By JESS WEBSTER
The 2018 NAB AFL Draft is only one day away, and we’ve profiled some of our competition’s best prospects.
In Part 2 of our draft preview, we take a look at some of the NEAFL’s best mature-age players.
DOB: 06/05/1998. Height: 175cm. Weight: 79kg.
Breakout seasons certainly don’t come much better than what Canberra midfielder Mitch Maguire produced in 2018. The NEAFL Rising Star winner featured among the Demons best players 14 times from his 20 games, and also finished fourth in the NEAFL MVP voting. Likened to Brisbane’s Dayne Zorko, Maguire, 20, averaged 28 disposals and five clearances per game to be a key factor in Canberra’s rise up the ladder.
DOB: 03/08/1998. Height: 190cm. Weight: 84kg.
Athletic utility Angus Baker bounced back from a torn ACL in style this year to emerge as a genuine mature-age draft prospect. Seen predominately off half-back for the Demons, the former Swans Academy member earned a NEAFL Rising Star nomination in Round 3 and thrived amongst a young Canberra lineup. Baker, 20, averaged 21 disposals, five marks and three rebound 50s in a season where he often showcased his vast potential.
DOB: 24/02/1998. Height: 192cm. Weight: 82kg.
Tom Highmore entered 2018 as another Canberra young gun to watch, and he certainly played an important role for the Demons in defence. A former GIANTS Academy member and U18 Allies player in 2017, Highmore made his NEAFL debut at 16, and this year played every game for Canberra as they advanced to a Preliminary Final. Highmore is a mobile defender with the ability to read the play and use the ball with great composure. He averaged 17.3 disposals and an impressive 81 per cent disposal efficiency, plus six marks and 3.5 rebound 50s per game.
DOB: 08/04/1995. Height: 172cm. Weight: 84kg.
NT Thunder midfielder Abraham Ankers produced a superb season to elevate his status as one of the NEAFL’s premier midfielders. Twice this season Ankers broke in to the top 10 highest individual contested possessions tallies in NEAFL history. Overall, the 23-year-old averaged 26 disposals, seven clearances and six inside 50s, as well as kicking hitting the scoreboard with 16 goals. Ankers was well up there with the very best in 2018, where he was ranked fourth in the competition for disposals, third for contested possessions, third for clearances, and first for inside 50s.
DOB: 08/03/1996. Height: 197cm. Weight: 96kg.
Former Brisbane forward Matt Hammelmann had a terrific debut season for Redland, booting 60 goals (at 72 per cent accuracy) despite the Bombers winning just one game. Hammelmann rightly assumed his place at full-forward in the Team of the Year after winning the Leading Goalkicker Trophy, and he also averaged five marks per game. The 22-year-old proved tough to beat on many occasions this year, kicking five or more goals on six occasions, highlighted by a nine-goal haul against NT Thunder in Alice Springs to win the ANZAC Day Medal for best-on-ground.
DOB: 18/07/1996. Height: 189cm. Weight: 85kg.
One of Southport’s most valuable recruits in 2018 was former Sydney University player Michael Manteit, who claimed the Doc Mackenzie Medal as the Sharks’ best-and-fairest in a premiership-winning season. At just 22, Manteit averaged the fifth highest Champion Data ranking points of any player in the NEAFL this year with 112. The former Collingwood rookie’s average of 25 disposals at an impressive 75 per cent efficiency was a key factor in Southport’s success this year.
DOB: 07/03/1996. Height: 181cm. Weight: 82kg.
Southport small forward Tom Wilkinson set the competition alight in 2018 in his first season with the Sharks. The 22-year-old earned NEAFL Team of the Year honours after booting 36 goals from 19 games. Wilkinson was ranked the No.1 small forward in the NEAFL with an average of 93 Champion Data ranking points per game. His terrific goal sense and athletic attributes has caught the eye of AFL recruiters.
DOB: 17/01/1996. Height: 191cm. Weight: 88kg.
After being delisted by Brisbane, Josh Clayton joined Southport in 2018 and had a fantastic season in the midfield where he produced career-best numbers. The 22-year-old averaged 29 disposals, five clearances and five inside 50s, and was ranked No.1 in the competition for total disposals and second for inside 50s.
DOB: 03/05/1997. Height: 186cm. Weight: 82kg.
Star Sydney University defender Ryan Hebron built on his breakout 2017 season this year by earning a second NEAFL Team of the Year selection and winning a first Driscoll Medal as the Students’ best-and-fairest. The 21-year-old was ranked No.1 in the competition for marks in 2018 with an average of 20 disposals, 8.5 marks and 4.5 rebound 50s – all career-highs – per game to establish himself as one of the NEAFL’s top defenders.
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