country region, as well as Tasmania.

To check out the Vic Metro prospects going under the radar, click here.

Dandenong Stingrays

Cooper Simpson

Midfielder/Forward

182cm, 76kg

Simpson’s output says that he shouldn’t be in this category. A best and fairest winner as a bottom-ager, fill-in captain last year, and co-skipper this year, Simpson has been as consistent as anyone at Talent League level in the last 15 months.

Stands up under pressure when he plays representative football. Yet hasn’t been talked about in the same vein as the likes of Will Brown and Ryley Sanders despite showing just as much upside.

A midfielder who runs both ways, applies pressure, clean below his knees, makes the right decisions, and can go forward and hit the scoreboard is the prototype which he fits perfectly.

Cooper Simpson leading the Dandenong Stingrays out. (Photo: Jazz Bennett)

Riak Andrew

Defender

192cm, 72kg

The brother of Gold Coast’s Mac, the athletic 192cm prospect’s name has been concealed from lots of conversation given an injury ruled him out of last season.

He has, however, remained highly regarded, though one thing working against him is that he hasn’t grown the same way his brother did.

Andrew has played three Talent League games in 2023 as a defender and shown positive signs but there are still basic skills he’ll look to improve to enhance his chances further.

Riak Andrew in action for the Dandenong Stingrays (Photo: Jazz Bennett)

Joziah Nannup

Forward

182cm, 61kg

An overaged pressure forward who’s bolted onto the scene this year with a limited football background, Nannup is another who has a long way to go with his development.

Adds zest and liveliness to the forward line with his pace and hunger and was part of the Young Guns series, indicating his skillset is being noticed.

Billy Wilson

Defender

182cm, 71kg

The 2023 riser for Vic Country, a halfback with excellent acceleration and accumulation, Wilson rebounds, gets high, and sets up forward thrusts.

He creates overlap, is generally clean, clears the backline well, his polish is reasonable, and his defensive skillset is developing. Is averaging a team-high 5.6 rebound 50s for the Rays as well as 20 disposals.

Has a good athletic base and well-built body, his form coming off the back of a strong preseason and 15 games of Talent League exposure in 2022.

Billy Wilson in action for the Dandenong Stingrays (Photo: Jazz Bennett)

Jacob Grant

Forward – 191cm – 84kg

An undersized key forward whose leap allows him to play above his size, Grant has kicked 10 goals from seven Talent League games this season and averages 3.7 marks.

Grant has come on quickly this season and has been impressive since preseason. In the Rays’ most recent game against the Pioneers, Grant finished with two goals, one behind, and seven marks.

Ben Hopkins

Defender

188cm

Hopkins has been ultra sturdy off halfback in his seven games for Dandenong this season, averaging 18 disposals in the first month of the season which earned him a spot in the Vic Country trial game.

While he just missed Vic Country, it was probably owing to the depth in that area of the ground as much as anything else. Some of his defensive efforts and balanced approach to that role would be pleasing.

Kobe Shipp

Defender/Winger

187cm – 80kg

Played plenty of football as a bottom-aged player for Dandenong and made a name for himself on AFL Grand Final day last year with an intercept-marking masterclass in the under-17s all-stars clash.

Shipp is good one-on-one and distributes well out of the back half, but expect to see him play on a wing throughout the national championships given Vic Country’s talent-laden halfback line. He has done that early in the year for Dandenong at times and in Vic Country trial games and holds his width to get possessions in space.

Kobe Shipp in action for the Dandenong Stingrays (Photo: Jazz Bennett)

Kade De La Rue

Half Forward/Midfielder

184cm, 77kg

Clean, strong through the core, and able to hit the scoreboard, De La Rue has been a mainstay of the Dandenong team since the start of last year.

Spent 2022 as a high forward and after an ACL injury cut out his 2021, his form last year primed him to have a red-hot crack this season.

