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COLIN WISBEY'S 2006 NATIONAL DRAFT PREDICTIONS

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Continuing Colin Wisbey's 2006 Draft Predictions (PART ONE)

CATEGORY THREE - THE FOLLOWING WILL PLAY PLENTY OF AFL AND MAY WELL TURN OUT TO BE GOOD BUT I DOUBT WILL BE AS GOOD AS TOUTED (in draft order):-

GUMBLETON, Scott (2 ESS) [14] Physical, pack-crunching competitive worker KP. Big mark with a big motor and the heart of Phar Lap. More crunch than class but 101% commitment to team every time and a quality person. Leads by example, on and off-field. In '06, although only 17yo, was named in WA Seniors squad for interstate game and also got 9 votes in Sandover Medal, incl BOG in R1 and 2nd best in R22. 42 goals in '05 Colts. Big leap, courageous, quite clean below the knee, very good endurance. Goes for many pack marks and does take some rippers but doesn't hold as many as I think he needs to and I feel his overhead "reliability" is somewhat overrated. His hands are fairly good and he really attacks his marks but too often struggles for balance and/or ability to hold his ground / keep his feet body on body. Gumby murders an ordinary opponent but often struggles against a quality peer. On the right opponent, he can play KP forward or back but is also handy in the ruck (197cm with big leap, natural ruck skills, and good judgement and decision-making). However he definitely lacks zip and his recovery agility isn't flash. All of that makes him vulnerable against a KP opponent who has some zip or is very strong body on body. In the 3 '06 U18 Champs games, at various times he played key defender on Hansen and Hawkins and CHF on Sellar. IMHO, all beat him. Hawkins looked a class above him. When Sellar played close he glove-foiled Gumbleton's marking efforts almost every time (albeit in terrible conditions) and caught him out a number of times by running off him to create an option. In their duel, Sellar 15 disposals to Gumby 8. I've watched Gumby for 3 years, from U16s and Colts to WAFL Seniors. In the '04 U16 Champs, he was very impressive and looked a top AFL prospect but I suspect his peers have since improved at a faster rate, AFL-wise. Kicking technique needs work. (For a set kick his release is too early, costing him accuracy, and his COM is too far back on contact, costing him depth. Tends to kick under the ball, and too often off "one" step, rather than through it). I'm confident he will play plenty of AFL games, including some good ones, but I can't see him being a gun (although I'm at odds with popular opinion). He still got a healthy ranking from me and was always going to get taken inside the very first few picks but there are quite a few players, including almost all the "name" KPPs, who I would have drafted ahead him. In '05 (a much shallower draft, esp for KPPs), I ranked Josh Kennedy at 14 (same as Gumby this year) and both went top 4 as expected. However, I have always considered Gumby to be by far the better prospect.

BOAK, Travis (5 POR) [25] Hard to be confident what his best injury-free capability is. Is coming off a very difficult couple of years (family tragedy, injuries). Back stress fractures during '05 and early '06, groin problems following '06 Champs, and missed 1st TAC final also. Even allowing for all this though, I'm somewhat agnostic and wouldn't have drafted him myself, not only because of the high price required but also due to a combination of factors (including, but not especially, his injury history). He is certainly a smooth mover, clean, with good pace (although I'd like to see him use it more), very good endurance when injury-free, good tackle count, and usually runs to the right spots. I'm sceptical re his ability to become a genuinely top AFL player as touted but he "moves" like a classy AFL type, finds the ball, and is athletic so I do assume he will play plenty of AFL games. His basic stats also read as consistently healthy. However, he is one of those players who can have 25 disposals (even 10 in a quarter) without having nearly the impact on the game that his stats might suggest. He also doesn't have a record of really shining in big games (albeit with excuses in some games). He is regularly described as "classy" yet his decision-making can be iffy and he misses way too many targets by foot (even allowing for injury). (Kicking style looks relaxed but his drop is too forward of his plant foot so COM stays too far behind, costing him depth, and his arm actions need work). Style somewhat like Kane Johnson. For current family reasons, I suspect a Victorian club would have been a better short-term fit for his needs than an interstate one.

