Knightmare's AFL Draft Wrap: Brisbane Academy prospect excels

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

In the final round of the Under-18 Championships, the winless Allies defeated the unbeaten Victoria Metro side. Connor Ballenden, 199cm, 95kg, and a member of the Brisbane Lions Academy, played a great role at centre half-back and was instrumental in the win.

Ballenden has mostly played as a ruckman in the past but impressed in the back half with some exceptional field kicking. He had 11 kicks for the match, all of which were effective, some piercing long passes. The weighting and placement on Ballenden's kicks were near perfect and his vision was also first rate as he had no trouble finding open targets.

Ballenden's marking was also impressive, taking seven for the match including one strong, contested grab. He reads the ball in flight early, works off his opponent at the right times and demonstrated strong hands overhead throughout the match. Ballenden also defended strongly in one-on-one contests and possessed the athleticism to spoil his opponents when they led up to the ball.

Another positive to Ballenden's game is that he is a feisty customer. At one point when Vic Metro key forward Will Sutherland pushed him aggressively and gave some lip, Ballenden shoved back just as hard and refused to back down.

Despite impressing, Ballenden has lacked consistency through the five rounds. When played through the ruck and up forward he has had moments where he has shown promise but down back he has looked a natural and played exceptional football.

Ballenden is in the mix to feature inside the first round of this year's AFL Draft.

AFL Under-18 Championships

Allies v Victoria Metro


Showing glimpses of Shane Mumford, Brayden Crossley, 198cm, 105kg, who is part of the Gold Coast Academy, was a difference maker for the Allies at stoppages and arguably their most influential player. He gathered 19 disposals, 10 contested possessions, five tackles, 33 hitouts, four clearances, five inside 50s and kicked a goal. Crossley is strong but what makes him stand out most is his follow-up work. He recovers quickly after ruck contests and often wins ground balls or tackles immediately.

Jarrod Brander, 194cm, 89kg, was the standout key forward on the ground. He finished with 16 disposals, nine marks (three contested), three goals and one score assist. Spending most of the Under-18 Championships playing as a key defender, Brander shifted forward against Vic Metro and played his best game for the carnival. His work rate, cleanness at ground level and ability to keep his feet in the contest were all highlights.

Northern Territory midfielder, Zac Bailey, who earned a position on the Under-18 All-Australian team, was again exceptional through the midfield with 23 disposals, seven contested possessions, four clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal. Bailey's acceleration and breakaway speed from stoppages was impressive, opening up the game for the Allies.

Hugh Dixon, 195cm, 92kg, pushed his case for draft selection with 14 disposals, 10 contested possessions, four marks (two contested), three goals and five score assists. Dixon is the type of player that doesn't need a lot of the ball to impact games. He is a strong marking key forward with genuine football smarts, regularly making the right plays that don't necessarily show up on the stat sheets. A clever last quarter tap of a loose ball to a teammate in traffic set up an important final quarter goal.

Vic Metro

Continuing to impress with his ball use, Nicholas Coffield regularly hit meaningful targets by foot. He collected a game-high 29 disposals, nine contested possessions, seven marks, three clearances, five inside 50s and two score assists.

Andrew Brayshaw was Vic Metro's best midfielder with 22 disposals, 12 contested possessions, four tackles, five inside 50s, one goal and three score assists. Brayshaw was excellent at ground level and around the stoppages. What was most impressive was his kicking, with each of his nine kicks effective in what was a complete performance by the youngest brother of Melbourne's Angus Brayshaw.

Playing mostly forward for Vic Metro, Jack Higgins looked a natural in the front half with his crumbing and kicks to targets inside 50m. Higgins gathered 19 disposals, eight contested possessions, five marks, seven tackles, four inside 50s, two goals and three score assists.

Demonstrating class and power up forward, Cameron Rayner was one of Vic Metro's most damaging with 13 disposals, eight contested possessions, three goals and one score assist.

Will Sutherland continued his aggressive play up forward and was effective both at ground level and marking on the lead with eight disposals, four marks (one contested), four tackles and two goals.

South Australia v Victoria Country

South Australia

Eligible as a father-son selection, Jackson Edwards, 185cm, 77kg, the son of Adelaide's Tyson, amassed 30 disposals and seven marks. His outside run and clean kicking were both highlights.

One of the more unique players in this draft, Charlie Ballard, 195cm, 81kg, is a genuine wing/half-forward who possesses qualities mostly found in smaller outside players. His skills, vision, time and composure with ball in hand, cleanness at ground level and work rate are all strengths to his game. Ballard collected 24 disposals, nine marks, seven inside 50s, one goal and three score assists.

Underager, Izak Rankine was a key to South Australia's big win against Vic Country. He was at his freakish best with 20 disposals, nine contested possessions, five marks, five inside 50s, one goal and three score assists. His one touch ground ball winning, stepping through traffic and breakaway speed wowed the crowd, leaving viewers believing he will be a top five selection in 2018.

Underager, Connor Rozee gathered 20 disposals, 11 contested possessions, six marks (one contested), five tackles, three goals, three clearances and one score assist. His strong marking and skills were outstanding.

Taking several high-flying marks on his chest, forward Jordan Houlahan was impressive both aerially and at ground level, with several team lifting plays. Houlahan collected 13 disposals, nine contested possessions, four marks (three contested), four inside 50s and one goal.

Vic Country

Underager Sam Walsh was clean and efficient through the midfield with 24 disposals, 11 contested possessions and four marks (one contested).

Once again showing his power at stoppages, James Worpel was impactful every time he was near the ball with 22 disposals, eight contested possessions, five marks, six tackles, five clearances, eight inside 50s, one goal and one score assist. His contested ball winning, tackling and presence around the contest were highlights.

Cassidy Parish was also prolific at stoppages with 22 disposals, 12 contested possessions, six clearances and two score assists. His cleanness at ground level and contested ball winning at stoppages is among the best in this year's draft.

Winning first possession regularly at the coalface, demonstrating football smarts, using the ball cleanly and breakaway speed, Paddy Dow once again had many impactful moments. Dow gathered 15 disposals, 10 contested possessions, four tackles, four clearances, one goal and one score assist.

Providing regular drive from defence with his run-and-carry and by foot, Ben Paton, 185cm, 78kg, has been a model of consistency for Vic Country. He collected 19 disposals against South Australia and looks a possible late draft choice.


Jackson Ross, 192cm, 75kg, gathered a team-high 23 disposals, 10 contested possessions, seven marks (one contested), six tackles, five clearances, five inside 50s, five goals and two score assists for Eastern. He also used the ball effectively with 13 of his 18 kicks hitting targets.



Ex-Docker, Haiden Schloithe has continued his exceptional form with 27 disposals, eight marks, four tackles, five inside 50s and five goals. Schloithe has been in outstanding form averaging 30 disposals, and kicking at least four goals in each of last three games.


Overage midfielder Brayden Ainsworth continued n from his strong Under-18 Championships form, performing strongly with 17 disposals, six marks and three goals.


With his strongest output for the season so far, outside runner, Jake Patmore, 181cm, 78kg, gathered 39 disposals, eight marks, five inside 50s and one goal.

Underager, Dylan O'Reilly, 193cm, 79kg, had a breakout game with 13 disposals, seven marks, 11 hitouts and seven goals.


Overager and previous Brisbane Academy midfielder, Jack Rolls has gone from strength to strength this year, shifting into an inside midfield role after playing an outside role previously. His 31 disposals, seven marks, nine clearances and four inside 50s against NT Thunder was another outstanding return.