Your club’s 21 and under players to watch in ’21

Riley Thilthorpe is one to watch at Adelaide. Picture: afc.com.au

Adelaide

Riley Thilthorpe 

The most highly speculated draft selection in the history of the Adelaide Football Club, the Crows spent their prized first live pick on local hybrid ruck/forward Riley Thilthorpe. Standing at 201cm, Thilthorpe is a man mountain who is excellent in the air with his contested marking whilst also possessing elite skills and ability below his knees. Built in the mould of a Tom Lynch or Max King, Thilthorpe will excite Crows fans from the moment he hits the AFL stage. His experience playing against men in the SANFL will without a doubt help him adapt to the higher level as he looms as the figurehead of this Adelaide Crows rebuild. 

Jackson Hately 

Acquired by the Crows from GWS through the Pre-Season draft, Jackson Hately comes to West Lakes with high wraps as a former first round draft pick and a hunger for greater opportunity at senior level. Groomed to take over the large hole left in Adelaide’s midfield by the departure of Brad Crouch, Crows fans will be keen to see what the 20 year old can do when given an expanded role. A contested beast, Hately is as reliable as they come in terms of his ball winning ability and willingness to run hard both ways. An excellent character as well as footballer, Hately is definitely one to watch.

Fischer McAsey 

Selected with pick 6 in the 2019 national draft, last season was one of development for Fischer McAsey as he gained some crucial experience at AFL level. Playing mainly as a key defender across his ten senior appearances, McAsey was able to test himself against the best forwards in the competition with Matthew Nicks often giving the youngster high amounts of responsibility. He was also employed as a swingman at times with some of his best moments coming in the forward 50, with his height and hands quickly posing a threat to opposition defenders. Blessed with the physical capabilities to be an elite key position player, this off season is big for McAsey as he looks to put on some size and lock down a spot in this best 22. 

Lachlan Sholl 

One of the highlights of the 2020 season for Adelaide, Lachlan Sholl would make his debut in round ten and provide a spark for the Crows across their much improved second half of the season. An extremely intelligent footballer, Sholl was able to find the ball in damaging positions on many occasions, with his ability to use the ball going inside 50 critical to the team’s late season success. Producing a best on ground performance in round 17 against Carlton before backing it up the next week with a rising star nomination, Sholl has Crows fans extremely excited moving forward. A long term prospect on the wing, a big pre-season will see the youngster put on some much needed size and increase his ability to win the ball come 2021 and beyond. 

Harry Schoenberg

Another shining light over the second half of the season, local boy Harry Schoenberg had an instant impact on the Crows midfield with his burst from stoppage and quick hands providing some much needed X-Factor. Told to work on his fitness through the COVID break, the Crows saw a changed man come the season restart as he was quickly able to make his way into the best 22 and solidify himself as a reliable contributor. Blessed with an extreme burst of speed and excellent instincts around the contest, Schoenberg is just what Crows fans have been crying out for on the ball and will be critical to the success of this rebuild. 

Zac Standish

Brisbane

Deven Robertson 

After debuting against the Hawks in round one, Robertson failed to play another game in 2020. The big body midfielder will have to compete for a spot in a stacked midfield which includes the likes of Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons, Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry. Expect Robertson to play across half-back or in the forward line while he works on his craft. The 19-year old is very versatile and with a big pre-season ahead, we should see him play a few more games in 2021.

Thomas Berry

The younger brother of Jarrod Berry produced plenty of promise in his 6 matches in 2020. The pacey midfield/forward debuted in round 2 against Fremantle but was dropped after the Lions round 8 game against the Demons after six consecutive games. A big pre-season is needed for Berry who will be working on building his size as he looks to join his brother in the midfield. 

Keiden Coleman

Coleman brought plenty of excitement when he debuted in round 15 against the Pies. The speedy utility who often played forward provided plenty of pressure averaging 4.8 tackles and looked lively across half forward despite only kicking two goals for the year. The 20-year-old also managed to play in the Lions’ Qualifying Final win against the Tigers – an experience which will fast track his maturity and development as a player. Coleman will look to work on his attacking craft and build synergy with fellow small forwards Charlie Cameron and Lincoln McCarthy ahead of 2021 where it is likely he will be given more opportunities.

Keiden Coleman. Picture: lions.com.au

Brandon Starcevich

Cemented a spot in the Lions best 22 in season 2020 playing in a new role across half back and never looked back, taking out the club’s rookie of the year award. Starcevich was handed some tough assignments including some of the league’s most dangerous small forwards including Michael Walters and Toby Greene. The 21-year old will be looking to add a greater attacking element to his game in 2021 and could possibly push for a permanent spot in the midfield with his abundance of pace, power and a booming kick. 

