AFL Draft Weekly Wrap: Eastern's prime rebounder deserves attention

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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.


Player focus

The driving force for the Eastern Ranges in their 27-point win against Dandenong, Josh Clarke was the most damaging player afield with both his kicking and running difference-making. By foot, Clarke enjoyed one of this year's most impressive displays, consistently placing kicks either out in front of his target to run onto, or to their advantage in one-on-one contests to allow them the greatest possibly opportunity to take the mark.

There is no question this 19-year-old is one of the premier kicks in the junior ranks. His run was just as valuable, taking on the game with confidence. Whether he would accelerate for a 30m stride on the outside or burst away from opponents, take on the man on the mark and evade them, there was a multitude of ways Clarke used his speed, agility and evasion to bring energy and enthusiasm into Eastern's offensive drives.

Amassing 28 disposals, 11 marks, 11 inside 50s and five score assists, Clarke is one of this year's most dynamic and exciting rebounding defenders and outside midfielders. After being overlooked in last year's draft, Clarke over his past two NAB League games has made a strong case he should again come under draft consideration, with 38 disposals and one goal against Western in a best afield display another strong showing.

With offensive capabilities not unlike Aaron Hall, Clarke appears a savvy choice and can bring potential x-factor for a club willing to invest the time into him as he develops physically.

As well as getting stronger, Clarke will also need to improve as a contested ball winner, with just three contested possessions potentially not enough and something he will be looking to build upon in the closing. stages of the season.


Rising stocks

NAB League

One of the in-form midfielders in the NAB League, Zac Taylor for the Calder Cannons enjoyed his best game for the season with 37 disposals (22 contested) and 11 clearances in their 10-point win against the Murray Bushrangers.

Taylor has averaged 34 disposals over his past three NAB League outings. While he is a prolific ball winner and accumulator, Taylor is also one of this year's draft's premier ball users and possesses a balanced game, with his run, agility and evasion also prominent features.

On the back of recent performances, Taylor has rocketed into the first-round mix and his progression will be one to track closely.

A late bloomer who has grown significantly in recent years, St Kilda Next-Generation Academy prospect Mitch Owens has come into his own and is firming as a top-30 draft choice.

Following on from a 29 disposal and one goal performance in the Vic Metro vs. Vic Country trial -- a game in which he was a late call up -- Owens has backed up that strong showing with 25 disposals (13 contested), seven tackles, seven clearances and five inside 50s for Sandringham in their 24-point win against Greater Western Victoria.

A 190cm tall utility, Owens displayed impressive agility, run, courage, intercept marking and ball winning capabilities.


Key performances

NAB League

Melbourne Next-Generation Academy ruckman Mac Andrew put on another exciting performance for the Dandenong Stingrays. The developing ruckman managed 17 disposals, four marks (two contested) and 16 hit outs.

At ruck contests, Andrew would leap so high to get a clear tap down that he had his waist above head height on his opponents in numerous contests, and there was a liveliness and quick recovery at ground level which allowed him to win the ball off several of his ruck taps.

Andrew also took some strong marks around the ground and used the ball very effectively. Where Andrew got exposed was whenever an opponent, be it through the ruck or around the ground in a marking contest, could engage him one-on-one and make the contest into a wrestle - he would get pushed around far too easily.

Impressing aerially, with his run, sidestep and with his multi-effort pressure acts, Kai Lohmann played a high impact per possession game for Greater Western Victoria, collecting 14 disposals, seven marks (three contested) and one goal.

Through the ruck, it seemed inevitable every time Josh Rentsch attended a ruck contest that he would win the ball out of the ruck and distribute by hand to a teammate. Rentsch managed 15 disposals (14 contested), 14 hit outs and eight clearances.

The signs shown by Rentsch uniquely qualify the key forward to take ruck contests inside 50m which only enhances his draft case.

Generating meaningful drive from defence for Western, Massimo D'Ambrosio was incredible with the vision and execution by foot he demonstrated to hit meaningful targets with low, quick through the air daggers. In Western's 30-point loss to Geelong, the talented rebounder managed 31 disposals, eight marks, 10 rebound 50s and one goal, earning best-on-ground honours.

For Oakleigh in their 22-point loss to Gippsland, Collingwood Next-Generation Academy prospect Youseph Dib arguably enjoyed his best game for the season with 20 disposals, two score assists and game highs of 16 contested possessions and 10 tackles. Dib at 174cm plays a relentless and hard brand of footy as one of the most enthusiastic tacklers and ground ball winners as there have been to come through the junior ranks in recent years.

WAFL

Former Geelong Category B rookie, Blake Schlensog led the way up forward for South Fremantle in their 116-point win against Peel with 16 disposals, 10 marks and five goals.

Schlensog has been in ominous form since his move forward and looks every bit as natural in the forward 50 as he did in defence over the first half of the season. Expect Schlensog to receive a second chance at AFL level in 2022.

Over-ager Jack Avery secured team highs of 26 disposals and 11 marks for Perth in their 56-point loss to West Coast. Avery has gone from strength to strength this season stepping up from the WAFL Colts to WAFL state league football without a hitch.