The 2021 AFL mid-season draft is set to take place on Wednesday, June 2 and will see the best of the state leagues get their opportunity at the elite level.
Players will be following in the footsteps of 2019 AFL mid-season draft players including Will Snelling, John Noble and two-time premiership player Marlion Pickett.
With reduced AFL list sizes in 2021, the NAB League and state leagues are boasting AFL-quality talents. Combine this with extended injury lists for AFL sides, and the mid-season draft has come at the right time for clubs.
These are the top 25 prospects for the 2021 AFL mid-season draft.
AFL mid-season prospects: Rucks
Jacob Edwards – Sandringham Dragons
18 years old – 203cm – 83kg
Edwards offers some of the best upside in this year’s mid-season draft at the age of 19. Overlooked in the 2020 national draft, the rangy left-footer has gone back to the NAB League this year for the Sandringham Dragons and school Mentone Grammar and dominated after piling on over 10kg in the off-season. In his three games for Sandringham, Edwards is averaging 12 disposals, 14 hit-outs and has kicked five goals as he spends time up forward and in the ruck. He will be a project player as he continues his year 12 studies in 2021, but has the scope of a Luke Jackson type when he enters the AFL system. North Melbourne looks set to pick Edwards with the first selection in 2021’s AFL mid-season draft.
Max Heath – Sandringham Dragons
18 years old – 204cm – 94kg
Heath and Edwards have created a dynamic ruck pairing in their three NAB League games of 2021. He was highly touted at last year’s draft, but overlooked and has gone back to Sandringham as an over-ager. In three games this season, the 204cm prospect is averaging 24 hit-outs and four tackles per contest. Heath is an athletic prospect that will require a period of time in the AFL system before he is able to play senior football, but may end up being the best pure ruckman eligible for the 2020 draft.
Ned Moyle – Oakleigh Chargers
19 years old – 205cm – 87kg
Moyle has made leaps and bounds this season in his NAB League games with Oakleigh. The raw ruckman is averaging over 27 hit-outs, nine disposals, and four tackles per contest. He has played two games with Collingwood at the VFL level now, recording 17 disposals, four marks and 19 hit-outs against state league competition. He’s another project ruckman for an AFL side, but the signs are there that Moyle’s rate of development holds him in good stead to become a starting calibre ruckman in due time. Collingwood are likely to take the developing big man after his stint with its VFL side.
Liam Podhajski – Calder Cannons
18 years old – 202cm – 83kg
Calder has enjoyed the services of Podhajski this season, with the forward/ruckman averaging 29 hit-outs, 15 disposals and also kicking two goals in his three matches so far. He also earned a call up to VFL level for the Northern Bullants, kicking a goal and having 12 hit-outs in a losing side. His ground-level craft for a player his size is exceptional, and some clubs may see him as a tall midfielder in future years, but is working well as an extra midfielder after the ruck contest. These four NAB League ruckmen could find AFL homes in the mid-season draft due to their rate of development after a lost year in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Corey Gault – Swan Districts
28 years old – 200cm – 100kg
Gault has put together another superb patch of WAFL form for Swan Districts this season. The ready-made ruck prospect had a day out on the weekend, collecting 26 disposals to go with his 36 hit-outs and seven marks. The 28-year-old is now averaging 20 disposals and 33 hit-outs for the season. Gault was on Collingwood’s list from 2012-2016, and played six games in that time as a key forward, however he couldn’t find a consistent place in the senior side. The 2020 Swan Districts best and fairest stands at 200cm, weighs 100kg, and is a prospect ready to step straight into the AFL for a side in need of a first choice ruckman this season. Gold Coast has flagged its interest in the mature ruckman after co-captain Jarrod Witts’ season-ending ACL; Gault has the capacity to take the number one ruck role for the remainder of the season.
