AFL Draft Weekly Wrap: stoppage specialist Sheldrick a WA bolter

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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

Earning best on ground honours for Western Australia in their 10-point win against South Australia in this year's final clash between the two sides, Angus Sheldrick is the prospect who has scouts talking.

Over the past two months, Sheldrick has built one of the most impressive resumes, also winning the head-to-head midfield matchup against pick one favourite Jason Horne-Francis in the first Under-19 Championships clash between WA and SA.

Horne-Francis was unable to impact the game through the midfield and was relegated to playing in the front half, in what was a surprise disruption to an otherwise near-flawless close to 2021.

In the WAFL Colts Grand Final, Sheldrick battled on manfully and was the dominant force through the middle, amassing 27 touches despite copping a bad corky in the second quarter and an unsportsmanlike knee to the ribs while down on all fours in the third quarter.

Given Sheldrick's recent eye-catching performances, his best on ground display at the weekend's final Under-19 Championships clash should surprise no one; he's a competitor who shows up every week and does what is asked of him.

In each of the Championships games, WA was clearly a level above through the midfield and the contribution of Sheldrick played a large part. An impressive stoppage midfielder, the 17-year-old is a strong-bodied stoppage specialist with a height and build akin to Lachie Neale.

At 179cm and 88kg, Sheldrick is strong over the ball and routinely wins first possession, works hard around the ground to receive loose ball gets, possesses an explosive burst of speed, shrugs tackles and tackles with intent, plays a strong two-way game and hits the scoreboard.

Impressively, during the WAFL Colts finals series, Sheldrick kicked six goals from three games, while kicking another two goals in his final match against SA, including the sealer.

Where Sheldrick will need to put work into his game is his kicking and decision making. He is effective feeding outside runners by hand but at this stage lacks polish and precision by foot. Whether he is under pressure or has time with ball in hand, at times he will attempt ill-advised kicks that lack situational awareness.

Gaining fans in recent months, Sheldrick is viewed as a likely mid-draft choice and would be a strong value selection for a club looking to give their midfield an immediate boost of competitiveness

Rising draft stocks

Providing run with ball in hand, a marking target forward of centre, applying himself defensively, kicking two goals and setting up targets inside 50 with perfect kicks, Lochlan Paton came out of the blocks with a point to prove for Western Australia. Turning 18 in November, Paton enhanced his draft chances as one of his side's most influential players.

An intercept marking force, the little-spoken-about Max Litster was South Australia's best in defence. He positioned himself well, read the drop of the ball better than anyone else on the field and backed himself in the air, often leaping for and marking the ball strongly overhead.

South Australian rebounding defender Alastair Lord continued his strong vein of form. Possessing elite speed and agility, Lord is arguably this draft's most aggressive and damaging runner from defence with ball in hand. While his run is his primary weapon, Lord put on a masterclass with his ball use by foot. If a club can secure Lord late in the draft, they may have found themselves a draft bargain, with his rebounding capabilities the best in the pool.

Key performers

Under-19s

Performing consistently through the Under-19 Championships, WA captain Finn Gorringe put on an intercepting clinic, commanding the skies and intercepting off the bounce. He was competitive one-on-one, aerially and stabilised his defensive teammates in each encounter.

Winning the ball through the midfield and breaking the game open at times with his run, Kade Dittmar was again one of WA's most influential ball-winners. He has been a consistent difference maker, and aside from Sheldrick, was the second strong-bodied midfielder who made life difficult for the South Australian midfielders.

Under-17s

Following a strong Grand Final performance for Swan Districts the previous week, Elijah Hewett backed it up with a best-on-ground performance for WA in their 13-point win against SA. Displaying impressive speed, agility and evasion and looking just as good by foot -- evident when hitting inside 50m targets and finishing around goal himself -- Hewett broke the game open many times. He is a strong ball-winner who displays power when exiting stoppages and is damaging every time he gets the ball forward of centre.

A teammate of Hewett at Swan Districts, Darcy Jones was similarly influential through the midfield. He regularly won first possession at stoppages, took the game on at high speed with incredible run and dash and looked a natural crumber at the base of packs as a front and centre threat.

Displaying rare speed, agility and evasion, Conrad Williams exhibited highlight reel play after highlight reel play - his most memorable sequence being a 55-metre run where after a mark in the centre he ran 60 metres at high speed, leaving his opponent in his wake and finished for a goal from 25 metres out to give WA a six-point lead heading into the quarter-time break.

Another who put on an intercept marking show, key defender Jedd Busslinger was dominant in defence and showed clean ball use and good composure with ball in hand.

Playing a lively brand of football, Kobe Ryan was South Australia's best midfielder. He won first possession at stoppages, displayed speed and agility and was lively with his tackling.