CATEGORY FOUR - EARLY PICK QUERIES (in draft order) – In some cases (mainly Reid and Frawley) I wouldn’t be all that surprised if they make it but I have major concerns whereas many people would label them "definite" or nearly so:

REID, Ben (8 COL) [49] Courageous skinny tall with good pace. 2 days younger and he would have been too young for '06 draft and is also still growing into his body so plenty of allowance needs to be made (although he has been through all the system - AIS, U16 Champs, U18 Champs, TAC). My main concern is "What AFL role (might he become capable of owning)?". That's the show-stopper for me. Other concerns are poor balance, recovery and defensive agility, skinniness. Trademarks are (1) Anything to do with courage, including launching himself at the ground ball, (2) Clean hands to take an uncontested mark or gather a loose ball or receive out wide, then deliver a probably fairly accurate feed or kick, quite possibly a floater, to a well-spotted team mate, (3) Getting squeezed out of a pack marking contest or not being able to keep his balance in some other balance-testing situations. Ben, like Kepler Bradley, lacks natural balance in a host of circumstances. I rate balance among the top requirements for AFL and especially for KPP. If he is to be a potential KPP because he is 196cm and quicker than most KPPs, how competitive can he be in body contests if he struggles through lack of NATURAL balance to keep his feet and/or hold his ground? We have seen this with Bradley (whose balance admittedly is worse). Ben is skinny - needs to bulk up a helluva lot to have the strength for KPP. If he can (and I'm somewhat sceptical), can he do so without losing his main current advantage re KPP, namely pace? OK, let's consider him as a tall flanker/wingman. On paper it sounds great. A 196cm guy whose speed tests indicate he has the pace to go with many flankers/ wingmen, is quite clean at ground level and is fairly good overhead if not under great pressure. However, slippery opponents will be too nimble in general play and too zippy (especially off the mark, despite Ben's DC times suggesting otherwise). Further, Ben's lack of natural balance will be exploited even by much smaller opponents, mainly in running to the ball and inside traffic but, in some cases, even overhead. A smaller guy typically won't be able to match Ben overhead per se but many/most are still adept at laying a bump and body-on-body. If they can nudge Ben off his line, as many will be able to do, then it no longer becomes a marking contest but a fight for the spill/ground ball. Yes, Ben is good below the knees (at least in space or not inside traffic) for such a tall guy ... but he is not "contested midfielder good". Once the ball is on the carpet, especially inside traffic but also one-on-one, Ben, against most much shorter opponents will lose many more than he wins. We have seen this even at underage level when he has played non-KP roles (typically wing). People get excited about the prospect of a tall who has some small-man attributes. I am never seduced by "bonus" attributes if the kid doesn't look likely to be near enough to the real deal in his core requirement. The 198cm Paul Johnson was rightly lauded for small-man ability in many areas. What Paul lacked was big-man ability, especially overhead marking. I expect a potential KPP to be good as a tall. Anything on top of that adds value to his core contribution. You don't see many AFL long-termers who defy that rule, although many "in betweeners" get drafted/rookied ... then delisted. The lucky tall ones (eg Tristan Walker) stay on a list beyond their use-by date because we can be tempted to think it is just a matter of time before it all comes together. Occasionally it does. Usually it finishes up being a poor return on investment. Trying to picture Ben as a mid-age U18 in '07 he might make huge improvement, as some do, from one year to the next. As very bottom-age, I'm not categorically stating that Reid will never make AFL. However, IMHO he has critical issues that I am highly sceptical about being addressable and that he has no "above average" footy smarts or skill attribute and so represents a much greater risk than I would be prepared to take. Terrific kid and will play AFL games but I feel his upside is overrated (or too taken for granted) by most people and his risk underrated. His combination of the above assets will probably enable him to pinch-hit in various roles on the right opponent. However, I don't believe in drafting kids you think will be able to just pinch-hit.

FRAWLEY, James (12 MEL) [57] 193cm (although perhaps with a reach disadvantage) defender. Shows poise but sub-standard kicking and decision-making are almost show-stoppers. Has a fair bit wrong with his kicking action, including low take, being hunched (resulting in limited backswing and need to "rush punch" his kicks), and negligible arm movement. No left foot sometimes costs him. Currently slim and might (?) always be (added only 2kg in 2 years) but weight will be at least flanker-OK. Reliable overhead (in all respects). Gets his own ball but links well too. Pace has improved a lot but, despite some people saying otherwise, to no better than at best "handy" IMHO (and still sub par off the mark). He's a bit "neither one thing nor the other". Looked serious AFL in a couple of games (esp vs Geelong R 12) and sounds versatile but is prone to periods in various games where his opponent cuts him up damagingly. Frawley reads the play very well in defence, is very balanced and cool, and runs to the right spots (both defensively and offensively). He's built more as a tall flanker but he can get turned inside out by a quick/slippery opponent. He's competitive overhead for a flanker but someone like Hansen (among many others) would outmark him virtually every time as a KPP. If I had a hypothetical guarantee that both his kicking and decision-making would improve dramatically, he'd be definite "handy AFL" and earlier in my rankings. Although I think his kicking problems are addressable, it's hard, in the absence of real evidence, to justify confidence in him sufficiently improving his decision-making and kicking. Vision and awareness aren't flash either. I don't see him ever being top notch but he might become a solid type. I wouldn't have taken him myself though, let alone as a first rounder, although various clubs rated him fairly early. I do expect him to play a fair few AFL games however, perhaps even debuting in year 1, and he does have AFL ethic and some leadership traits.