Tom Fullarton

A raw tall forward always takes time to develop but there is plenty to be excited about with Tom Fullarton. The 21-year-old kicked a nice goal on debut to get the Lions fans out of their seat in their thrilling contest against the Saints in round 13 and there are no doubts the Lions faithful will be cheering plenty of goals from the tall forward for years to come. Fullarton’s season was cut short by injury in round 15 against the Pies but will look to build some size in the off-season as he eyes to squeeze into a stacked forward line that already contains Eric Hipwood, Dan McStay, Oscar McInerney and new star recruit Joe Daniher. 

James Strebinos

Carlton

Brodie Kemp

The Blues first selection in 2019 did not play a game in his debut year as he was recovering from an ACL injury but the utility is making strong progress on the comeback trail in a bid to make up for lost time. Will train with the defensive group when he returns to full training in mid January, a position where he made a name for himself at TAC Cup level but it won’t be too long before he moves up the ground and adds his name to a young, exciting midfield rotation at Ikon Park.

Tom De Koning

The young ruckman enters his fourth season in navy blue with the number one ruck position his for the taking. After breaking through for seven games in 2020, the 21-year-old held his own against the likes of Brodie Grundy, Jarrod Witts, Sean Darcy and All-Australian ruckman Nic Naitanui. A strong contested mark and strong tap ruckman who is still raw but is on an upward trajectory as he looks to make a name for himself as one of the best young rucks in the competition. 

Tom De Koning. Picture: carltonfc.com.au

Josh Honey

The second year rookie is the son and nephew of Australian sporting royalty and is looking to break into this Carlton side on a permanent basis. The teenager broke through for his debut against Fremantle last year with his sole appearance for the year but has speed and x-factor to be an asset in the front half for this Carlton side desperately needing extra speed and creativity around goal. 

Liam Stocker 

After a taste of it in his first season and sitting out the back half of 2020 for personal reasons, Liam Stocker looms as a big addition to the Blues engine room in 2021. The inside midfielder has spent time developing his tank and his strength in the off season as he looks to fight for a position in the line-up. An exceptional ball winner at TAC level and a nice kick of the football, he looms as a key plank in Carltons developing midfield as one who is looking for a breakout season.

Jack Carroll 

Many experts were astonished when he slid as far as he did on draft night. Carlton couldn’t get the pick in quick enough when he was available at selection at pick 41. The youngest player in the league, the classy midfielder with ball in hand is said to be one of the more complete midfielders of the recent crop of draftees, adding more layers of depth to the Carlton engine room.

Jono Baruch

Collingwood

Isaac Quaynor

Going into his third season in the black and white, Quaynor made 11 appearances in 2020 positioning himself half-back, moving into the midfield when needed. A gash to the knee in a horrific incident involving the studs of Sydney debutant Sam Wicks shortened what was his breakout season. Acquiring football smarts considerably beyond his years, Quaynor has the ability to read the play and make quick and effective decisions. Without any setbacks come 2021, Quaynor will be one of the younger members of the sides who will be sure to regularly make the sides 22.

Tyler Brown

Son of Gavin, and little brother of Callum, Tyler is proving that he has all the confidence to live up to the expectations of his last name. Debuting in 2020, the youngster has shown within nine games that he is reliably versatile across midfield and wing. Game time will be the key for Brown, whose general football skills only look to improve as more opportunity comes his way.

Trey Ruscoe

Collingwood fans will be eager to see Ruscoe back out on the field just so we can get another video from his Mum wishing him good luck. Jokes aside, Ruscoe featured in four games across 2020, managing five goals in those – including one on debut against Sydney in Round 10. With the departure of Jaidyn Stephenson and Jamie Elliott making himself regular in the midfield, there is now room to give Ruscoe more game time as a small forward. Ruscoe requires time to develop as a player, and to act with composure when under pressure. Game time in 2021 will allow this maturity growth.

Oliver Henry

Young forwards have proven to excel amongst the Collingwood squad and if given the opportunity to debut in 2021, it’s expected that Henry will do the same. Picked at 17 in this year’s draft, Henry is an exciting player who willingly takes a risk on the field to exchange results, this spark fitting in perfectly inside the Pies forward 50. Recognised as one of this year’s most versatile players in the draft, Henry’s ability to read the play and then adapt to accommodate in either the forward or defence makes for exciting viewing come his debut.

Finlay Macrae

After the departures of Adam Treloar and Dayne Beams, Collingwood recruited at Pick 19 the midfielder in Finlay Macrae. The Pies would be smart in getting some game time into Macrae, as the side needs to consider the retirement of their star midfielders over the next couple of years. Wherever the ball is, you can be sure Macrae is there also and will dispose of it efficiently. Most notably for a young player, a calmness is instilled in Macrae, where he rarely acts suddenly or with little plan ahead.