Tom Downie – Williamstown Seagulls
28 years old – 203cm – 104kg
Downie has made a comeback to state league football and looked right at home, as he dominates the ruck for Williamstown. He spent six years at Greater Western Sydney which included nine games and a NEAFL premiership, but made a courageous act to leave the game he loves due to mental health troubles. Downie returned to football in 2019 through the VAFA with Old Scotch, and took out its best and fairest. In his first season with Williamstown, the hulking ruckman is averaging nearly 15 disposals, five marks and 34 hit-outs in his two VFL games this season. Injury has held him out for the past two weeks, but Downie will return to the Williamstown lineup soon.
AFL mid-season prospects: Key Position Players
Matt Hammelmann – Aspley Hornets
25 years old – 198cm – 93kg
Hammelmann dominated the NEAFL in 2019 on his way to winning the leading goal kicker award with 66 for the season. The former Brisbane Lion spent two years at the AFL club and played 12 games but has set the VFL alight in his first season in the competition, kicking 16 goals in his first three games (over five per game) to lead the goal kicking alongside Blue Ben Crocker. He is averaging over a goal a game more than the next player in the VFL. Hammelmann is an elite field kick and shot for goal, and has added dynamic aerial prowess in recent years to complement his size and strength. He is averaging eight marks per game playing as a traditional full forward for the Hornets, and has put himself right in the conversation for the AFL mid-season draft with his blistering start to the VFL season.
Jackson Callow – Norwood Redlegs
19 years old – 195cm – 96kg
Callow was overlooked in his 2020 draft year, but the Tasmanian product made the move to the SANFL in search of further opportunities to impress. The Norwood key forward has made a strong impression with his new club after a brief training period with Hawthorn. Callow is an imposing, physical player, measuring 195cm and 96kg at just 19 years of age. He had his most well-rounded game to date in Norwood’s 32-point victory this weekend, kicking 3.1 to go with 17 disposals and seven contested marks. His elite strength and contested marking ability are huge attributes, and he has steadily worked on his forward pressure despite his average speed and agility. He will be a great developmental piece at either end of the ground for an AFL club.
Hugh Beasley – Box Hill Hawks
25 years old – 191cm – 86kg
Beasley won a premiership with Richmond VFL in 2019, and was also named in the Team of the Year. In 2021 he has moved to Box Hill with his brother where he has gone to another level as the best key defender in the competition. In his three matches Beasley is averaging 13 disposals and five marks. He is slightly undersized to be a key defender in the AFL, but he has made up for his lack of height in the VFL with his elite reading of the play and intercept marking ability.
Joel Ottavi – Williamstown Seagulls
25 years old – 200cm – 93kg
Ottavi has kicked nine goals in his four VFL games, and has also pinch hit in the ruck for a surging Williamstown side. Averaging 11 disposals per game, Ottavi could have kicked straighter to push up the goal kicking ladder, but has 9.9 to his name with an average of four marks and four tackles per game. The former Essendon VFL player is a ready-made prospect to step into an AFL side in search of a key forward at the mid-season draft.
Wylie Buzza – Werribee Tigers
25 years old – 199cm – 100kg
The former Geelong and Port Adelaide player has found a home at Werribee, and delivered as a key forward that can pinch hit in the ruck. Buzza is averaging 14 disposals for the Tigers, and kicked eight goals, four behinds for the season. He’s impressed in the air with his six marks per game, and has shown a healthy appetite for the contest when he moves into the ruck, averaging nine hit-outs and three tackles per contest. Buzza had his best performance for Werribee in round four against Box Hill, totalling three goals from his 17 touches, including six marks, six tackles and eight hit-outs.
Blake Schlensog – South Fremantle Bulldogs
20 years old – 199cm – 99kg
Schlensog was delisted by Geelong after two seasons with the club as a Category B rookie. Now plying his trade in defence for South Fremantle, he has been a revelation as he earned a call-up to the WA State Team. At 199cm and 99kg, Schlensog is a mature key position player already, and looks settled down back where he can use his leap and explosiveness to his advantage. He is averaging 19 disposals and eight marks per game, including a 28 possession, 12 mark game on the weekend as he becomes a key driver out of South Fremantle’s defence. At 20-years-old he remains a work in progress, but the upside is there for AFL clubs looking to the future.
