Knightmare's draft wrap: Higgins boosts stocks with new role

Each week, ESPN.com.au 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

In arguably his most influential performance so far this season, ball magnet Jack Higgins, 178cm, 76kg, gathered 20 disposals, seven marks (two contested), four inside 50s, four goals and four score assists against Dandenong. He used the ball efficiently, with 11 of his kicks effective while influencing the game forward of centre.

Higgins, who is typically used as a ball-winning midfielder, is averaging 27.5 disposals per game over his first six matches, but played a different role at the weekend, instead used as a forward.

As a midfielder, Higgins often lacks impact but up forward he can be a lot more damaging. Higgins' ground-level work is outstanding - he provides a front and centre option and is often first to the ball when it hits the deck. He is a clean, one-touch player who reacts quickly when the heat is on up forward, either snapping through a goal instinctively or quickly locating and hitting a target inside 50m.

Also encouraging was Higgins' taking flight and showing aerial marking capabilities. In the final term, when Higgins' confidence was sky-high, he flew at the ball attempting to mark; the ball came to ground and Higgins recovered, gaining balance instantly, cleanly picking up the ball and snapping for a goal. Less than one minute later, Higgins took a speccie over an opponent - this time completing the mark.

Higgins is viewed as a likely first round draft chance and with further impactful performances will only find himself solidifying his already high standing on draft boards.

TAC Cup

Figuring prominently through the midfield, Cassidy Parish again contributed strongly with 33 disposals, 18 contested possessions, 12 clearances, seven inside 50s, one goal and two score assists.

Up forward, Adam Garner, 184cm, 93kg, was difficult to contain with 18 disposals, eight marks (three contested), four goals and three score assists.

Jack Petruccelle is continuing his rise up draft boards with a 27-disposal, 12-contested possession, five mark, nine inside 50 and two score assist game.

Bottom-ager Jack Bytel, 188cm, 79kg, figured prominently through the Calder midfield with 34 disposals, 17 contested possessions, five marks (one contested), 10 clearances, one goal and one score assist.

In a change of role for Mitchell Podhajski, 190cm, 82kg, he collected 23 disposals, 10 marks (four contested), six goals and one score assist.

Daniel Hanna, 200cm, 79kg, also proved an effective target up forward for Calder with 18 disposals, eight marks (three contested), two goals and three score assists.

After being overlooked in last year's draft, top-ager Hamish Brayshaw, 187cm, 88kg, has not been deterred, putting together a strong month of football. Against Murray, he collected 32 disposals, 16 contested possessions, 11 marks (two contested), eight tackles, eight clearances, five inside 50s, two goals and one score assist. Over the past four matches Brayshaw has averaged a highly impressive 29.75 disposals, 8.5 tackles and eight clearances.

In his best match for the season so far, Thomas North, 186cm, 87kg, collected 43 disposals, 17 contested possessions, six marks, 12 clearances and three goals in a complete performance. His ball use was also highly impressive, with 14 of his 19 kicks effective. His work through traffic and composure with ball in hand is what made the performance most impressive. With further performances of this quality, North may push for selection inside the first round.

Jaidyn Stephenson while quiet in the first half up forward with just the seven disposals, was much better in the second half when pushed into the midfield for the centre bounces. His chemistry with Eastern ruckman Sam Hayes is top-notch. Stephenson consistently got to the best positions at stoppages for Hayes to tap it down to his advantage to win the ball and kick it forward. Stephenson gathered 22 disposals, 11 contested possessions, seven clearances, five inside 50s and two score assists.

Tyler Brown, 186cm, 82cm, is the son of Collingwood premiership player Gavin Brown and the younger brother of Collingwood first year player, Callum Brown. Tyler showed glimpses with 16 disposals, eight contested possessions, four inside 50s, one goal, two score assists. Of his seven kicks, six were effective. What was noteworthy from Brown was his composure and the small, evasive steps taken in traffic that impressed. He never looked like getting caught with the ball and looks a natural around the ball and finishing off half-forward.

To get drafted, Brown will need to start winning more of the ball and improve his tackle numbers, with mild averages of nine disposals and one tackle per game from his four games.

Continuing his consistent form through the midfield, Nicholas Stuhldreier impressed with 34 disposals, 16 contested possessions, 11 tackles, six clearances and two score assists.

Again productive, Hunter Clark continues to find the ball in bunches with 27 disposals, 15 contested possessions, five marks, six tackles, eight clearances, seven inside 50s and one score assist. His work in the contest was impressive, as was the run he provided. Clark is a well-rounded player, getting to the right spots in general play as a link option while also winning the ball in close and tackling strongly.

Top-ager Mason De Wit, 191cm, 86kg, impressed with his overhead marking at both ends of the field. He took intercept marks behind the ball and his one-on-one and contested marking was also a considerable strength. De Wit collected 20 disposals, 10 marks (three contested) and one score assist.

Top-ager Tom Murphy, 187cm, 80kg, also demonstrated a positive combination of attributes with his cleanness at ground level, acceleration, work rate and strong overhead marking. He won 18 disposals, six marks (one contested), six tackles, nine inside 50s and two score assists.

Bottom-age ruckman Bailey Williams, 198cm, 91kg, gathered 10 disposals, six marks (four contested), five tackles, 36 hitouts, four goals and one score assist. The athleticism of Williams was again on full display, dominating through the ruck in the first quarter, elevating so high at ruck contests that you would think he was taking a speccie. While he dropped several marks up forward, Williams was Dandenong's most dangerous marking target, kicking four goals in a game where he split his minutes between the ruck and full forward. Early signs suggest Williams can be one of the first players drafted in 2018.

Toby Wooller against Dandenong was used more as a marking key forward, and was overall effective in the role, outmuscling his opponent to take one-on-one marks and demonstrating strong hands overhead. Wooller contributed 16 disposals, eight marks (four contested), four goals and one score assist.

Top-ager Daniel Stanford, 189cm, 83kg, collected 14 disposals, seven marks (two contested), three goals and three score assists. He was effective as a marking target, demonstrating sticky hands overhead, winning his own one-on-one marking contests. Stanford was also effective with his ball use and clean at ground level.

School football

Kicking seven goals for Ivanhoe, Richmond father-son prospect Patrick Naish delivered a best on ground effort through the midfield.

Nathan Murphy for Brighton Grammar School also kicked seven goals. Murphy is a Victorian Under-19 cricketer and not the only star cricketer running around the APS football competition with Scotch College student Will Sutherland the captain of the Australian Under-19 cricket team also demonstrating AFL talent. Both Murphy and Sutherland are of draft interest to AFL clubs as key forwards, particularly Sutherland who has been touted as a sure first-round selection if he was to nominate for this year's AFL draft. Some club scouts are disputing whether Sutherland or Jarrod Brander is the more talented key forward, which speaks volumes to how incredible a sporting talent Sutherland is.

SANFL

*Bye week for the Under-18s.

WAFL

Top-ager Aidan Clarke, 179cm, 74kg impressed with 17 disposals, five marks and six goals.

Bottom-ager Luke English continued his consistent start to the season with 30 disposals, five marks and five tackles.

John Frampton was again involved around the ground with 26 disposals, six marks and 28 hitouts.

NEAFL

Exciting 20-year-old forward, Adam Sambono, 184cm, 79kg, had another impressive game for NT Thunder with 17 disposals, five marks and five goals. Sambono has now kicked 21 goals from his six games.