Tricia Mifsud

Essendon

Jye Caldwell

The 20 year-old former Giant brings many things to the Bombers’ midfield group that it previously lacked. Tackling pressure, contested prowess and pace out of the middle are all strengths of Caldwell’s game. New coach Ben Rutten would be hard pressed to keep Caldwell out of the side come Round 1, adding to his 11 games so far at GWS.

Brayden Ham

Ham has proven over his 15 games that he can be an unstoppable force when he is pressing forward. Most impressive are his 3 marks and 3 inside 50s a game, showing off his pace both running along the wing and on a half-forward flank. He’ll have competition for selection against his fellow small mids and forwards, and he’d be eager to prove that he has a spot in the Dons’ side post his 2021 contract extension.

Nik Cox

200cm Nik Cox is the type of tall defender Bombers fans have been hoping would land at their feet for years. With Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker approaching the end of their careers, Cox may be matched up against number one key forwards sooner than expected. While he will likely spend some time at Windy Hill in the VFL side for a couple of years, he’ll make a fantastic addition to a young backline alongside Jordan Ridley, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher and Zach Reid.

Archie Perkins

A tall midfielder with eyes for the goal and a strong character, Perkins will likely be the first of Essendon’s 2020 draft hand to debut. He averaged 14 disposals, 4 marks and 1.7 goals in his 2019 season with the Sandringham Dragons. Perkins’ ability to burst out of a pack or win a marking contest on the half-forward gives him multiple positions to play his best footy.

Josh Eyre

Eyre is a product of the Bombers’ James Hird Academy, an athletic marking forward who drew plenty of late attention coming into the 2020 draft. While he only managed three goals in his eight games for the Calder Cannons in his underage year, he demonstrated the ability to cover ground and provide a marking option for teammates.

Alex Catalano

Fremantle

Hayden Young

Taken with Fremantle’s first pick (pick 7) in the 2019 draft, Young should be rebounding the ball off half-back at Optus Stadium for many years to come. He played five games in 2020 and was just starting to hit his straps before an ankle injury ended his year. Young possesses everything you want in a modern defender, good speed and agility, an ability to intercept the ball and great skills on both sides of his body. He was touted as not only having the best kick in his draft class, but a left boot that would instantly make him one of the best users in AFL. While Fremantle already boasts a strong backline, Young should slot in seamlessly in.

Liam Henry

Another one of Fremantle’s top 10 picks from 2019, Dockers fans have been excited about Henry for some time. A graduate of Fremantle’s Next Generation Academy, he only managed three games in 2020 as he was forced to earn his spot. But Henry has already been one of the Dockers’ early pre-season standouts and a more normalized 2021 season structure should help with his development. He shapes as an exciting and classy small forward, with the scope to play further up the ground if required. Everything seems to be in place for Henry to have a breakout year.

Sam Sturt

After two injury interrupted seasons, Sturt looms as an important part of Fremantle’s team after the departure of Jesse Hogan. He shone on debut against Essendon in Round 1, when he kicked three goals on two-time All Australian Michael Hurley. This was enough to get him a Rising Star nomination, but he only played two more games before his season was ended by injury. Justin Longmuir has already shown a willingness to play three tall forwards, Matthew Taberner, Rory Lobb and Hogan, in the same forward line. Sturt is arguably a better structural fit alongside Taberner and Lobb, his leaner and lankier frame makes him a more natural third-tall forward option. The talent and potential is clearly there, with more injuries the concern going forward.

Luke Valente

While supporters will be familiar with the likes of Adam Cerra, Matthew Cerra and Caleb Serong, another exciting young midfielder waiting in the wings is Luke Valente. Justin Longmuir expects to see Valente at AFL level next year, with groin issues and a logjam for spots the only things that have held him back so far. He would add another level of class to Fremantle’s on-ball brigade as a tough inside midfielder, with his potential also extending off the field due to his leadership skills. He was South Australia’s captain in their 2018 National Under-18 Championship and has already impressed senior people at the Dockers in his brief time there. It’s traits like this that saw him inherit the number 29 from fellow South Australian Matthew Pavlich. While it’s a big number to live up to, it reflects how highly Valente is regarded by the Dockers.

Caleb Serong

While it’s hard to fathom after his incredible Rising Star debut season, there’s every possibility that Serong takes his game to another level in 2021. He didn’t make his debut until Round 4 and had to overcome the abnormalities of COVID affected season. Now an automatic selection with a more normalised structure around him, Serong could take yet another step. Originally expected to earn his way up forward, Serong instantly slotted into Fremantle’s engine room. He averaged 17 disposals, four tackles and three clearances, while also doing jobs on the likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Marcus Bontempelli and Patrick Cripps. One of the faces of Fremantle’s youth movement, Serong will be a cornerstone of the club going forward.

