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AFL Draft Combine: Which youngsters stood out?

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The AFL's next big stat ... revealed? (1:30)

Christian Joly from Champion Data discusses the stats that AFL clubs are keen to measure more, a new one being ubbed 'intercept... returns from... stoppages'. (1:30)

The AFL Draft Combine each year gives clubs the opportunity to interview, observe the interactions of and watch the testing performances of each prospect available for testing.

It is also an opportunity for clubs to see how much the prospects have improved since testing earlier in the year and in years past as well as how much they have grown and added weight.


How combine results should be interpreted

It's easy to look at draft combine results and get excited about footballers if they're breaking records in particular tests. What clubs do, because they've been watching the players invited throughout the year, is put the results in the context of what the footballer does in game to explain what they've been watching during the year.

The recording breaking performance

Breaking the agility test record, Darcy Jones finished in 7.70 seconds, surpassing Stephen Hill's 7.77 seconds set in 2008. A small but speedy outside midfielder, Jones breaks the lines and takes on the game with an unmatched level of dash and dare, displaying rare speed and agility. When there is a man on the mark or a would-be tackler, he regularly turns them inside out before bursting away.

The reason for excitement with Jones and why his agility test result is so meaningful is the combination of the frequency of instances he takes on the game with his run, the volume of ball he accumulates (amassed as many as 44 disposals in one WAFL Colts game) and that he wins a good proportion of ball contested (averaging eight contested possessions per game during the Under-18 Championships).

The challenge faced by many fast twitch outside runners who play a high impact per possession game tends to be that they struggle to find much of the football or win their own ball. With neither of these common limitations, issues for Jones, and his record-breaking agility testing and application of run, in game amongst the best to come through the junior ranks in recent years. Jones could feature late first round or somewhere inside the second round on draft day.

The outstanding combine result that wowed clubs

The son of former Hawk and Docker Ben Allan, Ed Allan, a tall utility at 195cm, won the 20m sprint with a combine best time of 2.81 seconds. Allan's 20m sprint is a top-10 all-time draft combine time and 0.01 seconds faster than Jack Watts secured in 2008. Looking most likely to develop into a tall wing or flanker, Allan is a skillful and mobile tall who covers a lot of ground, finds the ball in bunches, and has also shown that he can even be utilised as an inside midfielder.

The 20m sprint result from Allan was mildly surprising in that he presents mostly as a mobile tall with good endurance, though there were moments when used through the midfield where Allan showed some power bursting out of stoppages which clubs will be looking to see more of. Allan is likely to be selected inside the first half of the draft and is considered a first round smokie on the back of his strong second half to the season.

The results that confirm what we already believed

The younger brother of Gold Coast's Elijah Hollands, Oliver Hollands as expected won the 2km time trial, completing the run with a time of five minutes and 54 seconds, edging ahead of Jason Gillbee at the finish line. An elite two-way runner with a balanced inside/outside game, Hollands on matchday covers as much ground as anyone in this draft and should feature inside the first round of this year's draft.

The surprise

A strong bodied key defender, James Van Es won the running vertical jump, managing a 98cm jump and finishing equal first with Darcy Jones in the standing vertical jump. Normally engaging with opponents' body-on-body and playing a strong defensive game, Van Es is a good intercept mark and there have been moments where he has elevated for some aerial intercept marks. With his leaping gifts and how well he can read the drop of the ball, Van Es should be encouraged to attack more balls aerially for more intercept marks. Viewed as a possible second half of draft prospect, Van Es only improved his draft chances as one of the more physically advanced key defenders in this year's draft.

The show of character

While athletic performance is one part of the combine the prospects are evaluated on, the character demonstrated by Max Gruzewski to 'help out a mate' in a showing of sportsmanship was one of the great stories to come out of the combine. With Lewis Hayes, the younger brother of Port Adelaide's Sam struggling to finish the 2km time trial and losing all strength through his legs in the final metres, Gruzewski who approached from behind elected before crossing the finish line to help the struggling Hayes to his feet several times over the closing metres before crossing the finish line together.

National Combine Results

2km time trial
Oliver Hollands (Murray Bushrangers) - 5:54 minutes
Jason Gillbee (Bendigo Pioneers) - 5:54 minutes
Jaxon Binns (Dandenong Stingrays) - 6:00 minutes

20m sprint Edward
Allan (Claremont) - 2.81 seconds
Toby McMullin (Sandringham Dragons) - 2.880 seconds
Coby Burgiel (Gippsland Power) - 2.883 seconds

Agility
Darcy Jones (Swan Districts) - 7.70 seconds
Jaxon Binns (Dandenong Stingrays) - 8.18 seconds
Elijah Hewett (Swan Districts) - 8.21 seconds

Standing vertical jump
Darcy Jones (Swan Districts) - 75cm
James Van Es (Greater Western Victoria Rebels) - 75cm
Jack O'Sullivan (Oakleigh Chargers) - 71cm

Running vertical jump
James Van Es (Greater Western Victoria Rebels) - 98cm
Aaron Cadman (Greater Western Victoria Rebels) - 93cm
Will Verrall (South Adelaide) - 90cm
Josh Weddle (Oakleigh Chargers) - 90cm