RENOUF, Brent (24 HAW) [] Athleticism good, ethic very good but is he a small man trapped in a big man's body? NQR as a tall. Main selling points are small-man ethic and skills, athleticism (incl endurance). Has among the best small-man attributes of any of the serious talls in this draft. However, huge men should get drafted for what they offer in the big-man department, small-man attributes being a bonus, and I'm far from convinced about Brent in the big-man stuff, especially contested marking and ruck ability. Big leap but regularly jumps too early at centre bounce (and other ball-ups), resulting in him meeting the ball when he is well on the way down. The early jump allows him to partially command the space under the ball and has worked well for him against shorter rucks but leaves him vulnerable to a later-jumping ruck being able to connect with the ball at a point higher than what Renouf is by that stage. This is not an occasional thing. He has been doing it for at least the last 2 years. Brent has to modify his timing if he is to be competitive against good AFL rucks, let alone giants. Overhead concerns are positioning (tends to move to a spot directing under the ball and jump straight up, leaving him vulnerable to a spoil from behind.), ability to hold his ground, hands (he often seems to position them as if trying to grab a basketball, although his background is rugby) and judgement. Hard to criticise his '06 form (eg 7 Morrish Medal votes from a possible 9 in his 3 TAC games) but a recruiter's job is to assess AFL capability, not lower level form per se. Brent doesn't get a lot of ball but earns what he gets. Very impressive (hands, intensity, decisions) when at or near a "ground-level" play of any sort but he is too often where the play ain't. In 6 U18 Champs games '05-06, never more than 8 disposals in a game. His 3 TAC '06 games, although he played well, yielded only 8, 11, 13 (the 13 against a bottom team). Tends to be hard on himself and his confidence can be fragile. Some players respond well when criticised, using it as a spur to do better. However, some other players need to be emotionally "nursed" (continual positive reinforcement) and can lose confidence when criticised. Brent is in the latter category. That's certainly not a showstopper but it does bother me in any player. He was always going to get drafted based mainly on impressive "small man" ethic/capability (which is not the main thing I'm after in a huge man) and impressive QAFL Seniors form (including/especially a good game at CHB on ex Brisbane/Richmond player Luke Weller at season-end). I'm sceptical though. I don't see him cutting it as AFL ruck and can't see him as any chance of being a 200cm CHB at AFL level. (Better giants than Brent have been touted, without result, for such role).

DAWES, Chris (28 COL) [] Strongly-built blue collar tall who has really only been playing footy for about 3 years. Likely to miss all '07 due to knee reco late '06. That would be a problem for any kid but a relative newcomer to footy needs to get as many games under his belt as quickly as possible to make up for the start most of his peers have on him. In that context, Chris' knee injury is an even bigger misfortune for him than it would be for most kids. Quality person. Usually marks well on a lead (times leads well, prepared to make multiple leads, and has deceptive straight-linepace) but is not so good when he can't mark the ball out in front of his face (also has a tendency to duck, although I'm not suggesting through lack of courage). Officially has about a 9cm reach advantage - a huge help, especially for KPP. Murders U18 opponents and average-quality talls (although he also gave Jarryd Allen a bath) but I'm not convinced about him against decent opponents generally (struggles to avoid being spoiled, can tend to be 2-grab, and is not great at holding his ground). Team man who usually displays good vision, poise, decision-making. Recovery and defensive agility (big turning circle) is a concern. 2nd efforts are mixed bag but has high tackle count. It's not that he is very poor at anything, just that he isn't really above average at anything either.

