AFL Draft Wrap: Bailey Smith the premier mid in this year's class?

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

On Sunday, during the curtain-raiser before the Collingwood vs. Carlton clash at the MCG, it was all about the battle between arguably this year's two best midfielders: Bailey Smith and Sam Walsh. And the duo set the tone for Victoria Metro and Victoria Country respectively.

Having arguably the greater impact of the pair and looking every bit as talented as the more highly touted Walsh, Smith was instrumental in Vic Metro's win with 20 disposals, 12 contested possessions, five tackles, four clearances and three goals. Of Smith's eight kicks, all were effective.

Smith's stocks have grown with each performance this season. He's a high-volume contested ball-winner who is one of the most reliable kicks in the draft and one of this year's elite athletes. Smith possesses a rare combination of speed and endurance that allows him get to every contest and after winning the ball burst away.

The most exciting play from the likely top-10 draft choice was after winning a loose ball off the bounce, Smith accelerated 25m at full speed and from 50m finished for a goal.

The 185cm, 82kg, midfielder's tackling was also noteworthy, at least twice pinning an opponent's arm to prevent a handball.

Importantly, Smith possesses outstanding versatility. Last year for Sandringham he played as a rebounding defender before transitioning into one of the most prolific ball-winning midfielders this season.

Comparable to Jaeger O'Meara, Smith is arguably the most complete midfielder in this draft. The only thing missing from his game is contested marking. He is a clean, capable mark, and is not exposed in one-on-one contests, but having only taken the one contested mark this season, it is something if integrated into his game that would only add to Smith's long list of weapons.

Under-18 Championships

Victoria Country vs. Victoria Metro

Vic Country

Furthering his claims as a potential No. 1 overall selection, Sam Walsh arguably played his most complete match. The speedy midfielder amassed 29 disposals, 10 contested possessions, five clearances, six inside 50s and one goal. Walsh was Vic Country's most effective ball-winner at stoppages and provided outside run and carry. Of Walsh's 15 kicks, 11 were effective, with his precise short kicks and ball use under pressure a highlight and the best he has displayed.

Winning first possession at stoppages and using the ball soundly with 10 of 15 kicks effective, Xavier Duursma put forward a well-rounded performance with 19 disposals, six marks, five tackles, five clearances and seven inside 50s.

Putting his name forward as a potential pressure forward, Ned McHenry caught the eye of recruiters with 17 disposals, 10 tackles and two goals. Over the past three matches in this role, McHenry's pressure has been unrelenting, amassing 31 tackles. His chase-down tackling at speed was a highlight and caught Vic Metro's defenders off guard.

The area McHenry will need to work further on is his execution by foot and decision-making.

Boosting his draft stocks, defender Kyle Reid played a well-rounded game. The 193cm, 85kg, key defender gained front position in marking contests, intercepted and competed well in one-on-one contests, negating the influence of his opponents. The athletic defender gathered 15 disposals and four marks (one contested).

Underage forward Sam Flanders provided a marking target inside 50m and was Vic Country's most dangerous forward option. The damaging forward secured 13 disposals, four marks (two contested), two goals and two score assists.

Vic Metro

Rebounding effectively off half-back, Tom McKenzie collected a team-high 23 disposals, 12 marks (one contested) and six rebound 50s. His ball use was a highlight with 14 of 16 kicks effective.

Winning the ball through the midfield and providing an avenue to goal, overage midfielder Noah Answerth contributed strongly. The explosive midfielder contributed 21 disposals, 12 contested possessions, six tackles and two goals.

Moving into the top-10 conversation, Western Bulldogs father-son prospect Rhylee West continued his exceptional vein of form. Demonstrating strength through the hips to stand up and break tackles and the agility and acceleration to burst away from the contest, West has consolidated himself as one of this year's premier midfielders. The powerful ball-winner posted 20 disposals, eight contested possessions, five clearances and two score assists.

Completing his best work at stoppages, ball-winning midfielder James Rowbottom worked hard both ways and impressed with his pressure around the contest. He gathered 20 disposals, 13 contested possessions, eight tackles, four clearances and four inside 50s.

Growing in confidence with each passing game, Collingwood father-son prospect Will Kelly (son of Craig) is carving out a niche as a key defender. Kelly shut down his opponent, held his own in one-on-one contests, demonstrated closing speed and took intercept marks including a one-on-one intercept mark. The improving key defender produced 14 disposals and five marks (one contested).

Providing a marking target inside 50m, potential first-round selection Curtis Taylor was Vic Metro's most dangerous forward. Taylor's bodywork one-on-one, reading of the ball and strong hands overhead made him hard to stop. Possessing the capabilities to push through the midfield, Taylor posted 13 disposals, eight marks (one contested) and three goals.

Impacting the match with every touch, potential first-round choice Riley Collier-Dawkins' athleticism was on display. The 194cm midfielder won the ball on the move, provided run and carry, took an athletic mark and was damaging and reliable by foot with six of his seven kicks effective. Collier-Dawkins produced 13 disposals, eight contested possessions and one goal.

Elevating his draft stocks, key defender James Blanck played a well-rounded game. The 195cm, 80kg, key defender collected no cheap touches, beating his direct opponent in one-on-one contests and taking several intercept marks.

Impactful with every possession, Xavier O'Halloran had numerous exciting moments. His strong contested mark, plucking marks with his arms fully expected, acceleration with ball in hand and precise kicking were highlights. Playing as a forward, O'Halloran gathered nine disposals, seven contested possessions, four tackles and two goals. Of his five kicks, all five were effective.


Dandenong boasts arguably the deepest ruck division in the TAC Cup, and big men Bailey Schmidt and Stephen Cumming played sensational football in the absence of Bailey Williams and Riley Bowman, who were representing Vic Country.

What was most impressive from the pair was, despite splitting ruck duties, they each kicked four goals in the win against Greater Western Victoria. 199cm, 97kg, Schmidt amassed 18 disposals, five marks (three contested), 12 contested possessions, 32 hitouts, four goals and two score assists, while the 199cm, 103kg, Stephen Cumming secured 10 disposals, six marks (two contested), 16 hitouts and four goals.

Playing a central part in Murray's 107-point win against the depleted Geelong Falcons, Ely Smith was the dominant midfielder on the ground and Murray's best for the second consecutive week. The powerful ball-winning midfielder amassed 37 disposals, 16 contested possessions, 11 tackles, seven clearances, one goal and two score assists.

Making the most of Murray's midfield dominance, powerful marking forward Hudson Garoni was dominant up forward with 19 disposals, 12 marks (five contested) and six goals.


For Coburg in their loss to Casey, overager Mitch Podhajski was his side's best. The 191cm midfielder continues to show signs of improvement, securing 26 disposals and 10 tackles.



Speedy forward Sydney Stack managed 22 disposals and six tackles for Perth in their loss to West Perth.

West Coast NGA forward Jarrod Cameron showed promise for Swan Districts in their loss to Subiaco with 26 disposals, six marks, six tackles and five inside 50s.

Underage forward Rhai-Arn Cox was a standout for West Perth in their win against Claremont. The dangerous forward managed 17 disposals, eight marks and three goals.