Each week, ESPN.com.au 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.
With one of the dominant displays so far this season in the junior ranks, Matthew Roberts solidified his top-10 draft billing for South Adelaide in their 56-point win against Norwood with 34 disposals, eight marks, nine tackles, eight clearances, 10 inside-50s and three goals. A left footer, Roberts is a goalkicking midfielder who has the performances on the board both as a goal kicker and ball winner in the SANFL Under-18s.
Through the midfield, Roberts mixes inside and outside craft. He's a strong contested ball winner and tackler with clean hands in traffic, who distributes effectively to targets and spreads well from the contest. He covers a lot of ground, displays a high work rate and links up well on the outside. While best suited as a midfielder, Roberts is more than adept as a forward with a strong overhead mark, ground level prowess and an eye for where the goals are.
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In the highlight play of the game, Roberts launched a 65 metre kick from the centre bounce which travelled through the goals, though he did benefit from a favourable breeze
For an AFL comparison, Roberts is most comparable to Dayne Beams. Like Beams, Roberts appears ready for the rigours of AFL already, and because he is so damaging across half-forward and can hit the scoreboard in bunches, it is likely Roberts starts his career across half-forward as Beams did before transitioning into predominantly a midfielder with a few years of experience.
The major area Roberts will need to work on is taking more time with ball in hand, not blasting long by foot as often and lowering his eyes more often to find short and medium targets. Currently, Roberts tends to immediately swing around onto his left foot to move the ball quickly and at what feels like just about every available opportunity. The result of this is often a kick to no one in particular, rather than a kick directed to a teammate to mark. If Roberts fine-tunes these elements of his game, it will only support his already high draft stocks.
I'm worried about
No. 1 pick contender Jason Horne struggled to impose himself offensively or find much of the football in South Adelaide's nine-point loss to Norwood, with just six disposals across half-forward. Being utilised across half-forward and not receiving midfield time felt like an opportunity lost, as when he has the ball in his hands, he's very damaging. What Horne did do though, as he was unable to impose himself offensively, was pressure and tackle intently with seven tackles.
Mid-season draft watch
An impressive speed and endurance athlete with X-factor around goal, Bailey Lambert, son of Brisbane's Craig, has been one of the early season stars for Frankston in their unbeaten start. The mature age forward starred with 15 disposals, six marks and four goals for Frankston in their 21-point win against Aspley. Lambert has kicked 11 goals in his first three games, while averaging 17 disposals.
Prolific ball winning midfielder Marcus Lentini amassed 42 disposals and seven tackles for Coburg in their 18-point win against Brisbane. While wasteful in front of goal with four behinds, the four shots on goal were a positive sign. Two games into the season, Lentini is yet to collect fewer than 40 disposals. For a few years now, Lentini has been the premier stoppage specialist outside the AFL and if he can start hitting the scoreboard, he'd have to come under strong consideration by AFL clubs.
Holding his own physically, Jackson Callow impressed with his strong marking. He played with a physical presence and importantly when he wasn't taking marks, he brought the ball to ground and crashed packs. Callow tallied 10 disposals, seven marks (two contested), one goal, and two behinds for Norwood in their nine-point win against South Adelaide.
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A small, athletic midfielder and forward, Tyrone Thorne won best-on-ground honours for Peel in their 79-point win against West Coast. Thorne amassed 33 disposals, six marks, six tackles and two goals. With his speed, agility, ground level prowess and forward pressure, the 19-year-old would be an ideal fit for an AFL club as a crumbing forward who can push up through the midfield.
19-year-old key forward Jack Buller had a breakout game with 15 disposals, six marks, five goals and four behinds for Claremont in their 52-point win against West Perth. Buller was the only player on the field with more than two goals and has been one of the off-season's big improvers.
Leading the WAFL Colts for average disposals so far, 5.3 disposals clear of second placed Joshua Brown, Jack Avery has continued his hot start to the season for Perth. A 190cm, ball winning midfielder with the versatility to play in defence and take intercept marks, Avery amassed match highs of 41 disposals and 13 marks for Perth.
National draft watch
Collingwood Next-Generation Academy forward Youseph Dib showed glimpses in Collingwood's 3-point win against Gold Coast with seven disposals and two goals. This follows on from 11 disposals and eight tackles against Essendon the week prior. Dib is fancied as a possible second or third round selection and is showing enough to suggest Collingwood will want to have the points available to match bids given the forward pressure and excitement he can provide.
In his WAFL League debut, classy 192cm midfielder and potential first-round draft choice Matthew Johnson showed promise with 11 disposals and five tackles for Subiaco in their 18-point loss to South Fremantle.
2022: early name to watch
Impressing with his pace, agility and lively play, Taj Rahui was one of the standouts for Norwood. Every time he got his hands on the ball it felt like he would make something happen. The exciting forward gathered 21 disposals, five marks and one goal. Rahui read the ball in flight consistently well and in the third quarter took a courageous mark, getting crunched from behind.