Paddy McCartin – Sydney Swans Reserves
25 years old – 194cm – 97kg
McCartin was firming for an AFL lifeline with the Sydney Swans via the AFL mid-season draft, but he has thrown a spanner in the works. The former number one draft pick was suspended for five matches after striking an opponent in the VFL. Up until that point, McCartin had been in promising form, averaging 20 disposals and eight marks in his two games. McCartin’s suspension was out of character, and he cited his low blood sugar levels as a diabetic with the other unresolved issue being his concussion history. Despite this, Sydney may still read his name out on draft night, and he still remains a fantastic prospect for AFL clubs as he gives football another crack.
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AFL mid-season prospects: General Forwards
Tyson Stengle – Woodville-West Torrens
21 years old – 172cm – 73kg
AFL clubs have been paying close attention to Stengle’s commitment and professionalism since his Adelaide delisting. Going back into the SANFL to play for Woodville-West Torrens, the live-wire forward had his best game in round three against his former club. Stengle kicked four goals and had 21 disposals on the day, and in his three full games is averaging 16 disposals. Still only 21-years of age, Stengle is an AFL-quality small forward, but it remains to be seen if a club will take the punt on him after multiple off-field indiscretions.
Tyrone Thorne – Peel Thunder
19 years old – 167cm – 68kg
With pace to burn and a keen goal sense, Thorne shapes to be one of the best small forwards available in the mid-season draft. The 19-year-old is averaging 25 disposals per game at league level for Peel Thunder this year, and has kicked nine goals in his five games. Blessed with incredible athletic traits, Thorne broke Stephen Hill’s 10-year AFL agility test record at the WA State Combine in 2019 with a 7.761 second effort, and showcased his leap with a 77cm running vertical. His stature has put AFL clubs off in the past as he is just 167cm, but this season Thorne has shown he can match it with seasoned bodies. On the weekend he had 29 disposals and kicked two goals straight in a best-on-ground performance. He will most likely settle into a small forward role where he can showcase his defensive pressure and goal threat.
Bailey Lambert – Frankston Dolphins
22 years old – 184cm – 82kg
Son of Brisbane’s Craig, Bailey Lambert has combined his elite speed and endurance mix to mould himself into an x-factor player for the Frankston Dolphins this season. The recently turned 22-year-old has exploded in his first season after moving from the Richmond VFL side, kicking 11 goals in his first three games and averaging 17 disposals per contest. His tackling pressure in the forward line has been significant as well, laying over four tackles a game in that period, but he was kept quiet on the weekend as Williamstown ran riot over the previously undefeated Dolphins. He could potentially fill a small forward role in the AFL this season, and has the tools to become a damaging outside player as he develops.
Ben Crocker – Carlton Reserves
24 years old – 185cm – 84kg
After a brief stint with the Adelaide Crows, Crocker once again found himself at the lower level. That hasn’t stopped him from putting in the work this season for the Blues, and he has outperformed some of his AFL-listed teammates at this point in the season. Crocker is averaging 16 disposals and 10 marks in his four games. His forward threat has been outstanding, highlighted by his seven goal performance against the Brisbane Lions Reserves in round two. He has kicked 16 goals on the season. A third AFL club could be awaiting the x-factor small forward.
Billy Gowers – Southport Sharks
24 years old – 187cm – 87kg
Gowers has kicked 15 goals in his four games in the VFL for new club Southport. His characteristic forward nous has been on display, and his ability to take contested marks and butter up at ground level is a rare trait. Gowers is averaging 14 disposals, four marks and nearly four goals per game to lead Southport to a 3-1 record on the season. His skills are up to AFL-standard, but it remains to be seen if he receives a lifeline at a third AFL club.
