North East Australian Football League
2017 Top 20 Players to Watch Countdown



The popular NEAFL Top 20 Players to Watch countdown returns Monday, March 6!

A new player will be profiled every day on in the lead-up to the season opener on April 1.

They are all under 25 and all have the potential to take season 2017 by storm. 

The inaugural countdown in 2015 produced the NEAFL MVP and Rising Star winner, seven league representatives and two mature-age AFL draftees.

Last year, the No.1 Player to Watch, Redland’s Blake Grewar, was drafted to the Brisbane Lions. Six players were named in the NEAFL Team of the Year, and Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds went on to win the NEAFL Rising Star Award.

So, who do you think should make the 2017 list? You can follow the progress of the countdown, and view the full bios of every player, on this dedicated page.



TOM HIGHMORE (GWS Giants/Canberra)

Age: 19. NEAFL Games: 20.

Marist College junior Tom Highmore burst on to the NEAFL scene in 2015 when featured among Eastlake’s best players nine times in 13 matches to finish runner-up in their best-and-fairest award at just 17.

But his 2016 season was derailed early when he battled glandular fever for two months before being struck down by injury during the National Under-18 Championships.

Highmore recovered to play his first match of the season for the Canberra Demons in Round 10, and earned a NEAFL Rising Star nomination four weeks later.

He has been a member of the GWS Giants Academy since he was 14, and will be a part of the Giants’ Under-19 Academy squad this year.

A mid-sized defender who reads the play well, Highmore’s best football is still ahead of him, and 2017 may just be his breakout season.

JACK ROLLS (Redland Bombers)

Age: 18. NEAFL Games: 11.

Can Redland midfielder Jack Rolls become the fourth player in a row from the Bombers to win the NEAFL Rising Star Award in 2017?

The former Brisbane Lions and AFL Academy member will enter his first full season outside the academy this year and has so far impressed in pre-season training and matches.

Already a two-time NEAFL Rising Star nominee, Rolls earned his first nomination as a 16-year-old on debut in 2015, before receiving another last year in a season where he also represented the Allies at the National Under-18 Championships.

Fitness and athleticism are two of the 18-year-old’s biggest assets in his roles across the half-back or midfield, and a consistent season at NEAFL level will no doubt reap huge rewards for the Morningside junior.

MATT WILSON (Sydney University)

Age: 19. NEAFL Games: 21.

Coming in at No.7 on our countdown is a sneaky small forward who could have a big impact for Sydney University in season 2017, Matt Wilson.

A product of the Maroubra Saints juniors, Wilson made his NEAFL debut in 2015 for the Sydney Swans while representing NSW/ACT at the National Under-18 Championships.

The former Swans Academy member took a few giant steps forward last year when he played in 17 matches, including Sydney’s NEAFL Grand Final loss to the GWS Giants.

A crafty small forward with a terrific goal sense, Wilson twice kicked bags of five goals last year as he went on to become Sydney’s NEAFL Leading Goalkicker with 29 majors.

Wilson was invited to attend the AFL Draft State Combine last year and will have his sights set on a big 2017 campaign to push himself to another level.

JORDAN HAYDEN (Aspley Hornets)

Age: 19. NEAFL Games: 0.

Glenorchy premiership player Jordan Hayden may be Aspley’s secret weapon in 2017.

The Tasmanian-born young gun has made the move to Brisbane this year where his class and potential has already impressed.

A former Tasmania under-16s and under-18s captain, Hayden made his senior TSL debut at 17, and last year represented the league against the WAFL.

Now 19, Hayden is expected to play an important role across half-back for the Hornets, but also has the ability to play through the midfield.

Although he will begin the year as a relative unknown in the NEAFL, a breakout season in a second-tier competition could elevate Hayden into mature-age AFL Draft calculations.


Age: 20. NEAFL Games: 0.


NT Thunder will provide a glimpse into the future this season with a playing list packed full of local, young talent.

Amongst the top of their list is new midfielder/forward Davin Ferreira, who has relocated back home to Darwin after two years with SANFL club Norwood – where he collected 18 disposals and booted three goals in his senior debut.

