By NEAFL Media
Southport premiership star Tom Wilkinson’s dominant season has ended with the small forward selected by North Melbourne in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft on Friday evening.
The 22-year-old Victorian caught the attention of the Kangaroos off the back of a superb season at NEAFL level, earning Team of the Year honours and playing a crucial role in the Sharks’ rise to premiers.
Overall, eight NEAFL players were snapped up by clubs over the two-day event, with Sydney academy gun Nick Blakey the top pick at No.10 on Thursday night.
2018 NEAFL Draftees
Nick Blakey (Sydney, national pick 10 – matched GIANTS bid)
Nick Blakey showed his prowess as a key forward earlier this year while playing for the Swans in the Academy series, finishing second in the Harrison Medal as the best player in the series after winning the medal last year. He booted two goals in his NEAFL debut, but has had injury issues over last two seasons and a sore ankle ruled him out of testing at the NAB AFL Draft Combine in October. He’s an exciting prospect who has shown versatility to play a range of positions throughout his junior career.
Kieren Briggs (GIANTS, national pick 34 – matched West Coast’s bid)
GIANTS Academy ruck Kieren Briggs has become the second Western Sydney product to be drafted by the GIANTS. Following in the footsteps of Nick Shipley in 2017, the Pennant Hills Demons product had a standout season where he won the Allies MVP Award. The 200cm under 18’s All Australian ruck is an imposing figure who showed he can also play in the backline and as a marking target up forward in games for the Allies and the GIANTS’ NEAFL side.
Connor McFadyen (Brisbane, national pick 42 – matched Richmond’s bid)
Connor McFayden is no stranger to the Club, having joined the Academy program at the young age of 11 and having donned numerous maroon, blue and gold guernseys over recent years. In 2018, McFayden played five games for the Lions NEAFL side, kicking six goals and averaged 9.4 disposals. He often played as a third tall forward while floating through the midfield. At 190cm, McFadyen is a big and strong ball-winner with an athletic ability to play through the midfield or as a marking option inside 50. He was outstanding for the Allies in the U18 Championships this season and his form was rewarded with selection in the U18 All Australian team.
Bailey Scott (North Melbourne, national pick 49 – matched Geelong’s bid)
Bailey Scott found himself in a unique position – able to nominate one of three clubs, North Melbourne, Geelong as a father-son, or Gold Coast as an academy player. He recently elected to nominate North, the club which his father won a premiership with in 1996. Scott has received high-praise this season for his elite endurance and work ethic. With the ability to cover large grounds with ease, the 18-year-old tested well in the endurance running tests during last month’s NAB AFL Draft Combine. For the SUNS in the NEAFL, Scott averaged 22.5 disposals and 6.4 contested possessions, playing predominately through the middle of the ground.
Mathew Walker (Hawthorn, national pick 63)
GIANTS Academy member Mathew Walker found himself at Hawthorn after the GIANTS chose not to matched the Hawks’ bid for the NSW product. Walker made his NEAFL debut back in 2016 but began to showcase his potential in 2017. He booted 14 goals from five appearances last year – kicking four goals or more on three occasions. Playing with the GIANTS and Murray Bushrangers in 2018, Walker managed 10 TAC Cup appearances, averaging 14 disposals, five marks and 1.3 goals a game. With his strong body and hunger for the contest, Walker appears ready-made for senior football.
Caleb Graham (Gold Coast, national pick 71)
Like Jack Bowes before him, Caleb Graham hails from Cairns and has moved to the Gold Coast to give footy his best shot. Graham is a key defender, who can also swing forward, is a strong contested mark and has the great combination of a long reach and good closing speed. Graham is versatile, being able to play in the ruck, up forward and down back – where he has excelled at NEAFL level in 2018. He reads the ball well and is able to use his athletic frame to take defensive intercept marks.
Tom Wilkinson (North Melbourne, rookie pick 41)
Having been overlooked in four consecutive drafts, Southport’s Tom Wilkinson was given an AFL lifeline by North Melbourne in the rookie draft. Initially overlooked due to his disposal efficiency, Wilkinson has turned that aspect of his game around this past season, kicking 36 goals from just over 65 per cent accuracy. His 2018 performances earned Wilkinson a spot in the NEAFL Team of the Year where he rated elite amongst the NEAFL competition for goals (36), accuracy (65.5%), forward-50 tackles (1.5), marks (1.6), score assists (1.6) and contested marks (0.7).
Sam Wicks (Sydney, category b rookie)
Sam Wicks’ hard work paid off after Sydney selected the small forward as a category b rookie. After being overlooked for the Allies squad last year, Wicks turned his attention to the NEAFL and earned a Rising Star nomination as well as playing in the Grand Final against Brisbane. He was overlooked in last year’s draft but the 19-year-old returned to the Swans as part of their Under-19 Academy squad. He excelled as a small forward in 2018, averaging 15 disposals, four tackles and one goal per game in the NEAFL this season.
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