Knightmare's AFL draft wrap: Andrew McGrath a new No. 1?

Each week, AFL draft expert Christopher Doerre - aka Knightmare - 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 wrap, 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.

Player focus

Named best on ground in the TAC Cup grand final, Andrew McGrath was the driving force behind Sandringham's win against Murray, in a game where he split his time between midfield and half-back.

McGrath had 38 disposals (28 in the second half), 21 contested possessions, four marks (one contested), three tackles and eight clearances.

Through the midfield, McGrath led the team in contested possessions and clearances, often winning first possession at stoppages.

Where McGrath did his damage, as he so often does, is when he shifted to a half-back flank. Down back, he has shown the capability to shut down a dangerous opponent and take intercept marks. What he does better than everyone else though is provide meaningful run and carry.

McGrath often ran 10-plus metres with ball in hand, drawing an opponent, then handballing forward to a target on the move and running forward in support.

In these running sequences, he often starts by winning the ball around the defensive 50m arc and on the offensive drives he generates, he regularly runs in support all the way into the forward 50m, demonstrating his supreme work rate.

These efforts from McGrath regularly generate scoring opportunities for his team and will be a weapon club recruiters will look for from him to take to AFL level.


On the back of strong form through the AFL Under-18 Championships and TAC Cup this season, McGrath has come into the mix for the first overall pick, with some club recruiters believing he has moved past North Ballarat Rebel Hugh McCluggage on several club draft boards.

Essendon have remained tight-lipped on who their preferred choice with pick No. 1 is. Greater Western Sydney however are believed to have a strong interest in trading for the top choice and are believed to have McGrath in their sights, with a view to develop him into an eventual successor to Heath Shaw in the back half.

The relative holes in McGrath's game are mild inconsistency by foot and hands that are not always clean in close, occasionally fumbling and not always cleanly gaining possession.

It is also interesting to note if McGrath is the No. 1 overall selection, at 179cm he would be the equal shortest top pick in AFL draft history, equal with the first ever No. 1 Alan Johnson, who was selected by Melbourne in 1981.

Victorian prospect watch


Standing up when the game was on the line in the final quarter for Sandringham and making the right plays at the right time was Oliver Florent. He showed composure with ball in hand, applied excellent pressure on the opposition ball carriers and played like an AFL veteran, making the right plays at the right times. Florent had 24 disposals, nine contested possessions, five marks, five tackles, three clearances, one goal and two score assists in what was arguably one of his more influential games for the season.

While his finishing in front of goal goal wasn't as reliable as it typically has been with three behinds, Tim Taranto still performed solidly. He had 31 disposals, nine contested possessions, seven marks, 11 tackles, five inside 50s and two score assists. Taranto on several occasions proved damaging by foot, finding teammates inside 50m and finding open targets through the centre of the ground. His contribution, while not as strong as his previous finals, was still very solid.

Showing some positive signs again was 193cm flanker Jack Scrimshaw, who impressed with his cleanness below his knees, chase-down tackling, composure in traffic and clean ball use. Scrimshaw had 24 disposals, 11 contested possessions, three marks (one contested), five tackles, one goal and two score assists.

With the job on top-rated key forward Todd Marshall, Ari Sakeson, a 190cm key defender, won the matchup handily with 21 disposals and nine marks (one contested). He took several intercept marks and also consistently won the one-on-one contests he was involved in. Marshall for the game was limited by Sakeson to just the three disposals, two tackles, one mark and two goals. Sakeson this finals series has had success, limiting Dandenong's gun key forward Joshua Battle to just seven disposals, two marks, one tackle and one goal.

William Brodie through Murray's midfield was influential with 22 disposals, 12 contested possessions, five marks (one contested), six tackles and seven clearances. Brodie regularly at stoppages won first possession and again showed his smarts in contested situations. In a one-on-one contest Brodie delivered a well-timed bump which allowed him to win the ball. He pushed behind the ball a couple of times for intercept marks in the back half. Brodie was however wasteful in front of goal with three behinds.