MACKENZIE, Eric (29 WCE) [50] Well-built 196cm athlete. Good pace, excellent endurance. Runs very hard to link and is a thumping kick but is very lacking in intensity and smarts (esp on the run, in which situation he regularly just blazes away without looking for or noticing best option). Somewhat of a small man trapped in a big man's body. Will get AFL games due to his sexy size, very impressive athleticism (has done sub 3sec 20m and 15+ beep), thumping kick and his very hard running to link. However, IMHO (1) he is not nearly intense or smart enough for key defender (although I feel he needs the straight ahead, "play unfolding in front of him", benefits of defender; (2) despite handy onball stints at Colts level, he is and not smart enough or reliably clean (getting or delivering) for a linker or giant onballer. His hurt factors (all three) are sub-standard. My specific major concerns are intensity (re 2nd efforts, spoiling, desperation, attack on the man or ball), decision-making, vision, awareness (too often gets nailed/rushed taking too long to dispose through poor awareness). He works hard forward of the ball but much less so going the other way. His '06 performances are hard to assess as carried groin problem most of the year but I've seen a lot of him over 3 years and, although I was impressed at '04 U16 Champs, I've been increasingly underwhelmed since. Many believe he will be very AFL versatile but I'm of an opposing view, viz "What AFL role can he prove capable of owning?".

CATEGORY FIVE - These players caused me MUCH ANGST in assessing their AFL potential Every recruiter has some kids whose AFL potential he is just not confident in nailing, one way or the other, no matter how much he has studied them or due to lack of exposure. These are mine (in draft order):

BROWN, Nathan (10 COL) [30] and BROWN, Mitchell (16 WCE) [31]. I know this isn't fair and twins must hate it but I find insufficient differences between these twins to justify separate comments on each. Athletic improving late starters. Nathan significantly the better in '05 but IMHO Mitch caught up in '06. Determined, ultra-committed (excellent ethic, on and off-field, and will get the absolute most out of themselves) talls. Strong, mobile, competitive. Thumping kicks. Pace queries in '05 but both improved it in '06 and now have nice running styles. Similar "handy", sometimes "good", pace (Mitch quicker than his DC times suggest, Nathan not as quick as his DC times suggest), although lack some zip off the mark. Sometimes quick thinking / creative but not consistently good poise, vision or decision-making. Attack man and ball, have the 1%ers covered. Can certainly take some strong grabs but marking hands, judgement and ability to hold their ground / keep their feet are not particularly reliable. Neither (particularly Nathan) has a good tackle count. (eg Nathan was credited with no tackles in 3 U18 Champs games). In fairness, they do a lot of spoiling but, tackling-wise, they are susceptible to being wrong-footed by a slippery opponent. I believe best role for both will be key defender (perhaps FB). I don't foresee either twin getting particularly impressive stats but they play a team game, give their all, run hard both ways, are accountable, and have high pain threshold. I'd like to see them be proactive more often (which will probably eventuate). Forced to call, I'm confident both will play AFL games, I suspect both will be on AFL lists for some years (mainly because they will leave no stone unturned) but I shall be very surprised if either turns out to be A-grade AFL, although not surprised if both turn out to be solid indians or at least good backup. Depending on need and options, I'd have been prepared to draft either of them but with a pick certainly no earlier than where I ranked them, which is not as early as they were likely to go.

O'KEEFE, Daniel (15 SYD) [36] Improver since '05 and especially since mid '06. Backs his own judgement, plays on his own terms, with a style(!) that has elements of Dal Santo and S Grant. In some other respects (reliably strong overhead and goal-creation) he is not unlike his namesake and now Sydney team-mate. Pace is only borderline acceptable for his size and type and he is not flash off the mark. Can definitely get the hardball but he is not big on handballing and, due to lack of zip, is prone to getting nailed when he tries to break away from traffic. A lot of his possessions are virtually uncontested, often from sitting just off the play, ready to capitalise, and without being too fussed about his opponent. He reads such situations extremely well and really hurts the opposition when he gains possession from such plays or from backing himself to attack the oncoming ball. At AFL, his opponent will have plenty of opportunities to have first crack and cause damage too though. O'Keefe can play (at least pinch hit) in many roles but is perhaps best setting up play from half-back, often with quarterback efficiency. (Is not a failsafe kick but is usually good, often excellent). He calls for the ball a lot but doesn't do much hard running to link and he needs to handball more for AFL. Smart, balanced, unruffled. Handy around goals. (More noted for goals from strong marks within shortish range but is no slouch with other goal-kicking either. Kicked 32-15 in his "15" TAC games in '06, despite spending plenty of time upfield). No questioning his '06 U18 form or consistency (Morrish or Coaches votes in 10 of his completed 15 TAC games) but is he a bit too vanilla to be seriously good AFL?. He knows how to get good stats, his best is definite AFL, he will play AFL games, and he is likely to create a good initial impression at AFL. My concerns are pace and whether he will produce the right on-field work rate and ethic (including hard running and accountability) to be able to sustain an impressive long-term career. (eg) StKilda (in previous years), Carlton or Richmond would have suited his style but he will have to play less on his own terms to succeed long-term in a team that plays a primarily accountable game plan. I wouldn't be surprised if he turns out good, even very good, but I'm just not confident enough to lock in a strong conviction about him, one way or the other.