The 20-year-old set the NTFL alight when he first burst on to the scene, earning a Rising Star nomination as a 16-year-old back in the 2013-14 season. The following year, he earned a second nomination for Wanderers as they went on to claim the NTFL premiership.

Ferreira’s speed and agility as an inside midfielder who can push forward and kick goals caught the eye of AFL recruiters when he was invited to the 2015 NAB AFL Draft Combine.

When he is at the top of his game, Ferreira has the potential to be one of the most exciting young talents in the NEAFL competition this year.

JACK DIMERY (Sydney University)

Age: 24. NEAFL Games: 54.

Sydney University midfielder Jack Dimery will return to the NEAFL for the first time since 2014 when he begins a new chapter in his career with the Students this year.

The 24-year-old spent the previous nine years with the East Coast Eagles (three of which were in the NEAFL from 2011-2014), playing in over 250 club games and winning four AFL Sydney premierships.

Dimery’s 2016 season has many excited about his return to second-tier football, having won AFL Sydney’s Phelan Medal off 14 games, a premiership, best-on-ground for the AFL Sydney representative match against Canberra, as well as finishing sixth on Fox Footy’s The Recruit television show.

An elite runner with great work ethic and decision-making ability, Dimery can play as both an inside and outside midfielder as well as set up play from half-back, where he is expected to shine for the Students in 2017.

LUCAS MELINE (Canberra Demons)

Age: 19. NEAFL Games: 17.

Riverina product Lucas Meline had a fairytale debut NEAFL season last year when he capped off a jam-packed season as a premiership player with the GWS Giants.

Originally from Leeton-Whitton, Meline represented the NSW/ACT Rams as an overage player at the National Under-18 Championships last year after missing most of 2015 through injury.

The tall and mobile wingman spilt his time between the Giants (10 games) and Canberra Demons (seven) last season, and attended the AFL State Combine.

A versatile and athletic type with the ability to be played in multiple positions, Meline has built his strength over the summer in preparation for a big NEAFL season to keep his AFL dream alive.

NATE DENNIS (Aspley Hornets)

Age: 19. NEAFL Games: 8.


You won’t be able to miss emerging Aspley ruckman Nate Dennis on the field this NEAFL season.

At 203cm and 102kg, the 19-year-old Lions Academy product is expected to take giant leaps forward in his development after only taking up the game a few years ago.

A former rugby and basketball player, Dennis was discovered through a rookie search program by the Brisbane Lions Academy when he was 16, before joining QAFL club University of Queensland.

He made his NEAFL debut a year later and has played eight games over the last two years for the Lions, where he spent some time learning his craft with Brisbane’s senior ruck coach Ben Hudson.

Young and eager to learn, Dennis will be given plenty of opportunity to make his mark at the Hornets in 2017.

JAKE BROWN (Sydney Swans)

Age: 18. NEAFL Games: 15.

Sydney Swans academy member Jake Brown has every opportunity to shine in the NEAFL this season as he looks set to continue his rise up the ranks.

A former AFL Sydney Rising Star nominee and Under-18 Allies representative last year, Brown was unlucky to miss out on AFL Draft selection, but enters 2017 as one of the northern states’ brightest young talents.

The Coffs Harbour product, who turns 19 on Sunday, is a fierce competitor, an elite endurance runner and possesses great skills playing through the midfield and forward line.

His worth ethic and determination to reach the game’s highest level is sure to catch the eye of many this NEAFL season.

BRADY EGAN (Southport Sharks)

Age: 22. NEAFL Games: 0.


Coming in at No.14 on our countdown is a former contestant on Fox Footy’s The Recruit, Brady Egan.

The 22-year-old country Victorian placed eighth in the hit show last year before he was lured in to a move to the NEAFL by the Sharks.

A genuine utility who can play all over the ground, Egan’s great endurance and versatility will hold him in good stead amongst a new-look Southport side aiming to return to the finals stage in 2017.

The Rye Football Club junior has the potential to be an ‘X factor’ for the Sharks this season, and will be one to watch ahead of his debut season in a second-tier competition.