Hamish Spence

Geelong

Jordan Clark

Clark has been robbed of opportunity at the Cats in past seasons, with injuries and illness hampering the West Australian’s chance to prove himself at the top level. In his 21 AFL games to date, Clark has kicked 12 goals playing off half-back and on a wing, and has recorded 20 disposals in three of his games, playing alongside an already strong Geelong midfield. Clark’s speed is a key asset of his game, evidenced in his 2020 Grand Final Sprint win. With an uninterrupted pre-season under his belt, Clark will be primed to break back into – and cement his spot in – the Cats’ best 22.

Charlie Constable

Constable is another member of the Cats’ young brigade who’s been unable to string together a consistent run of games. Remarkably, he’s only played nine games, and averages 20.6 disposals from these outings. Tallies of 31 and 27 touches, against Melbourne and North Melbourne respectively, show Constable’s capacity to win plenty of the footy and hint that with an extended run in the seniors, he could be a valuable addition to the Cats’ midfield.

Cooper Stephens

The Cats’ first selection of the 2019 draft, Stephens is an inside midfielder with excellent endurance. He ranked equal-first during the 2019 draft combine in the yo-yo test, an especially good achievement having recovered from a broken leg earlier in his draft year. He’ll be one to watch for Cats fans, with his toughness and grit around the contest also key features of his game.

Sam De Koning

Standing at 201cm tall, De Koning is an imposing prospect, and an exciting one for the Cats. Despite playing predominantly as a key defender, De Koning can also serve as a handy ruck option or target in the forward half. Following Harry Taylor’s retirement, is there a vacancy in the defensive 50 for De Koning? Under the guidance of Geelong’s experienced backline, he’ll have an excellent opportunity to make his mark in 2021. 

Nathan Kreuger

Regarded highly by Geelong coaches and fans alike, Kreuger is a tall and athletic key forward. He kicked 18 goals in 16 VFL games in 2019, including a bag of six against Coburg, and shapes as an exciting forward prospect for the Cats. With the chance to develop further under Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron, two of the game’s best key forwards in the past few years, there’s no doubt Kreuger could become Geelong’s next star key forward.

Will Cuckson

Gold Coast

Matt Rowell 

When it comes to young stars in the AFL there are none more promising than Gold Coast superstar Matt Rowell, who after just five senior games has already established himself as one of the game’s elite. Picking up nine Brownlow votes from his first four games, the ‘old school’ young gun has future champion written all over him with his ability to win the ball and elevate his teammates second to none. A no nonsense footballer that loves the game and going about it his own way, the impact Rowell had in just five games this season was astounding with kids all over the country already mimicking his patented tucked in guernsey. Rowell is the future of the AFL and Suns fans should be over the moon that he will be doing his best work at Metricon Stadium. 

Noah Anderson 

The second half of the Suns’ deadly young midfield duo, Noah Anderson joined his best mate Rowell as the second pick in the 2019 national draft and had an instant impact at the top level. A bit more flamboyant than his workman like best mate, Anderson provides this Suns midfield with X-Factor through his ability to win the ball and use it well out of a stoppage. Starting the 2020 season more on the wing and across half forward, Stuart Dew unleashed Anderson into the midfield rotation with great effect as he managed to find the ball at will and make a late charge for the Rising Star. Another pre-season will see him further build his tank and develop himself into a steady member of the Suns on-ball brigade. 

Ben King 

One of the most exciting key forward prospects in the AFL, Ben King took another step forward in his second season as he began to really use his physical and aerial dominance to take over games. Similarly to his twin brother Max, Ben possesses an excellent set of hands with his willingness to attack every contest creating opportunities for both himself and his teammates. Along with his aerial prowess, King is extremely agile for a player of his size, with his ability to follow up and create scoring opportunities from the ground further adding to his status as one of the most exciting prospects in the competition. 

Elijah Hollands 

The Suns were both staggered and delighted to nab pick one fancy Elijah Hollands with the seventh pick in the draft, with the Murray Bushrangers prospect set to add to their exciting young core. Claimed by many to be the most complete midfielder in this draft, Hollands is a deadset game winner whose ability to impact the game both on the ball and up forward compared to the likes of Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli. Recovering from an ACL injury sustained in February, it is unlikely we will see Hollands in the early part of next season, however expect the youngster to do all he can to get his body completely right and give the Suns a spark over the second half of their campaign. 

Izak Rankine 

When it comes to AFL debut’s it is hard to top the efforts of Gold Coast livewire Izak Rankine as he announced himself to the AFL with an exhilarating three goal performance against Melbourne in round 6. From that point onwards, Rankine would become a walking highlights reel with his ability to pull off the remarkable both on the ground and in the air enough to get any football fan excited for the future. Despite some struggles with consistency towards the end of the season, Rankine proved himself to be one the future stars of the league and a player that will get people through the gates. Working in tandem with Ben King, Rankine is already a crucial cog in the Suns’ forward line and will benefit from another pre season with potential stints in the midfield on the cards. 