HAMPSON, Shaun (17 CAR) [41] Raw, very athletic 201cm newby with good ethic. Currently very NQR but improvement curve very encouraging over the past year and even since the U18 Champs. No sure bet - you are punting on what you think you may be able to develop him into. A reasonable comparison for where Shaun is right now would be Roberts-Thomson when he first played AFL - a raw footy newby who would walk over hot coals but was more frenetic energy than science. (LRT had much better U18 credentials). Main selling points are pace/athleticism at 201cm and upside. Main query is footy smarts. If you were looking to draft Shaun as potential KPP, he is not worth the risk. As a potential ruck, he was worth a mid-latish pick IMHO. If he develops really well footy-wise, perhaps he may furnish into a key defender anyway but you should treat that possibility as an outside-bet bonus, especially given the historical record of 201cm AFL KPPs, no matter how athletic. Only played footy 2 years (soccer background). Some examples of what you are buying, good and not so good:- (1) In a late '06 QAFL Seniors game, he scooped the ball off the carpet one-handed at pace, dashed at serious pace towards goals, sold the dummy without breaking stride then goaled. (2) In U18 Champs vs Tas, his ruckwork was outstanding, best of either side, including the quite highly rated below-age Bellchambers, and much better than Renouf's - high, well-timed leaps, clear hitouts - looked AFL in ruck contests but only in ruck contests, (3) 3 days earlier he didn't do a lot or anything special but ethic was promising - kept pushing himself, including a few 40m searching leads even though the ball was 70m upfield, (4) In a Challenge Cup game, his ruckwork had been impressive but he had done nothing else til 3/4 time, then very impressive Q4 (except for kicking), including 2 separate incidents in which he gave a small opponent 2m start and ran him down within 20m with a combination of closing speed and desperation, (5) I've seen him miss a gimme 25m/dead virtually set goal that saw the ball go way RHS and I've seen him kick a 50m 75degree goal with a very fluent kicking style, guiding ball to boot nicely and kick having plenty of power and straight as a die. I had no idea where to rank Shaun. Certainly not nearly as early as he was taken (he's way too raw and uncredentialled for me to justify early ranking). However he does show some real ability albeit, other than ruckwork and speed, only in cameo. You are buying upside in a genuinely quick, well-built giant. You'll have cause to groan on occasions as he finds his footy legs. However, great kid with intelligence, enthusiasm, the right intentions and a willingness to learn. Forced to call, I suspect he will make a handy AFL ruck, with an outside chance of FB (at least against the right opponent) and capable of pinch-hitting elsewhere (on the right opponent).

PETTERD, Ricky (30 MEL) [51] Running, marking versatile 185cm. I had ranked him at 26 until late in the piece but studying his QAFL Seniors games highlighted a pattern of a couple of significant concerns which were only occasional occurrences at underage level so I dropped off him a fair bit. I'm no longer sold on him but he does tick many boxes. Great '06 form (QAFL seniors and Div 2 B&F at U18 Champs), gets plenty of ball, is strong overhead (although with a disconcerting tendency to sometimes instinctively duck his head), has a big leap, and covers ground. Trademark is gather the spill, either at edge of or inside traffic, or link up out wide, then perhaps take an opponent on, have a bounce then kick across his body to a targeted option (perhaps fairly accurately but not necessarily) then keep running on. I get the impression (might be unfair to him but it's how it looks to me) that he tends to play for his stats and I'm not convinced he is a team player. Reads the play and ball well. Poise, vision, evasion (and he likes to take them on), traffic management, and decision-making are usually quite good but kicking and it's hurt factor are iffy. Habit of kicking around corners (which I dislike) and does too many high floaters. Max range seems about 50m. I'm not convinced he has a left hand either. Plays mainly as Predator. Shows real courage at times (mainly overhead) but, overall, doesn't commit his body often enough for my liking. I'm now not convinced that his good poise and decision-making at U18 will as good when he is faced with the tempo and physical pressure of AFL. He is also quite unaccountable. Will have good endurance for AFL and make full use of it (at least in one direction) but pace is usually only average and he can be fairly slow over a distance. I've no doubt he will play AFL games and possibly look quite good in the early ones. Unless he addresses my main concerns though, I'm not confident he will be a long-termer. What I like in him, I really like, and there's a fair bit to like. What I don't like in him, I really don't like, albeit that the likes outnumber the dislikes.