AFL mid-season prospects: General Defenders
Cody Raak – Western Jets
18 years old – 192cm – 80kg
The Western Bulldogs NGA product can nominate for the mid-season draft and forego his ties to the club, or stay with the Western Jets and join the Dogs as a Category B rookie at the end of the season. As a result of strong form he has made his debut for Footscray in the VFL. Raak is a third-tall size at 192cm, but offers powerful drive as a runner and projects to become an effective ball user out of defence with a raking boot and ability to create something special every game. He went forward in the Colgate Under 23s game on the weekend to bag two goals in the second half, showcasing his flexibility at his size.
37 years old – 183cm – 75kg
The 342-game veteran has said he’s open to returning to football, and he’s eligible to be drafted to 17 clubs in the AFL, so it would be amiss to not include him as one of the great defenders of the modern era. Simpson was technically delisted by Carlton to end his career with the Baggers, so can still be selected by other clubs if he nominates. He adds immediate experience and leadership to a side making a Finals push, or could be brought in for development purposes in a similar vein to Luke Hodge for the young Brisbane Lions.
Ryley Stoddart – Carlton Reserves
21 years old – 186cm – 75kg
Stoddart is an ex-Swans player, so he has experience in the AFL environment. He also has leadership experience as a member of the Carlton VFL leadership group this season, and has played superbly to start the season. Stoddart is averaging 18 disposals and seven marks per appearance, and has added to his running capabilities. He is now a lockdown defender who can impact the game going forward with his run and carry, as well as being damaging by foot. There is a lot to like with the developing Stoddart as he presses his claim for another shot at the elite level.
AFL mid-season prospects: Midfielders
Nathan Freeman – Frankston Dolphins
25 years old – 183cm – 88kg
His ability has never been question, but Freeman has been a man possessed in the VFL this season. An average of 40.5 disposals in his four games is good for best in the league by 40 total disposals. His running capacity is elite, and he has worked on his contested craft to become a premier stoppage player in the competition. His ability to make it as an AFL player has never been questioned, but he has been halted in his track by crippling soft tissue injuries since being drafted in the top 10 by Collingwood.
Josh Schoenfeld – East Fremantle Sharks
23 years old – 188cm – 85kg
Schoenfeld was delisted by Gold Coast at the end of 2020 after five seasons at the club. He was the time trial king of the Suns for a large duration of that time (and recorded the second best beep time ever at the combine), and has translated his work rate to the WAFL with new club East Fremantle. The 23-year-old is averaging 33 disposal across his four games, including a 40 disposal, 13 tackle, one goal performance on the weekend. Schoenfeld boasts elite endurance and experience in the AFL system, and clubs looking to complement their midfield stocks will be keeping a keen eye on him heading into the mid-season draft on June 2.
Haiden Schloithe – South Fremantle Bulldogs
27 years old – 184cm – 88kg
Schloithe has been a mature age prospect for AFL clubs over the last few seasons, beating out Tim Kelly for the 2017 Sandover Medal and remaining one of the best midfielders outside of the AFL. The ball-winning midfielder is averaging 32 disposals for South Fremantle so far, and kicked 11 goals in his five games to add a forward threat to his inside work. His disposal by hand and foot has been a standout in the WAFL this season. Schloithe’s experience at the top level was short lived as a Fremantle rookie for two seasons, but now 27 years old, the Sandover Medallist and three-time best and fairest will be strongly considered for AFL teams looking to add to their midfield in the mid-season draft.
Jack Avery – Perth Demons Colts
19 years old – 190cm – 83kg
Avery has been the dominant WAFL Colts player this season as a tall, contested midfielder. He is averaging 34 disposals per game, which included a 41 disposal, 14 mark game against East Fremantle. The next task for Avery is to hit the scoreboard when he floats forward, but his ability in the air has been impressive as he averages over eight marks per game. Clubs looking for a contested bull for the future will be heavily invested in the Cottesloe product.
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