Zac Standish

Greater Western Sydney

Lachlan Ash

Going into his second season, Ash is already turning heads at the Giants. Known as a “Lachie Whitfield Clone”, Ash has shown his elite kicking and match awareness already throughout 2020. Often situated on the wing, Ash also has the ability to play off the half back flank; why he’s compared to Whitfield. After managing 12 games in his debut season, expect Ash to firmly cement his position in the Giants’ midfield rotation and develop into a star many have anticipated him to be.

Tom Green

No first year player (except Matt Rowell) had quite an impact on one game last season. After playing four of the first six games, Green found himself on the outer at the Giants, before returning in round 17. Green, in his fifth AFL game, had 30 disposals, 21 contested, in just 67% game time. He announced to the AFL world he was ready for a big workload in the guts of the Giants. After his first full preseason, and somewhat of a list reset at the Giants, Green is primed to play significant midfield time in 2021.

Jake Riccardi

Before round 13 last season, you could be excused if you didn’t realise this man was on an AFL list. Stuck behind superstar Jeremy Cameron, and very competent forwards Harry Himmelberg and Jeremy Finlayson, Riccardi had to bide his time for an AFL debut. When given the opportunity after inconsistent form from the Giants’ forward line, Riccardi seized the moment, kicking eight goals across his first three games. With Cameron now departing for Geelong, Riccardi is expected to head the new-look attack for the Giants in 2021. 

Xavier O’Halloran

O’Halloran was expected by many to leave GWS during the 2020 trade period, however instead he signed a two year extension to remain at the Giants. O’Halloran tasted AFL football twice in 2020 after waiting two full seasons before debuting. With another full preseason under the belt, the talented youngster will be expected by many to challenge for games this upcoming season.

Ian Hill

The exciting small forward affectionately known as ‘Bobby’ has notched up 13 games in his young career. Hill, cousin to Brad and Stephen, is quick with his legs and can find the goals with ease; kicking 11 goals in his 13 games. With the Giants looking to reset their forward structure after a disappointing 2020, Hill will be one of the first selected each week. 

Matt Forrest

Hawthorn

Finn Maginness

In only his second pre-season, 2019 father-son recruit Finn Maginness has already impressed on the training track, winning his second time-trial in two years. Already a fan favourite amongst Hawks fans, Maginness was awarded his long-awaited debut against the Bulldogs in round 17 at Adelaide oval. Maginness is a midfielder who can play both inside and outside due to his big frame and endurance. Expect to see more games from Maginness in 2021 who spent most of 2020 learning Clarko’s game plan and team structure. 

Damon Greaves

The Hawks found a diamond in the rough when they selected Damon Greaves for their round 16 clash against St Kilda. The rangy half-back produces nice foot skills and great endurance, similar to fellow young teammate Will Day. In his three games to round out the season, the young Hawk returned averages of 17.4 disposals and 90.4 percent disposal efficiency – numbers no one else in the league could match. The next best player season wide was Shannon Hurn (15.9 disposals at 87.8 percent). With plenty of half backs including the likes of Jarman Impey, Blake Hardwick, Will Day, Changkouth Jiath and Harry Morrison, Damon Greaves will be out to impress in the pre-season and become a lock in Hawthorn’s back six.

Denver Grainger Barras

Already nicknamed ‘Shaggy’ by coach Clarko due to his similar appearance to Scooby-Doo’s Shaggy Rogers, Denver Grainger Barras already looks to be the new cult figure for the Hawks. With his lanky frame and rangy hair, Grainger Barras was selected at Pick 6 for the Hawks and has great athleticism and can read the play well, modelling his game on now fellow teammate, James Sicily. With the departure of Ben Stratton and James Frawley, Hawthorn fans may see Grainger Barras don the brown and gold early in the season with the ready-made key defender in the mix to line-up for the Hawks in Round 1 alongside fellow tall defender and new recruit Kyle Hartigan who crossed over from the Adelaide Crows in the off season.

James Worpel

Coming off a Peter Crimmins medal in 2019, season 2020 was a bit stagnant for the 21-year old. The contested bull was dealt with increased attention and scrutiny from opposition players as he proves to become one of Hawthorn’s premier midfielders. Season 2020 was all about Worpel building synergy with fellow midfielders Liam Shiels and Jaeger O’Meara as well as the returning Brownlow Medallist Tom Mitchell who came back from a broken leg after spending the entirety of 2019 on the sidelines. Averaging 19 disposals in 2020, Worpel also finished the season strong averaging 5.4 tackles a game – the most of any Hawk. Still yet to play 50 games, Worpel still has plenty of development and improvement to do which will excite the Hawthorn faithful.

