Each week, ESPN.com.au AFL draft expert Chris Doerre casts his eye over the country's best junior footballers to give readers an early insight into the next generation of AFL stars.
As well as attending live games, Doerre pores through match vision, analyses the stats and talks to industry sources to ensure he can offer the most insightful draft analysis.
Aside from the weekly wraps, Doerre will also unveil his power rankings at the end of each month and as we get closer to November's national draft, Doerre will also predict who goes where with his annual phantom draft.
Improving his draft stocks, Josh Fahey was one of the few highlights for AFL Academy in their 130-point loss to Geelong's VFL side. Winning the MCC President's Medal, Fahey, the Greater Western Sydney Academy product took the bulk of the kickouts for the AFL Academy and impressed on his left foot with his penetration and precision kicking. Fahey's point of difference is his kick which has penetration out to 65 metres. Often found on offensive drives running in support, Fahey's role was to drive the football forward with his run and penetrating kick and to be available to receive handballs on the move and launch the football forward with momentum.
A rebounding defender, Fahey is in the first-round mix. Amassing 23 disposals and nine rebound 50s, there are hints with Fahey's play that remind you of Trent McKenzie. While Fahey spent time on a wing during the second half, his game is best suited to playing in defence, as he's someone who is so good taking kickouts that you don't want to ball in anyone else's hands.
Fahey showed against Geelong's VFL side that he is more than a one-trick-pony, winning one-on-one contests against VFL opposition in defence, and reading the ball well to take intercept marks.
The next stage in Fahey's development will be adding additional weapons to his game that enable him to find more of the football and increase his already high frequency of impact offensively. Specifically, if he improves his contested ball winning, develops further as an intercept mark, and puts himself in positions to more frequently provide a link-up-option, he'll cause problems for rival teams at AFL level.
FOUR THINGS I LEARNED
Mac Andrew won fans with his final quarter performance for the AFL Academy. With his getting pummelled, Andrews not only continued competing, but dominated once inserted into the ruck during the final quarter. His leap, ruck craft and soft hands stood out and screamed long-term AFL ruckman, and he routinely outleapt his Geelong rivals and tapped the ball down to the advantage of his midfielders. His touch below his knees and tackling suggested further promise. A Melbourne Next-Generation Academy prospect, Andrew at 200cm, 77kg will require time developing. As he develops physically, because of his mobility, skills, clean hands below his knees, and reading of the ball in flight and contested marking, he has the scope to develop as a key forward or key defender before transitioning into a ruckman. The developing tall managed nine disposals, three marks (one contested), two clearances and five hitouts. If Andrew continues developing and attracts a bid inside the top-20 in this year's draft, Melbourne may be the first victim of the new Next-Generation Academy rules which state that those bid on inside the top-20 cannot have their bid matched.
Reading the ball early off the opposition boot, Neil Erasmus took two intercept marks across half-forward in a matter of minutes for AFL Academy. Erasmus was one of the few AFL Academy boys who performed strongly and enhanced his draft stocks, managing 12 disposals and five marks (two contested). Erasmus' reputation started building with a four-goal WAFL Colts Grand Final performance last year. His development has continued strongly with his consistent midfield play and accumulation over the opening rounds of the WAFL Colts season. Erasmus' greatest strength is how he reads the ball in flight and his overhead marking, though his all-around game is promising. His movement is good, he's clean at ground level, and impressed with his delivery by foot, feeling like he would make something happen whenever he had the ball in his hands forward of centre. With his capability to impact games both through the midfield and as a forward, Erasmus is firmly in the first-round mix.
Vice-Captain of the AFL Academy side, Jason Horne played a hard brand of football and was one of the AFL Academy's most competitive players. With Horne struggling to have his usual impact offensively, he did exactly as his coaches would have asked through his application defensively, pressuring the opposition ball carriers, connecting on his tackles (two of which dispossessed the opposition) and smothering an opposition kick in the first quarter. There were still enough mouth-watering moments from Horne to justify the hype, with not only the composure he showed with ball in hand, but also his contested ball winning and two very strong marks. One mark an impressive leaping mark across half-back late in the second quarter with the other an intercept mark. The pick No. 1 contender finished with 11 disposals, eight contested possessions, two marks (one contested), eight tackles and four clearances. While his numbers don't jump off the page, he was a lot more influential than his numbers would suggest.
Playing a lively brand of football, Josh Rachele increased his first-round draft credentials, impressing with his work at ground level and his pressure game. He had two tackles and a smother, and with his defensive game shining, it's a sign which demonstrates he can have an impact even when his side is struggling offensively. While his opportunities to attack were limited, he was damaging with his ball use and kicked a long 55m goal in the third quarter which was a highlight for the AFL Academy side. The exciting forward managed nine disposals, four marks, four inside-50s, one goal and one score assist.
STATS WHICH CAUGHT THE EYE
Collingwood father-son prospect and pick one contender Nick Daicos captained the AFL Academy. The son of a gun secured team highs of 26 disposals, 11 contested possessions, six clearances, five inside 50s and two score assists. While Daicos' numbers on paper were clearly his sides' best and his play was solid offensively, his application defensively was only okay and his impact was low by his standards, with his numbers relatively flattering.