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THE APPRENTICE by Whispering Jack


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Melbourne Next Generation Academy prospect Mac Andrew has had a meteoric rise in the eyes of many track watchers who follow the fortunes of football talent at the elite level. So much so that under the AFL's new rules which prohibit clubs from matching bids on their NGA players within the first 20 selections, there’s a widely held perception that Andrew is falling out of the club’s grasp.
 
Despite being buoyed by the Demons’ drought-breaking premiership, some fans are showing their annoyance that the club might lose a potential star of the future as a result of the rule change which was prompted by an outcry after the recruitment of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan by the Western Bulldogs who secured the 18-year-old NGA by matching a bid from Adelaide at number one in last year’s national draft.
 
Melbourne’s recruiting head Jason Taylor didn’t appear to be happy at the change when interviewed on radio recently but his concerns appeared to be based on the general principle that clubs which had placed time and effort in developing players to elite levels were being disadvantaged. While Andrew has been around the club’s NGA system since the age of 14 and connected to the Dandenong Stingrays’ junior squads, he was a relative unknown until the opening rounds of this year’s NAB Boys League when he caught everyone’s attention with a couple of eye catching performances that led to his late promotion into the Australian Academy’s Under 18 team that played a Geelong VFL side in April.
 
The spindly 200cm, 70kg ruckman/key position player born in Egypt of South Sudanese parentage is raw, athletic and full of bounding energy with a high potential ceiling but the collective body of his work is minute by way of comparison with most of his contemporaries, even in this Covid era. Moreover, due in part to a lack of opportunities, he has yet to produce a consistent four quarter performance on a truly big stage. 
 
In fact, the closest he’s come to that level were the trial matches for the Academy and a challenge match for Vic Country vs Vic Metro in July that was supposed to be a lead up to the ultimately abandoned National Championships for Under 19s. The only other games he took part in over season 2021 were six NAB Boys League games for the Dandenong Stingrays. Due to the pandemic, the football season was a wipeout at this level last year.
 
There are draft experts out there who are willing to stake their reputations on Andrew’s potential by placing him in the top half dozen in their draft rankings. On AFL Trade Radio this week, recruiting guru, Matt Rendell said his “information is Mac Andrew goes in the top five - I think to GWS. A shame for Melbourne as he is in their NGA." 
 
On-line draft commentators like the AFL’s Cal Twomey, ESPN’s Chris Doerre (aka Knightmare on the bigfooty site) and Michael Alvaro of AFL Draft Central have waxed lyrical about Andrew and place him in the top 10 in their draft lists. Doerre has described his 15 possession performance for Vic Country in their challenge match against Vic Metro as “commanding”. 
 
My own viewpoint after watching the live stream of the game and then reviewing it more recently is that whilst his athleticism stood out and he marked strongly at times, it was still a patchy performance. He was hardly used in the ruck, he struggled at times with his positioning and was rarely sighted after midway through the third quarter in a game where his team was soundly beaten. One on line observer agreed saying that Andrew “was solid without dominating,” … and … “people are excited by his potential athletic advantage he could bring, but he is still raw and not the complete package yet.” 
 
It was also reported that in the Academy team’s exhibition game in April against Geelong VFL, “Andrew was used at full-forward and full-back with limited impact in the opening three quarters. But his favoured position is in the ruck and he shone when given an opportunity in that position in the last quarter.” Andrew ended the game with just nine disposals and a handful of effective hit outs to the advantage and, in any case, one quarter of football is hardly a “break out game.” It should be added that, at three quarter time, the Cats held a 14 goal lead and they coasted home adding 7.3.45 to one behind in that final term.
 
Andrew has been lauded for his performances at NAB Boys League level but this week, he finished 13th and well behind the leaders for the Dandenong Stingrays Best & Fairest award. He played six out of a possible nine games and missed the best part of one game through concussion but nine of his teammates tallied more than double his number of his votes. 
 
I’m always dubious about highlight reels and Andrew has a great one. His NAB League statistics measure up well when compared with other ruckmen but it’s a competition where the cream of available rucks were moved up to the AFL after the mid season draft. This all makes it difficult to assess a player like Mac Andrew.
 