GOLDSTEIN, Todd (37 KAN) [40] Newby even compared to other newbies. Raw, ungainly, sometimes newby-unsure but often displays good ball control and some other encouraging ability in small-man aspects including below the waist, evasion and deceptive agility at times. (He was not recognised as a national-level basketballer for nothing). Biggest concern is that he struggles body on body in ruck contests, at least currently, which worries the heck out of me in a ruck. I'm cutting him slack because he is not used to ruck contests but he is a draft risk in this regard as there is no guarantee he will not always be that way. I'd take that risk myself but not with any degree of comfort. Currently a long way off the pace but has shown in cameo some really promising signs and he plays keen. His improvement trend has been rapid, and week by week, and that's the key to my interest, not where he is at now. Promising TAC finals series but his ruck opponents weren't good yardsticks. (Dominated against Gippsand but Hansen was their only effective ruck option and not a recognised tap ruck. Dominated in GF but Calder had no-one over 193cm. Beat Sandringham's Shaw but not resoundingly and he had help. "Competitive" against the genuine Geelong ruck Banjanin and Stavenuiter). You can only beat who the opposition throws at you though and Goldstein couldn't have done a lot more for such a newby. At 201cm, worth a late punt but pick 37 was a little early for the risk I'd be prepared to take. My ranking was similar to the pick used on him but that ranking was based on "suspected" upside and improvement trend without a strong body of evidence (basketballer until mid '06 and has played only 8 games in his life) to justify great confidence. Currently poor pace and endurance but is in very soft physical condition at this stage so AFL conditioning is likely to result in marked improvement. Forced to call, I suspect he will make AFL but I would rather he had gone to a club that has fewer young rucks ahead of him so he could get more opportunity to learn his craft quicker.

KRAKOUER, Nathan (39 POR) [48] (see above). Extreme skinniness was the only factor that caused me any angst but it caused me plenty (else I'd have ranked him quite early and without hesitation).

GARLAND, Colin (46 MEL) [53] Was initially reluctant to play '06 U18 Champs but simply had never seen himself as being good enough and had to be convinced otherwise. Is now committed to AFL. 2 VFL Seniors games late '06. Nice, intelligent kid. No concerns about him re character or off-field ethic. He's a hard cat to assess because, in a game, he tends to be on fire for a while and then just drift almost completely out of the game. His best looks serious AFL and his worst looks serious VFL Reserves. Allowing for current lack of bulk, is very good overhead. Kicking is very mixed bag (one extreme to the other). Kicking style is loose release but fluent. No left foot - sometimes when a left is called for, he tries to do "too cute" party-trick right-foot squeeze kicks, occasionally even when he has time to straighten up properly onto his right. Disposal in general needs to be more reliable but I suspect it will become so. Usually good poise, vision and clean hands all levels. "OK" pace, quick on a lead (and times it well), although not flash over the first few metres in general play. Good recovery and defensive agility. Falls to ground a bit too easily and also has a little bit of a habit of getting in the way of a team-mate (no drama but a bit disconcerting). If he turns out to be good enough for AFL, should be very versatile. Plenty of scope for improvement as he hasn't had the development and particularly the physical conditioning of many peers and I also suspect he will show a lot of improvement via confidence once he starts believing he belongs at AFL. Div 2 standard of U18 Champs can make some kids look better than they are but he did show promise in cameo and looked promising in his one genuine TAC test (vs Oakleigh). I initially ranked him in my 30s but he slipped down the further I analysed him. His 2nd VFL game impressed AFL-wise and almost swayed me back somewhat but, in the end, I ranked him conservatively. At this stage, there is too big a gap between his best (which is AFL) and worst (including intensity and involvement) so he is a punt. Forced to call, I suspect he will make AFL, such is the improvement I think he has in him once conditioned and confident.