Mopping up down back was Ryan Garthwaite, who has been a consistent presence in Murray's back half this season. Garthwaite had 24 disposals, seven contested possessions, nine marks (two contested), six tackles and six rebound 50s. Garthwaite, a 192cm key defender and a GWS Academy prospect has received a national draft combine invite on the back of his consistent season. GWS, due to the number of other academy players they are expected to select, are not expected to nominate Garthwaite in this year's national draft. Garthwaite may instead be selected by another club, similar to how Corey Wagner found his way to North Melbourne in last year's national draft.

Murray bottom-ager and 2017 GWS Academy prospect Charlie Spargo was lively. He won ground balls, offered some run and good pressure around the ball and took a strong one-on-one mark. He had 24 disposals, 11 contested possessions, four marks (one contested), five tackles, five inside 50s and one score assist. To be selected early in the 2017 draft though he will need to clean up his decision-making under pressure and disposal, which lacked consistency.

Again consistent through Murray's midfield was James Cousins who again contributed well. He had 20 disposals, nine contested possessions, five marks (one contested), four tackles, six clearances, eight inside 50s and one score assist. Cousins' real strength comes at stoppages, winning first possession and clearances. He also showed several other promising signs during this game though, managing a chase-down tackle, taking a strong one-on-one mark out in front and hitting a target inside 50m for a mark.

Top-age forward Lachlan Tiziani looked dangerous up forward but was ultimately wasteful in front of goal with nine disposals, three marks (one contested), four tackles, one goal, three behinds and one score assist. Tiziani since mid-June has kicked a TAC Cup-best 32 goals from nine games. He has regularly outshone teammate and this year's top-rated key forward, Todd Marshall. Tiziani is in the mix late in the national draft and may be one of this year's value selections if he slips into the latter rounds of the draft or the rookie draft.


For the second week in a row, top-ager Ben Long contributed well up forward with 12 disposals, three tackles and two goals in Footscray's grand final win. His draft stocks are continuing to rise with AFL clubs likely to consider him strongly in this year's national draft on the back of several promising performances this year.

Nick Jamieson, a 24-year-old, 182cm forward was impressive for Footscray with 18 disposals, five marks (one contested), four tackles and three goals. Jamieson has been consistent for Footscray this season and finished off the year impressively, finishing in the bests in Footscray's four games leading up to Sunday's grand final.

Timothy Smith, a 192cm, 25-year-old key forward, was Casey's best VFL-listed player with 16 disposals, six marks (three contested) and three goals. Smith up forward showed sticky hands and proved clever around goal.

South Australian prospect watch


Under-17 Futures

The Under-17 Futures game allows the most promising 2017 draft prospects to participate in an exhibition match to give recruiters an early look into what next year's draft class may hold. With clubs as of last trade period being able to trade future draft picks, it is more important than ever for them to get a strong understanding of the strength of the following year's draft class and who some of the better names may be.

Through the ruck, Callum Coleman-Jones, a 199cm, 98kg bottom-ager proved too good, consistently getting taps and overpowering all other ruckmen on the ground. His contested marking also was excellent. Crashing packs, gaining front position in marking contests and leaping towards the ball for marks. He looks at this stage like South Australia's most promising prospect for 2017 and either through the ruck or forward he appears like he will develop into a very impactful player if his development continues.

Liam Denton, a 184cm, 82kg midfielder was one of the standout players in this game. His run on the outside was outstanding, showing a burst of speed on several occasions with ball in hand. His tackling and cleanness at ground level also was very impressive.

Playing with a hard edge, Nathan Kreuger, a 194cm, 84kg key position player, performed impressively. His tackling was excellent. He showed good pace both chasing a player down from behind, then playing on quickly after being awarded the free kick. Kreuger also took some courageous intercept marks, one coming from the side and another leaping backwards with the flight of the ball.