I rate him as a talented athlete, a project player in very early progress who, because of his ultra light frame, will take two to three years at minimum to reach the level at which he could come into contention for an AFL berth. In an normal draft year, such a prospect would be a good fit in a draft range of between 20 and 30. 
 
But if Rendell’s information is to be believed and the Giants nominate Andrew with their first pick in the coming draft, that would rank him behind only the year’s two father-son hot-shots in Nick Daicos and Sam Darcy and South Adelaide star Jason Horne-Francis who booted three goals in Friday night’s SANFL final. Even under the old rules, there would be little chance that such a bid would be matched by the Demons who would have gone heavily into deficiency in terms of draft points and affected their overall draft hand. The Giants have another selection which would effectively be around 15 but they also might need to stave off a claim for their Academy star Josh Foley who incidentally was adjudged his team’s best in that game against the Cats VFL side. 
 
The likelihood is that, at best, Andrew will be picked up in the late teens. If he goes elsewhere, it would not be a disaster for a club that has two other promising players to bid for in father-son prospect Taj Woewodin and NT NGA Andrew Moniz-Wakefield. And the word is that next year’s draft is looms as a big one for young ruckmen. You simply can’t have your cake and eat it.
 
Andrew can well dream of one day becoming another Aliir Aliir and winning All Australian honours and while such an outcome would be special, it is at best, a distant prospect. I think it’s a pity for the youngster because, after watching the dominance of ruck pair Max Gawn and Luke Jackson in this year’s finals, Melbourne would have been the ideal place for him to do his apprenticeship.
 
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Got to say, I don't really like this academy system.  Feels alot like a reversion back to the old zone recruiting system and we all know what a great tool for equalization that was.

The Northern State teams don't need the extra incentive of free access to talent to run their academies - they are being heavily subsidized by the rest of the competition just to be in existence, so there should be an obligation on them to devote time and resources to their academies, without any choice in the matter.  The incentive for them of having home grown tallent should be the same as it is for other parts of Australia a little extra recruitment pull for players a couple of years out from being drafted, through the 'go home' factor.  Sure GWS and GC don't really have access to father/sons, but they've been gifted more than enough low draft picks over the journey to make up for that.

The other tangible benifit of having the academies to any club without any preferential access to the best talents would also be being closer to those academy players would naturally give clubs better intelligence and understanding of those 'second teir' tallents, giving them the confidence and abbility to recruit those diamonds in the rough like Bailey Freitch with their normal mid ranged draft picks.

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Whether we like it or not, the clubs are stuck with the new system. However, in the event that the change extends next year to prevent clubs from bidding until after pick 40 then they might as well scrap the NGA because it simply won’t be worth the expense of nurturing the players qualifying for NGA status. Why do that when you can spend nothing and pick off the work done by other clubs.

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23 hours ago, Demonland said:
Melbourne Next Generation Academy prospect Mac Andrew has had a meteoric rise in the eyes of many track watchers who follow the fortunes of football talent at the elite level. So much so that under the AFL's new rules which prohibit clubs from matching bids on their NGA players within the first 20 selections, there’s a widely held perception that Andrew is falling out of the club’s grasp.
 
Despite being buoyed by the Demons’ drought-breaking premiership, some fans are showing their annoyance that the club might lose a potential star of the future as a result of the rule change which was prompted by an outcry after the recruitment of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan by the Western Bulldogs who secured the 18-year-old NGA by matching a bid from Adelaide at number one in last year’s national draft.
 
Melbourne’s recruiting head Jason Taylor didn’t appear to be happy at the change when interviewed on radio recently but his concerns appeared to be based on the general principle that clubs which had placed time and effort in developing players to elite levels were being disadvantaged. While Andrew has been around the club’s NGA system since the age of 14 and connected to the Dandenong Stingrays’ junior squads, he was a relative unknown until the opening rounds of this year’s NAB Boys League when he caught everyone’s attention with a couple of eye catching performances that led to his late promotion into the Australian Academy’s Under 18 team that played a Geelong VFL side in April.
 
The spindly 200cm, 70kg ruckman/key position player born in Egypt of South Sudanese parentage is raw, athletic and full of bounding energy with a high potential ceiling but the collective body of his work is minute by way of comparison with most of his contemporaries, even in this Covid era. Moreover, due in part to a lack of opportunities, he has yet to produce a consistent four quarter performance on a truly big stage. 
 