O'BRIEN, Brock (52 FRE) [18] Tough (albeit with a temper he needs to watch), very quick defender. Thumping, and often very good, kick. Runs hard, hits hard. Genuine footballer, consistent. Not X-factor but appealing combination of genuine speed and aggression at both man and ball. Good leap, good evasion. No X-factor but has the potential to be AFL-reliable. Injured hammy very early in game 2 '06 U18 Champs so really only played one U18 Champs game in '06. Resumed mid-July but re-injured hammy immediately. Plays the game on his own terms and seems to have some personality issues he needs to address so, along with derailed '06 exposure, very hard to rank. I rated him highly in '04 U16s and, although my confidence is now shakier, in the end I still ranked him purely on his best capability (which is AFL) rather than as a reflection of any great confidence and I just hope he can "fit in" within an AFL environment and stay on top of injury. Might take a bit of time to regain confidence in hammies. Forced to call, I suspect he will be a handy AFL HBF/BP.

GRAY, Robert (55 POR) [55] Poor man's Gary Ablett Jnr in style, physical appearance, play/ball reading, reflexes and freakish traits and is similarly clean, slippery and nimble. Played mainly midfield 1st half of '06 then mainly FF. 33g-8b in 6 consecutive TAC H&A games late '06 as a 180cm FF, incl bags of 7 twice and an 8. 58-31 for the year. That's impressive in itself but what published stats don't divulge is his value-adding high rate of goal assists. I work on talent analysis 7 days a week 11 months of the year and most people who are full-time in recruiting would agree that heading off to games is often like a factory worker going to work. Dispassionate observers. It's the Robbie Grays and Gary Abbetts that actually lift my adrenalin. I love Robbie. Love watching the ways he plays and also admire his willingness to improve his weaknesses. Terrific kid and can do things most other players, even at AFL, can't. Instinctive smarts that you can't teach. In an era where creative flair is giving way to robotic adherence to rigid team game plans, Robbie never plays a game in which his flair doesn't excite at some stage(s). Not through breaking the lines (he lacks pace over a distance, although sharp on a lead), not through 60m goals on the run (he really struggles for depth, although improving a bit), not through linking up from one end of the ground to the other (he doesn't have a big tank and probably never will), and not through Sampi-like low percentage attempts to only try for the spectacular. Rather, Robbie has an instinctive ability to very sharply, cleanly and nimbly create something out of nothing, overhead or ground, regardless of pressure, and make other players on the scene appear to be mentally 2 steps behind. Importantly, he has good ethic both ways, attacks ball and man (fierce tackler), is mentally tough and is unselfish. I would have liked the chance to Rookie him to see after one year what improvement we could have made to his pace, depth and tank. They are the obstacles in his AFL path. His U18 club has worked hard with him on his kicking. Technique problems I've identified include (1) COM too far back, leaning too far back on contact, so he tends to kick under rather than through, (2) leg action too quick, allowing insufficient time for decent backswing, (3) tilts LHS, left arm too far back and right arm does nothing, (4) body is too tense. Running-wise, he holds his head too low. I'm highly confident his ability around goals (not only creating his own but also creating opportunities for team-mates) will translate well to AFL. It is what he doesn't bring to the table that made me reluctantly rank him much lower than I would have liked and behind various other players I would not have considered drafting. Will he ever have the pace, tank or all-round kicking ability (eg current comfortable range wouldn't be much more than 40m) to be more than a FP type? (And he hasn't looked AFL upfield). Will opponents find it too easy to run off him over a distance? Was carrying groin injury through '06 finals and last couple of weeks of H&A. Had also apparently been carrying injury leading into U18 Champs so his fitness had been down. It's just that I'm not confident he has the body structure to ever have much leg speed over ground or a decent tank. He's built for explosive impact, not ground coverage. Forced to call, I expect he will play AFL quite early and immediately become a cult figure among fans as Ablett Jnr did but (and I'd love to be wrong) I suspect that when opposition coaches work him out, his inherent weaknesses will be too readily exposable so I am dubious about him sustaining a long-term career. (And footy entertainment will be the poorer if he doesn't last).