Will Day

Entering just his second season in the brown and gold, Will Day already looks at home in the back six. Day played 11 games in 2020, whilst earning a rising star nomination in round 16 against St Kilda and finishing 10th in the Peter Crimmins Medal count. The promising defender is efficient by foot and offers plenty of run and carry. With the departures captain Ben Stratton and premiership defender James Frawley, Will Day will have more responsibility in 2021 and will be determined to help fill the void of his outgoing premiership teammates.

James Strebinos

Melbourne

Charlie Spargo

The 21-year-old small forward hasn’t reached the heights of his rookie campaign since 2018, managing only eight games in each of the last two seasons. Melbourne’s forward line will receive a bit of a rejig going into 2021, with the arrival of Ben Brown expected to re-spark a dormant offence. When Spargo did play last season, he did average a goal a game, however will be required to be more active in setting up teammates and providing a bit more pressure to keep the ball in the area. 

Bailey Laurie

After being selected with the 22nd pick in the 2020 draft, Laurie comes into the Demons with the ability to play games straight away. Despite being 179cm tall and weighing 78kg, Laurie is hard at the football and is incredibly intelligent and brilliant when using the ball. With the ability to be situated on a wing or play a high half forward role, Laurie should play early and often for Melbourne. 

Jake Bowey

Selected one spot earlier than Laurie, Jake Bowey may take some time to build his body a little bit before being exposed to AFL games. Despite this, Bowey is also elite by foot and makes good decisions with the ball in hand. After playing as a wingman for Sandringham in 2019, Bowey may end up playing a small forward role for Melbourne. Another draftee who should excite fans when he does get his chance.

Luke Jackson

Whilst he won’t be Melbourne’s number one ruck for some time, there’s plenty of reason to play Jackson regularly. He has the ability to give Max Gawn some much-deserved rest during a game, whilst also not being a complete pushover in the role. He can also move forward, where he’ll likely develop at this stage of his career. He is quite quick for a big man, which would allow for him to beat bigger, slower opponents on a lead. It would be a mistake to not give him an opportunity at the AFL level, provided he earns and keeps his spot. 

Kysaiah Pickett

Excitement machine Pickett played 14 games in his debut season, and will continue to add to that this coming year. Pickett has the ability to make something out of nothing, and has a genuine pace not possessed by many. He’ll need to get better in front of goal; with a return of 6.13 across his debut season, however, he’s finding plenty of the ball in dangerous areas, which will excite Demons fans for years to come. 

Matt Forrest

North Melbourne

Luke Davies Uniacke 

Alongside Will Phillips, the man affectionately known as ‘LDU’ will be a force to be reckoned with in 2021. Injuries have robbed him in recent years, but Davies-Uniacke, with hopefully a full pre-season, can become one of the competition’s most damaging midfielders. 2021 is certainly the year for LDU.

Atu Bosenavulagi

We’ve seen glimpses of what Bosenavulagi is capable off when he was at Collingwood, particularly in his debut match where he amassed 16 touches. While his next two games were quiet for the Magpies, he can certainly play a role for the rebuilding Roos.

Will Phillips 

North Melbourne is looking to build its future around a remarkable young midfielder named Will Phillips. He’s been touted as a similar to play to Geelong superstar Joel Selwood, with his leadership qualities highlighting his abilities to be a future captain. He will play most of 2021.

Eddie Ford 

Ford is a young and exciting forward recruited from the Western Jets in the 2020 draft. He’s versatile, while his strength is near the goals, he’s able to showcase his talent in the midfield and defence also.

Bailey Scott

The son of Geelong and North Melbourne player Robert Scott is a promising young mid/forward. Scott has played 17 games for North Melbourne, and he showcased his potential in Round 1, 2019 with a remarkable performance. He played 13 games in 2020 and will want to add to that as the Roos aim to rebuild in the new year.

Elly McNerney 

Port Adelaide

Connor Rozee

While Rozee’s second season wasn’t as impressive as his first, there was a defining reason, and it was an injured heel. Fans saw what the youngster could do in the preliminary final, as he was arguably Port’s best player in the loss to Richmond. As Travis Boak and Robbie Gray get older, Rozee’s midfielder minutes will increase, and his composure will shine through. One to watch again in 2021 for season three.

Zak Butters

Out of the three of Port’s prized draft crop from 2018, Butters excelled to the top of that ranking with his unbelievable bravery and smarts around the ball. Butters received a well-deserved spot in the All-Australian squad of 40, and if that’s only season two, what awaits in his next year can only be more exciting.

Lachie Jones

Port Adelaide was only too happy to see Lachie Jones slide to Pick 16, a man who can do anything around the ground. Jones is already a premiership player with Woodville-West Torrens and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see Jones sitting inside the Round 1 squad.