His aerobic case clearly shows he’s put in the hours in the preseason and rarely fumbles which buys him even more time with ball in hand.

Slips tackles easily and when he is clung onto, he’s able to keep his feet and dispose of the football.

Probably plays most of his Vic Country football off half-forward but is fun to watch when he’s rotated into the midfield.

Kade De La Rue in action for the Dandenong Stingrays (Photo: Jazz Bennett)

Ziggy Toledo-Glasman

Forward

192cm, 85kg

The 192cm forward was around the mark for Vic Country but missed the cut.

A draft smokey from last year, he was overlooked before training with VFL club Casey which led to a contract where he may play some games in the second half of the season.

A six-goal game earlier this year against Gippsland underlined his potential. Toledo-Glasman protects the drop zone well which compensates for him being a touch undersized, and either finishes his work with a goal or sets up his teammates.

Ziggy Toledo-Glasman in action for the Dandenong Stingrays (Photo: Jazz Bennett)

Bendigo Pioneers

Oskar Smartt

Midfielder/Forward

179cm, 85kg

Smartt’s breakout game came against Gippsland in Round 4 of the Coates Talent League.

A real rough and tough player, Smartt loves contested football and thrives on the opportunity to get his hands around the football to give an exit handball out to a roving midfielder.

Smartt has a well-rounded skillset, he’s shown he’s capable of moving the ball forward in transition with well-weighted kicks to leading forwards as well as being able to pose a threat inside forward 50, hitting the scoreboard in three out of his first five games this season.

His tackle pressure is elite around the contest and there is no fear in the way Smartt approaches his football.

Oskar Smartt laying a tackle for Bendigo. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Hugh Byrne

Forward

191cm

Byrne has been a dangerous target for the Pioneers in 2023, the 191cm tall forward knows how to take a strong contested mark inside forward 50, but also presents well as a leading forward, with 24 scoring shots from seven games this year.

He’s recently been able to move up the ground at times and offer support to the midfield in transition, averaging five inside 50s per game since the community break, compared to two before the break.

Accuracy becomes the key for Byrne, shooting under 50 per cent accuracy, he often doesn’t reward his efforts.

Hugh Byrne in action for the Bendigo Pioneers. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Pala Kuma

Defender

183cm, 85kg

The first recipient of the David Meade scholarship and part of the Richmond NGA Academy, Kuma has shown glimpses of his capabilities in 2023.

The athletic half-back provides great run and carry out of defensive 50 with great speed and composure. Kuma has a nice balance in his defensive skill set and understands the right moments to use them.

Kuma has showcased he’s able to hold his shape well and benefits from it, bringing the ball to ground and impacting around the contest.

His area of improvement is developing some more composure in his defensive 50 exits. There can often be some panic in his game that outweighs the positive impact, however, the positives have a heap of upside.

Kuma in action as part of Richmond’s NGA Academy. (Photo: Richmond FC)

Oliver Poole

Wing/Forward

183cm, 70kg

Poole has spent a lot of his time as an outside midfielder on the wing and up forward, an agile and speedy target that impacts the flow of transition moving forward.

Poole is a good ball user, often seeking quick outlets to give the ball off to when playing in the midfield. When he goes up forward is where he tends to create more chaos and individual impact, with a great roving technique in forward 50 stoppages or when the ball comes to ground in a marking contest.

Poole’s tackling pressure has elevated in 2023 and has certainly added another layer to his game, making him an interesting prospect to watch in the back end of the year.

Oliver Poole in action for the Bendigo Pioneers (Photo: AFL Photos)

GWV Rebels

Lachlan Charleson

Forward/Midfielder

176cm, 72kg

Charleson is an extremely exciting small-forward prospect that has proven his versatility in the midfield when needed. His game revolves around pressure acts and his ability to pounce on loose balls inside 50.

The 176cm prospect comes to life when the ball hits the deck and has been on the end of many snap goals inside forward 50.