CONNORS, Daniel (58 RIC) [32] Very ordinary '05 but huge improver in '06. Vision, poise, clean hands. Can be very good both one-on-one and inside traffic. Can be very slick and left-field clever. Good (but often too ambitious) overhead (and has a significant reach advantage). Soso pace. Plays too much on his own terms. Current endurance is poor, I suspect due to a combination of bulking up 10kg in '06, lack of off-field application, and perhaps not naturally having a big tank. Hypothetically, if I had some guarantee he would work hard (especially off-field but also on-field), I might have included him in my "Will be at least good" category as his best is AFL. Given his current physical condition, application has to be questioned. (Oddly enough, despite all that, he occasionally displays the odd leadership trait). I like on-field arrogance but he overdoes it. He needs to play the percentages more, less millionairish and respect his limitations. By way of comparison, Connors' kicking, although he is no stranger to clangers, is miles better (overall reliability and best kicks) than Grigg's (whose kicking reliability and quality are both sub-standard). However, I identified major flaws in Grigg's kicking action that should be addressable, making Grigg a fairly attractive package overall and I can identify a number of AFL roles (especially onball) that I could see Griggs being able to fill. Even though Connors' best attributes are more AFL-impressive than Grigg's, I find it harder to identify either scope for Connors to lift his pace or, in particular, reasons to automatically assume he will develop good endurance and work ethic, so Connors as a total package (strengths and concerns) ultimately had less appeal to me due to concerns over "What AFL role can I, with any confidence(!), see him making his own?" (although he could at least pinch-hit in various roles forward, back and mid). That said, I would not be surprised if he makes AFL or even becomes quite good AFL. It's mainly up to him and how much he wants to make it. I do rate his best qualities (his best efforts reek of class) but the risks (or really the degree of speculation required) were too great for me to consider drafting him at my ranking number (which reflects his upside more than my confidence in him achieving it). However, he was a reasonable pick-up at #58, although I wouldn't have been personally keen to take on the risks, given other options available at that pick.

LYNCH, Malcolm (66 WBD) [52] Very skinny, very quick 178cm. Quite one-sided but quick of hand and brain (left-field creative) and has elite vision. Surprisingly good ethic (esp chases, tackles) for a player of his creative type. Trademark is clean gather, sharp acceleration off the mark, then lookaway feed (perhaps on the run), displaying excellent vision, even under great pressure. Tiwi Islander but his secondary schooling has been in NSW, who he represented in '05-'06. I liked him in '05 but back, hammy and hand (IIRC) injuries ruined his 2nd 1/2 of '06 and I only saw him once at a recognised level in '06 (pre-draft) so I couldn't justify ranking him as early as my pre-'06 impressions would have warranted. Seems articulate, mature and sensible (eg Impressively narrated a doco on indigenous team representing Aust in Sth Africa tour). Forced to call, I'm quietly confident he will make it. My angst wasn't about whether I liked him (I do) but where to rank him.

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This is what he said about Michael Newton in 2004 when he was drafted:-

NEWTON, Michael (43) [Mel] Athletic marking KPP. Inconsistent and I'm not sure if he is a team player but attractive package and upside. Bargain.

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This is what he said about Michael Newton in 2004 when he was drafted:-

NEWTON, Michael (43) [Mel] Athletic marking KPP. Inconsistent and I'm not sure if he is a team player but attractive package and upside. Bargain.

Colin also rated Brock McLean at no. 1, which (in hindsite) was a pretty good call.

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Colin also rated Brock McLean at no. 1, which (in hindsite) was a pretty good call.

Actually i think McLean was one of his biggest mistakes. He put a big question mark on him when we drafted him, and now admits that he got it wrong

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Actually i think McLean was one of his biggest mistakes. He put a big question mark on him when we drafted him, and now admits that he got it wrong

Indeed. Pretty sure Wisbey did not rate McLean at #1!

This is what he said about Michael Newton in 2004 when he was drafted:-

NEWTON, Michael (43) [Mel] Athletic marking KPP. Inconsistent and I'm not sure if he is a team player but attractive package and upside. Bargain.

From what I've read on the forums that doesn't sound like a bad assessment.

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nah he never rated brock as number 1. and if i recall correctly said that he was one of the best players in the draft but had little scope for improvement.

Anyone else really disappointed by our player assessments?

Frawley's especially.

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Wisbey rated Brock as a "late second rounder at best".

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Wisbey rated Brock as a "late second rounder at best".

Unlike our wonderful recruiting manager who managed to pick him up at #5, and get Davey as a rookie, and pluck Bruce out of obscurity and bring us the Juice!

Don't mind me, just sucking up to make sure he stays...

(Read here if you have no idea what I'm on about)

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