Miles Bergman

Quoted by Port Adelaide chief executive Matthew Richardson as a ‘serious player’ this past fortnight, Bergman is one of Port’s untried class of 2019. Fans were unable to see the exciting youngster bring plenty to the table in 2020 due to no reserve sides thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but 2021 will be different. Expect to see Bergman burst into the side.

Mitch Georgiades

High-flying, exciting and a very similar forward to Jay Schulz – something Port fans have screamed out for since the former goalkickers retirement. Georgiades impressed frequently throughout the 2020 campaign when given the opportunity, booting eight goals from seven appearances. Will get even more opportunities in 2021.

Jack Hudson

Richmond 

Noah Balta 

Likened to Richmond premiership player Alex Rance, Balta is a very reliable defender who has slotted into Richmond’s backline nicely. Something that was highlighted in his debut season in 2019 was his versatility, being able to play in the ruck, back and even up forward.

Riley Collier-Dawkins 

Although he hasn’t made his AFL debut yet, Collier-Dawkins looks like a great prospect for the Tigers, and has got the ability to remain calm under pressure and apply pressure in the attacking half of the ground. He was a standout in Richmond’s VFL premiership win in 2019, and will be battling to get into the Tigers’ AFL side.

Thomson Dow

The younger brother of Carlton’s Paddy Dow, was one two debutants for the Tigers in 2020. Dow is a very good player around stoppages and shown his potential in bursting away from packs, which suits the Tigers’ aggressive and successful game style.

Sydney Stack 

Although has had some off-field issues, Stack is still a promising young talent, who has featured in 26 games for the Tigers. He’s not afraid to put his body on the line to win the footy, and is great across half back. He can easily grab it and go and deliver the ball to one of his team mates up forward and isn’t afraid to push up when necessary.

Maurice Rioli Jr 

Drafted at Pick 51, Rioli looks like a promising recruit, after being recruited from St Mary’s Football club in the Northern Territory,  The best part of his game is his forward pressure and the Rioli name is one that will as per usual, have Tigers’ fans salivating.

Elly McNerney 

St Kilda

Max King

After a great first year of playing at AFL, the big guy in number 12 looks primed to continue building and establish himself as one of the premier young big men in the game. 20 goals in his first season, in a shortened season, including two in the elimination final, Max, along with brother Ben on the Gold Coast are primed to lead the renaissance of the big power forward in the game.

Jack Bytel

The inside midfielder has battled his fair share of injuries in recent years prior to and since arriving at St Kilda. Broke through for three games in the middle of the year and looked comfortable at the level. Another pre-season of building strength and his body up to cope with the rigors of AFL footy and will add another element to the Saints dynamic midfield.

Hunter Clark

A young star who really took his game to a new level in 2020. Set for more midfield time in 2021, Clarks kicking, poise and clean hands were all on show last year and had Saints fans salivating over the prospects of just what he can do in the red, white and black for years to come.

Jack Higgins

The livewire, who crossed recently in search for more game time has come to a pace where he will be a welcome inclusion across the half forward line and the midfield. Higgins will no doubt be chomping at the bit to use this fresh start to his advantage after a tough couple of years and hit the ground running.  His creativity, footy nous and cheekiness will no doubt have Saints fans excited about their newest recruit. 

Nick Coffield

Much like his draftmate Clark, Coffield’s emergence into a reliable rebounding defender was one of many shining lights for the Saints in 2020. His elite kicking across half back was a catalyst for St Kilda and their game style as they sprung up the ladder. Coffield looks set for a big role in 2021 and looms as a key plank to their plans for next year and beyond.

Jono Baruch

Sydney

James Rowbottom

One of the Swans brightest young stars, Rowbottom built on his promising first season by playing all bar one game for the Swans, and became a mainstay in the midfield, filling holes left by the veteran in Josh P. Kennedy. Averaging 14.81 disposals in his second year, Rowbottom also averaged 3.19 clearances, 2.44 inside 50’s and has a career average of 4.18 tackles. He was also awarded the Most improved award for the Swans at the Best and Fairest. With strong word of his maturity and leadership qualities, Rowbottom will continue to be one of the faces of the Swans potential new generation of success.

Justin McInerney 

Somewhat of a surprise packet in 2020, McInerney played nine games this year after a debut the previous year, and seemingly grew in confidence in every match. Moving onto the wing for the Swans, McInerney showed his skill with a Rising Star nomination in round 15 against Melbourne, where he had 14 touches, five marks and kicked two goals. He backed it up with another solid performance against eventual runners-up Geelong in round 18 with 16 touches, seven marks and another two goals. He would go on to be awarded Sydney’s Rising Star award and looks set to grow even further in 2021. 