Charleson has made a great impact inside the midfield for the Rebels as well, translating his energy into centre stoppages, breaking out of the contest and creating inside 50 entries. Charleson has built into his season nicely and is beginning to thrive off his consistency.

Lachlan Charelson in action for the GWV Rebels. (Photo: AFL Photos)

More Aussie Rules News

Gippsland Power

Will Dawson

Ruck

200cm, 86kg

Two strong games for Vic Country in the trials commanded selection in the final squad so he and Lachie Smith will likely play as the two rucks throughout the champs.

It’s not just his ruck work that is impressive – averaging 13 hit-outs per game – but his aerial presence and ground coverage are also features.

His follow-up at the contest adds an old-school country tenacity to whatever engine room he is in as he averages six tackles, the most in his team.

Will Dawson in action for the Gippsland Power (Photo: Stewart Chambers)

Lachlan Smith

Ruck

202cm, 97kg

Hitting form at the right time, the big ruck is at his best when he’s using his brutish frame to stand tall in the contest and offer an option long down the line or in forward 50.

Has a simple set shot-kicking routine which makes him a threat when he’s playing inside 50 but with his size and strength, expect to see his best football in the ruck at this level.

The 2023 preseason was his first full one with football, having come from a basketball background, reinforcing the clear upside.

Lachlan Smith in action for the Gippsland Power (Photo: Stewart Chambers)

Liam Serong

Forward

194cm

The younger brother of Fremantle star Caleb and Hawthorn’s Jai trained with the Dockers in the preseason in an unsuccessful attempt to win an SSP spot.

The 194cm forward gets high up the ground and has the work rate to double back and hit the scoreboard.

Has a way to go with his fundamentals and with five Talent League games across this year and last, we may see him have to take the state league route to keep his name in the conversation at the next level.

Seb Amoroso

Forward/Midfielder

171cm, 78kg

A pressure forward and defensive midfielder, Amoroso has shown versatility and a strong on-field work ethic in his time in Gippsland Power colours.

Was a small forward noted for his pressure in 2022, alongside the likes of Jacob Konstanty – who was drafted to Sydney last year.

The Power captain averaged 12.5 touches and 3.5 tackles last year and has lifted to almost 22 touches and more than four tackles in 2023, bringing that element of accountability to the midfield brigade where he has spent much of 2023. The big thing holding him back is his height – just 171cm.

Seb Amoroso in the team huddle for the Gippsland Power (Photo: Stewart Chambers)

Xavier Lindsay

Wing/Defender

182cm, 72kg

Lindsay would be one of the next-in-line bottom-agers for Vic Country but just misses with the region selecting just four in the final squad.

Well regarded for his under-16s national championships last year and runs the wing well while providing drive-off halfback, with his ball use able to open the game up.

The Power rated him highly enough as a skinny double-bottom-ager last year and his output has naturally increased this season despite an injury-interrupted 2023. Expect his name to be prominent in draft discussions in 2024.

Geelong Falcons

Tom Anastasopoulos

Forward

176cm, 66kg

If you’re tasked with manning Anastasopoulos for the day, you’re in for a long shift. The lean, speedy forward runs his opponent to the ground and hits the scoreboard whilst doing so.

With an athletics background, Anastasopoulos has proven he is a nightmare to play against with a strong football IQ and effective ball use inside forward 50, he’ll either damage on the scoreboard or in offensive transition. Anastasopoulos has had an incredible efficiency rate of 12.1 in his scoring shots, proving he can score from set shots or open play.

Anastasopoulos brings energy inside forward 50 and creates intense pressure for defenders trying to exit. With such a lean figure, Anastasopoulos does struggle at times around the contest, lacking some strength to break through opponents.

Tom Anastasopoulos in action for the Geelong Falcons. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Angus Hastie

Defender

189cm, 77kg

The modern-day game demands responsive footballers out of defensive 50 and Hastie is a prime example.

