AFL Draft Wrap: Contested midfielders on the rise

Get tipping on ESPNfootytips now! (0:30)

Gather your friends, round up your colleagues and join ESPNfootytips for another year of tipping fun. (0:30)

Each week, AFL draft expert Chris Doerre 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 wraps, 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

Playing a central role for Murray in their win against Northern, Ely Smith -- who is developing a reputation as one of the TAC Cup's best stoppage players -- did a lot of the grunt work. The 188cm, 86kg midfielder gathered 24 disposals, 14 contested possessions, nine tackles, seven clearances, four inside 50s and two score assists. This is his third consecutive game to feature among Murray's best players.

Smith is a classic inside extractor. He regularly won first possession at stoppages and dished out to teammates effectively by hand. His tackling and pressure around the ground was also a highlight.

The next stage in Smith's development will be adding a second point of difference. He is an effective ball winner and tackler at stoppages, but the addition of a further weapon would see his draft stocks improve.

Smith's game bare some similarities to that of Saint David Armitage as a stoppage specialist. At this stage, Smith projects as a late draft chance.


Likely to miss the remainder of the season due to a lower back stress fracture, Essendon father-son prospect Mason Fletcher is still considered a likely draft choice due to his height, length and skills and scope to improve.

A second possible father-son choice likely to miss the remainder of the season is possible North Melbourne selection Joel Crocker. Crocker has sustained an ankle injury and is likely to require season-ending surgery.

Winning the ball and bursting away from the contest, Northern captain Braedyn Gillard gathered 28 disposals, 17 contested possessions and eight clearances in Northern's loss to Murray. His ball use by foot though will need to improve with only three of his 11 kicks effective.

Providing eye-popping run from defence, Northern underager Lachlan Potter is a player who should be marked down for next year's draft as a must-watch. While the 183cm, 70kg defender only gathered 12 disposals, his acceleration each time he received the ball and assortment of moves with ball in hand allowed him to effortlessly speed past anyone, any time he wanted.

Demonstrating clean skills and often finding the ball on the move, Lachlan Ash was a standout for Murray. The 186cm, 77kg, underage midfielder collected 22 disposals and 11 contested possessions.

Underage midfielder Jimmy Boyer impressed for Murray with 21 disposals and six marks (one contested). The 182cm, 70kg, Boyer demonstrated excellent skill execution with 10 of 13 kicks effective. His acceleration and evasion was also noteworthy.

Dangerous each time he gathered the ball, Riley Bice's pace and aggressive ball movement generated several scoring opportunities for Murray. The 185cm, 68kg forward gathered 18 disposals, five marks, five tackles, five inside 50s, three goals and two score assists.

Power forward Hudson Garoni was again a presence up forward for Murray with 13 disposals, eight marks (four contested), five tackles, two goals and four score assists. He was jumping for marks, taking them strongly and showed his football smarts and capabilities at ground level. Garoni while unlikely to feature in the early part of the draft, may offer a club seeking a powerful key forward an option in the latter half of the draft.

Using the ball effectively for Calder in their win against Bendigo with 12 of his 17 kicks effective, Lachlan Sholl rebounded effectively off half-back. The 185cm, 77kg skilful defender contributed 35 disposals and eight marks.

Overage midfielder Mitch Podhajski has continued his strong vein of form for Calder. The 191cm midfielder amassed 27 disposals, 12 contested possessions, seven marks, 15 tackles and three goals. Podhajski is making a strong case that he is the TAC Cup's best player as a genuine ball-winning midfielder. He is also providing one of the competition's most dangerous targets up forward, kicking two or more goals in each of his four matches so far.

Playing his first match of the year, highly regarded Dandenong prospect Sam Fletcher collected 24 disposals, 18 contested possessions, four clearances and six tackles in their win against Eastern. The 187cm, 79kg midfielder possesses the versatility to play at either end and is an effective ball user.

Possessing speed and clean skills, Charlie Wilson for the fifth time in six games was named one of Greater Western Victoria's best. Helping the Rebels to a draw against Oakleigh, the damaging, 180cm, 78kg, forward secured 22 disposals, six marks (one contested), eight tackles and three goals.

Ball-winning midfielder Xavier O'Neill managed 28 disposals, 13 contested possessions, seven marks, nine tackles, six clearances and four inside 50s for Oakleigh. His reliability by foot was a feature with 12 of his 16 kicks effective. O'Neill is one of this year's best ball-using midfielders with his use with both feet, decision making and vision excellent.

Named Oakleigh's best, Collingwood Next Generation Academy (NGA) defender Isaac Quaynor was effective driving the ball out of defence with 18 disposals, five marks and nine rebound 50s.

Collingwood (NGA) forward Atu Bosenavualagi was once against impactful for Oakleigh with 16 disposals, 15 contested possessions, five tackles, seven inside 50s and two goals. His forward pressure and ground ball winning was again outstanding.

Building a reputation over the past 12 months for his run and long kicking from defence, Stefan Radovanovic was given the opportunity to play through Western's midfield in their win against Geelong. As a midfielder, the 192cm, 85kg, Radovanovic thrived with 23 disposals, 12 contested possessions, six clearances, five inside 50s and two score assists.

Top rated Victorian midfielder Sam Walsh was one of Geelong's best players, collecting 33 disposals, 15 contested possessions, seven tackles and one goal. While Walsh's ball-winning ability and acceleration cannot be questioned, he would be disappointed that only four of his 17 kicks were effective.

Arguably 2019's most promising prospect, underage Gippsland forward Sam Flanders was as impactful as anyone on the field. The damaging forward amassed 22 disposals, seven marks (one contested), six inside 50s, four goals and four score assists.


This week was a bye round for the SANFL and WAFL due to SANFL v WAFL state game. The below notes are from Round 6.


Continuing his strong vein of form, Jackson Hately secured a team-high 23 disposals and 10 tackles to go along with two goals in Central Districts close loss to South Adelaide. Hately on form is in the discussion for this year's best midfield prospect alongside Victorians Sam Walsh and Bailey Smith, who all are of such high quality that they would be in the pick one conversation any other season.


Putting forward a striking display for the Eagles in their win against Sturt, Jarrod Miller led the way. The 186cm, 78kg midfielder amassed 40 disposals, 12 marks, seven inside 50s, three goals and five behinds in a dominant display.

AFL Academy Series Final Round

Top Gold Coast Academy prospect Bailey Scott was prolific. He gathered 29 disposals and four clearances in a convincing win against Northern Territory.

Tasmanian speedster and North Melbourne Academy prospect Tarryn Thomas played arguably his best match for the year. Thomas in Tasmania's win against Sydney's Academy, amassed 28 disposals, 20 contested possessions, seven clearances, six inside 50s, and two goals. The talk following the performance is that Thomas has elevated his stocks into top-five calculations.