In fact, the closest he’s come to that level were the trial matches for the Academy and a challenge match for Vic Country vs Vic Metro in July that was supposed to be a lead up to the ultimately abandoned National Championships for Under 19s. The only other games he took part in over season 2021 were six NAB Boys League games for the Dandenong Stingrays. Due to the pandemic, the football season was a wipeout at this level last year.
 
There are draft experts out there who are willing to stake their reputations on Andrew’s potential by placing him in the top half dozen in their draft rankings. On AFL Trade Radio this week, recruiting guru, Matt Rendell said his “information is Mac Andrew goes in the top five - I think to GWS. A shame for Melbourne as he is in their NGA." 
 
On-line draft commentators like the AFL’s Cal Twomey, ESPN’s Chris Doerre (aka Knightmare on the bigfooty site) and Michael Alvaro of AFL Draft Central have waxed lyrical about Andrew and place him in the top 10 in their draft lists. Doerre has described his 15 possession performance for Vic Country in their challenge match against Vic Metro as “commanding”. 
 
My own viewpoint after watching the live stream of the game and then reviewing it more recently is that whilst his athleticism stood out and he marked strongly at times, it was still a patchy performance. He was hardly used in the ruck, he struggled at times with his positioning and was rarely sighted after midway through the third quarter in a game where his team was soundly beaten. One on line observer agreed saying that Andrew “was solid without dominating,” … and … “people are excited by his potential athletic advantage he could bring, but he is still raw and not the complete package yet.” 
 
It was also reported that in the Academy team’s exhibition game in April against Geelong VFL, “Andrew was used at full-forward and full-back with limited impact in the opening three quarters. But his favoured position is in the ruck and he shone when given an opportunity in that position in the last quarter.” Andrew ended the game with just nine disposals and a handful of effective hit outs to the advantage and, in any case, one quarter of football is hardly a “break out game.” It should be added that, at three quarter time, the Cats held a 14 goal lead and they coasted home adding 7.3.45 to one behind in that final term.
 
Andrew has been lauded for his performances at NAB Boys League level but this week, he finished 13th and well behind the leaders for the Dandenong Stingrays Best & Fairest award. He played six out of a possible nine games and missed the best part of one game through concussion but nine of his teammates tallied more than double his number of his votes. 
 
I’m always dubious about highlight reels and Andrew has a great one. His NAB League statistics measure up well when compared with other ruckmen but it’s a competition where the cream of available rucks were moved up to the AFL after the mid season draft. This all makes it difficult to assess a player like Mac Andrew.
 
I rate him as a talented athlete, a project player in very early progress who, because of his ultra light frame, will take two to three years at minimum to reach the level at which he could come into contention for an AFL berth. In an normal draft year, such a prospect would be a good fit in a draft range of between 20 and 30. 
 
But if Rendell’s information is to be believed and the Giants nominate Andrew with their first pick in the coming draft, that would rank him behind only the year’s two father-son hot-shots in Nick Daicos and Sam Darcy and South Adelaide star Jason Horne-Francis who booted three goals in Friday night’s SANFL final. Even under the old rules, there would be little chance that such a bid would be matched by the Demons who would have gone heavily into deficiency in terms of draft points and affected their overall draft hand. The Giants have another selection which would effectively be around 15 but they also might need to stave off a claim for their Academy star Josh Foley who incidentally was adjudged his team’s best in that game against the Cats VFL side. 
 
The likelihood is that, at best, Andrew will be picked up in the late teens. If he goes elsewhere, it would not be a disaster for a club that has two other promising players to bid for in father-son prospect Taj Woewodin and NT NGA Andrew Moniz-Wakefield. And the word is that next year’s draft is looms as a big one for young ruckmen. You simply can’t have your cake and eat it.
 
Andrew can well dream of one day becoming another Aliir Aliir and winning All Australian honours and while such an outcome would be special, it is at best, a distant prospect. I think it’s a pity for the youngster because, after watching the dominance of ruck pair Max Gawn and Luke Jackson in this year’s finals, Melbourne would have been the ideal place for him to do his apprenticeship.
 
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Thanks. Great summary.

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