Dylan Stephens

As the Swans first top five draft pick since Jarrad McVeigh in 2002, Stephens came into the Swans with at least some expectations and he has already shown great signs in his debut season. Averaging 12.50 disposals in his eight games in 2020, Stephens only had less than 10 touches once, against Hawthorn. Like McInerney, he had a great finish to the season, with 19 disposals and five marks against Geelong. And coming into his second season, he’s primed and ready to add to his games total.

Tom McCartin

The younger brother of Paddy surprised many when, desperate for another tall in the backline, Swans coach John Longmire sent Tom there. And he showed his versatility with a series of solid performances in the backline for the Swans. With Aliir Aliir’s surprise departure for Port Adelaide, Tom may find himself playing in the backline permanently. But having started as a forward, and averaging 3.75 marks across his career so far, Tom may become a very handy swingman as well. Whatever the outcome, Tom will no doubt relish the opportunity.

Logan McDonald

The Swans were delighted to secure his services when he fell to their first pick at number 4 in this year’s draft. McDonald had a strong season in the WAFL this year with 21 goals from just nine games. His biggest strength lies in his marking ability and the Swans will no doubt want to see it on display early. No guarantees on a first up debut, but he will be ready to make his mark in 2021.

Thomas Grattan

West Coast

Oscar Allen

A slight shift from back-up ruckman to his preferred forward role paid dividends for Allen in 2020, with the ruck-forward averaging 1.1 marks inside 50 a game. He kicked 18 goals from his 15 games, fourth on the goal kicking for the Eagles behind Josh J. Kennedy (34 goals), Jack Darling (30) and Liam Ryan (26) . With Tom Hickey moving to Sydney, Allen is likely to be used more in the ruck in 2021, but will no doubt have added confidence in his strong skills in the forward line after a career best season. 

Jarrod Cameron

Cameron added five games in 2020 to his seven in 2019. Serviceable if not overly impressive, Cameron will no doubt be greater for the added experience and will continue to grow for the Eagles in 2021, with huge potential showcased in two four goal hauls in his first season.

Jack Petruccelle

Petruccelle had a quieter 2020 after a breakout 2019 season. Playing the first three games, followed by the final three, Petruccelle was down across the board, except in clearances, 0.83 a game up from 0.60 in 2019. With a (hopefully) settled season, there is no doubt that he can return to his best for the Eagles – after all, he is still only 21.

Jack Petruccelle. Image: westcoasteagles.com.au

Xavier O’Neill

A debutant for the Eagles in 2020, O’Neill showed tremendous promise, playing the last five games of the season before being dropped for the first final. Averaging 9.80 disposals across those games, O’Neill will no doubt be knocking on the door to breakout in 2021 for West Coast.

Isiah Winder

Could he turn out to be a bargain pickup for the Eagles? Having been taken at the lowly pick of 57, not much will be expected, but with impressive stats for the Peel Thunder’s  Colts team in the WAFL (28 possessions, seven marks, five tackles and three inside 50s) Winder could be a surprise packet in 2021. 

Thomas Grattan

Western Bulldogs

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

2020’s undisputed number one selection is desperately needed at the Bulldogs. Ugle-Hagan being likened to Lance Franklin will always give fans some excitement at his potential, but he has the ability to slot into the Bulldogs forward line and make an instant impact. 

Aaron Naughton

Despite having a down 2020, Naughton is still young and learning the ways of being an AFL full forward. Naughton only managed 15 goals in his 12 games, with one bag of six included, however with Ugle-Hagan arriving and Josh Bruce starting to make an impact in the latter part of the season, Bulldogs are relying on the Astro-Naught to crash packs and kick goals. 

Bailey Smith

Smith has started his career in superb fashion, playing all 41 games and running through the midfield last year. His hard-working nature won the favour of Beveridge and the coaches at the Kennel, however the addition of Adam Treloar means he may lose some midfield time. When forward, he has the ability to kick goals, however he’ll need to develop that ‘X-Factor’ ability that Dustin Martin and Pat Dangerfield have in order to turn games in the Bulldogs’ favour. 

Rhylee West

The son of Bulldogs legend Scott West will be eager to add more games to his current tally of seven in 2021. The outside midfielder can find a home on the wing, and use his high footy IQ to direct a lot of the Bulldogs attacks inside forward 50. With another preseason under the belt, expect West to enter the 2021 season stronger, fitter, and firmly in the best 22. 

Ed Richards

Richards has found himself firmly in the best 22 for the Bulldogs over the last three seasons, however has declined slightly since his rookie season. With the absolute depth the Bulldogs now find in their midfield, it is expected that Richards will play the majority of his football in the forward line for the Bulldogs, with some stints on a wing. As a result, Richards will need to improve on his career average of 0.4 goals a game if he wants to start impacting matches. He’s still only 21, which is remarkable considering he’s played 58 career games. 

Will Cuckson

Matt Forrest

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