Hastie’s ability to transition outside 50 has been prolific in the opening months of Talent League, understanding his positional awareness as a half-back type that enables him to take intercept marks and create offensive chains.

Hastie provides good run through the corridor, acting as a two-way player that can exit the ball outside defensive 50 and enter inside 50.

Hastie is a great endurance runner with an athletic background that certainly allows him to elevate his game and expose the offensive side of the ground.

Angus Hastie in action for the Geelong Falcons. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Tobyn Murray

Wing

179cm, 79kg

A workhorse whose aerobic base underpins his football. Gets used as the player who his teammates look for as an outlet when under pressure, and can provide overlap on the outside with his speed and ability to get around opponents.

Tobyn Murray in action for the Geelong Falcons. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Archie Sinnot

Wing/Midfielder

186cm, 81kg

The 19-year-old has come back to the Falcons this year with a new role, playing on the wing which he has taken on well as the season has progressed.

Sinnot provides great run on the outside, utilising a strong left leg to deliver kicks inside 50. He has shown glimpses as an inside midfielder at times and can often be most impactful with his ability to move the ball inside 50 and hit a leading target. 

Archie Sinnot in action for the Young Guns. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Murray Bushrangers

Mitch Way

Midfielder

180cm, 83kg

Way has the attributes to reach the highest level, although has hurt his chances through inconsistency.

Way is part of the Allies region, originally trained with the squad, but was cut from the final squad. His physicality around the contest is the most prominent part of his game but also carries characteristics that allow him to create smooth transition in offense.

Way’s able to get on the scoreboard when moving inside 50, however, lacks polish which is keeping him from breaking out and advancing past Talent League level.

Phoenix Gothard

Forward

179cm, 70kg

A small forward who zigs zags and energises inside 50. Gothard’s able to break through tackles and makes the most of his opportunities when he has his hands on the football.

Has played the last two weeks for the Allies and kicked a goal in each game, including a bender from the boundary line to show his opportunism against Western Australia.

Phoenix Gothard in action for the Murray Bushrangers. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Oscar Ryan

Defender

177cm, 77kg

His start to 2023 has deservingly earned him a position in the final Vic Country squad. Ryan prides himself on his ability to take the game on and use his strength and speed to burst through contests and transition the ball down the ground.

Ryan provides two-way running across the ground but understands his position to drop back and take intercept marks, averaging six rebound 50s and two inside 50s per game. His aggression around the football is fearless and he certainly doesn’t like to come off second best.

Oscar Ryan in action for the Murray Bushrangers. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Coby James

Midfielder/Defender

179cm, 72kg

The small midfielder/defender knows his way around the ground and plays an offensive style of game that suits his speed and running patterns.

James’ disposal efficiency has been productive in 2023 and has done him no harm, often executing his transitional ball movement really well.

James’ has moved forward at times this season, providing his energy inside forward 50 but does his role well moving the ball inside 50, averaging 4.6 inside 50s a game.

Tasmania Devils

Arie Schoenmaker

Defender

194cm, 89kg

A defender who has justified the hype in the last two rounds for the Devils, Schoenmaker has gathered 36 and 27 disposals respectively.

Granted, he is trusted to take the kick outs which pads his stats, but the North Launceston product executes the exit kicks excellently to set up the game from the back with his long left peg.

Has an instinctive understanding of the dangerous areas in defensive 50 and plugs those holes, while he’s a good size so his aerial competitiveness is another feature.

James Leake

Midfielder/Defender

188cm, 74kg

An Allies representative, Leake has an excellent athletic profile that can either be used out of defence or through the midfield.

Leake has the power to find his way through traffic in the midfield and closing speed and line-breaking ability in defence.

In another year, his name might be the one the Apple Isle is pinning their hopes on, but with the likes of Colby McKercher, Ryley Sanders and Jack Callinan all dominating, he’s not getting as much attention.

James Leake in action for the Tasmania Devils. (Photo: AFL Photos)

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