Lachlan Pascoe, a 190cm, 89kg backman took some good intercept marks down back including a strong one-on-one intercept mark. His ball use and vision was also highlight, finding some good targets up the field and taking his time to find the best target.

Forward Sam Davis was outstanding. The 192cm, 80kg forward won several one-on-one contests, showing signs both aerially and in body-on-body marking contests. His cleanness at ground level was promising. Picking the ball up on the move at one stage, bursting away explosively then setting up a teammate for a goal. One of his kicks inboard to a teammate from the boundary was also excellent, setting up a goal. For the game he had just the one goal, but overall he showed enough different tricks to suggest he will be a player to watch in 2017.

James Rowe, a 171cm, 67kg forward showed some glimpses of promise. In the first half Rowe was impressive taking on the game off half-back, running around opposition players and showing good work rate and offering some overlap run. Later in the game Rowe pushed forward and showed some tricks. Up forward he crumbed well and showed excellent touch at ground level. Also impressive was his evasiveness, anticipation and quick change of direction. He kicked at least two final-quarter goals and appears to have the tools to develop into a dangerous crumbing forward.

Leading the goal scoring for the match with three goals was Hugo Barry, a 190cm, 81kg forward. What was most impressive from Barry was his movement. Showing some pace with ball in hand, sidestepping a player and also picking the ball up cleanly off the deck. On the lead, Barry took his marks out in front and was overall the most effective forward for the day.

Down back, Cole Gerloff, a 181cm, 80kg backman, showed excellent composure throughout the match. He used the ball cleanly, moved through traffic well and took several intercept marks. It was also pleasing to see him push forward for a goal. Inside the forward 50m, Gerloff called out loudly so that teammate Hugo Barry knew he was there, with Barry delivering the on point handball under pressure to Gerloff for the goal.

Isaac Moller, a 190cm, 76kg utility impressed with his intercept marking across half-back. He also snuck forward and kicked a goal. He has had a strong season in the SANFL Under-18s as a marking forward and appears capable at both ends of the field.

Midfield dynamo Stephen Giro who measures in at 177cm, 79kg was effective around the ball. He won first possession regularly at stoppages and worked industriously. Some of his work through traffic was excellent, showing some agility and his ball use was also solid.

Strong-bodied, 174cm, 82kg midfielder, Mitch Crowden was prominent through the midfield with his contested ball winning at stoppages. Some of his work off the ball was also excellent. At one stage immediately after winning the contested ball and delivering a handball to a teammate, he hip-and-shouldered an opposition player to create space for the teammate he had handballed to, setting up a meaningful clearance. He also had the confidence to bully his way through the contest after winning the ball, with fend-offs or even just running directly at a tackler at speed, and getting a handball off after absorbing the tackle and not being able to drag the ball forward any further.

Down back, Lachlan Eichner, a 179cm, 71kg backman intercepted well. He took several one-on-one marks deep in defence and also took an athletic intercept mark.

Also showing some ability overhead was Liam Fitt, a 179cm, 80kg forward. He took an impressive leaping mark and a courageous mark running back into the defensive 50m. Overall, Fitt was involved in the game and also kicked a final-quarter goal.

Western Australian prospect watch



Up forward and through the midfield, Sam Powell-Pepper was influential with 22 disposals, seven tackles and four goals.

Up forward, West Coast father-son prospect Jake Waterman was a force with 20 disposals, eight marks and four goals, winning the MEL Whinnen Medal for the best player on the grand final winning team.

Bailey Banfield was the high possession winner for the game with 32 disposals, six tackles and five inside 50s, running hard throughout the game.

Through the ruck, Jeremy Goddard played one of his better all-around games, not only winning the ruck contests convincingly but also taking some marks around the ground. He played a big part in the win with 16 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and 44 hitouts.

Highly rated West Australian prospect Sam Petrevski-Seton contributed well without dominating. He managing 21 disposals, four marks and six tackles.