LUKE McKAY (Canberra Demons)

Age: 20. NEAFL Games: 24.


Canberra young gun Luke McKay created history last season as the Demons’ first ever NEAFL Rising Star nominee.

A Belconnen junior, McKay switched to Eastlake in 2015 before they formed the Canberra Demons, where he played in every match in their debut NEAFL season.

The 20-year-old running defender won the club’s Most Improved Player award after his breakout season, but his best football is perhaps yet to come.

McKay is expected to play more through the midfield in 2017 and take on a bigger role within the side, allowing a greater opportunity for another giant step in his development.

LUCA MASON (Aspley Hornets)

Age: 19. NEAFL Games: 11.

Queensland Under-18s representative Luca Mason will take a big step up in his football development this season after joining Aspley’s NEAFL squad.

The 19-year-old began playing football in the Jindalee under-11s and made his senior QAFL debut for the University of Queensland two years ago.

He earned a QAFL Rising Star nomination in Round 5 of his first season and made his NEAFL debut that same year for the Brisbane Lions.

Mason has played 11 NEAFL games for Brisbane over the past two years while balancing Lions Academy and Queensland Under-18 commitments.

A half-forward flanker and wingman who also has the capabilities to evolve into an inside midfielder, Mason has plenty of potential in a Hornets side led by coach and AFL Queensland Hall of Famer, John Blair.


Age: 18. NEAFL Games: 15.

Young Gold Coast talent Daniel Charlesworth will keep powering towards realising his AFL dream in 2017 when he joins Suns’ new Under-19 NEAFL Academy squad this season.

The Cairns City Lions’ product earned an AFL Cairns Rising Star nomination at 16 before relocating to the Gold Coast to chase an opportunity at the elite level.

Charlesworth was a member of the Allies side at the Under-18 National Championships last year and also attended the AFL State Combine.

A 190cm utility who is known for his professionalism and leadership within the Suns Academy in the past couple of years, Charlesworth will play a key role in the Suns’ NEAFL side this season in the hopes of putting himself back on the AFL draft radar.


Age: 19. NEAFL Games: 0.

NT Thunder livewire Nick Yarran is carrying some impressive form into his debut NEAFL season.

The 19-year-old St Marys young gun made his NTFL debut at just 16 and is already a two-time NTFL Rising Star nominee.

The latest nomination came last November from a three-goal, best-on-ground performance, in a season where Yarran has featured among St Marys' best players the second-most times of anyone in the side.

Slightly-built, but with elite foot skills, composure and fierce attack on the contest, Yarran made his SANFL debut with Woodville-West Torrens last year before relocating back home to Darwin.

His ability to play through the midfield and up forward makes Yarran an exciting young prospect for the Territorians in 2017.

TOM HOWARD (Southport Sharks)

Age: 21. NEAFL Games: 0.


Basketball convert Tom Howard has already turned heads in AFL circles without ever playing a senior game. 

The athletic 200cm former Townsville Crocs basketballer trialled with Gold Coast in the first month of pre-season training in the hopes of being signed as a Category B rookie.

When his opportunity didn’t eventuate, Howard joined Southport to continue his football development in the NEAFL this season.

As well as becoming a boost to the Sharks’ ruck stocks, all eyes will be on the 21-year-old in 2017 as he aims to prove he has what it takes to earn a shot at the elite level.

CLAY CAMERON (Redland Bombers)

Age: 22. NEAFL Games: 48

We begin our 2017 countdown with former Gold Coast Suns utility Clay Cameron, who is one of Redland’s top recruits this season.

A Mt Gravatt junior, Cameron came through the AFL Queensland talent player pathway and was drafted by the Suns with selection 58 in the 2012 National AFL Draft.

The 191cm and 86kg utility made his AFL in Round 1, 2013 and played 23 games across four seasons.

Cameron, 22, was played mostly as a defender in his formative years on the Suns list but is capable of swinging through multiple positions – highlighted by a five-goal, best-on-ground performance against his new side Redland in Round 18 last year.

Cameron’s versatility, experience and leadership will be vital amongst a young Bombers squad as he looks to regain his place on an AFL list next year.