Now it’s hard to believe that any rookies will be a point of difference come Round 1, considering many coaches changes their rookies based on who’s named at the start of the season. Often this is the best way to go, sometimes it isn’t; a la Relton Roberts. I’ve handpicked five guys that are in less than 5% of sides at the moment, but they are players who might be there in Round 1 and are worth keeping an eye on during the rest of the NAB Challenge.
After all, rookies (because of their cash generation) can be just as important as premos!
Tom Lee – St.Kilda
NAB Challenge Scores: 78
WHY? Lee has spent a few years at St.Kilda now. He started as a forward, but was last year turned into a defender. He and Mitch Brown (now at Essendon) dominated at Sandringham in 2015. Lee averaged around 12 disposals and 6 handball receives per game in the VFL, as his efficient field kicking was put to use.
He was edging close to a senior call up late last season, before an ankle injury in August finished his season prematurely. His 7 disposal, 4 mark, 3 tackle and 1.1 effort against North Melbourne – in NAB 1 – was promising enough and his SuperCoach score that game of 78 shows his efficiency by foot. Will the Saints put Lee into Jake Carlisle’s role for 2016 so the side is ready to go once Carlisle is back in 2017?
Lincoln McCarthy – Geelong
NAB Challenge Scores: 86
WHY? Another player who is really appealing because he’s been in the system for a couple of years, but priced nearly as cheap as most of the 18 year olds. McCarthy debuted in 2012, missed 2013 due to injury, played 4 games in 2014 (including a semi-final) and missed 2015 due to injury.
The 178cm, 22 year old, looked solid enough in NAB 1 as he collected 11 touches, 1 goal and laid 5 tackles. The speedster looks to have a big of go about him, not afraid to lay tackles and have a crack at contested marks. Steve Johnson is gone from Geelong’s forward line, but is there a place for Dan Menzel AND Lincoln McCarthy?
Marcus Adams – Western Bulldogs
NAB Challenge Scores: 34
WHY? First of all, he’s a perfect DPP link with Mitch Brown (ESS). And once again, I am looking at another guy who isn’t fresh into the system. It is Adams’ first year in the AFL, but he is a 22 year old who was drafted by the Dogs at pick 35 from West Perth (WAFL).
Looking at the size of the lad (193cm & 95kg), and his ability to play on multiple types of forwards, I would assume he’ll slot nicely into the backline with Keiran Collins; which will free up Morris, Wood & Murphy even further. His opening NAB score wasn’t ideal, but I’ll be watching him closely over the next two.
Ryan Clarke – North Melbourne
NAB Challenge Scores: 83
WHY? I’ve finally found an 18 year old rookie with a point of difference. Clarke slotted nicely into North’s side against St.Kilda, scoring 83 from 13 disposals, 4 marks, 6 inside 50s and 2 goal assists. I was at that game and he was impressive running through the guts and on the wing.
Clarke was taken at pick 31 in last years draft, after averaging 31 disposals (12 contested) in the TAC Cup and 19 disposals & 4 marks in the Under 18 Championships. There is no doubt on his ball winning ability and scoring potential, just the question of whether he will get a game in a potential top 4 side. But from what I’ve seen, do not be surprised if the young fella is named in Round 1!
Peter Wright – Gold Coast
NAB Challenge Scores: 89 and 51
WHY? This is most bold selection I have made out of the 5 players here. I haven’t actually picked him myself yet, as I’ve stuck Nakia Cockatoo at F4 and I may consider Ben Kennedy. But if you’re not a fan of those guys, and not picking Jon Simpkin, then definitely have a look at 2-Meter Peter.
Yes, he’s only a second year key position player, but he was good enough to be taken at pick 8 and even spoken about at earlier picks. What I noticed, watching him in NAB 1 & 2, is that his frame is already big enough that he can impact matches with sheer physicallity. The 19 year old is 203cm and tips the scales at 100kg.
He has a nice kick for goal and being such a large guy, he is going to take plenty of marks; in the pack and on the lead, where he looks to have a good burst of speed. His most recent NAB Challenge outing, against the Eagles, netted him 7 disposals from 5 marks and a handy 2.2 on the scoreboard. The first NAB was just as impressive: 11 disposals, 4 marks, 4 tackles and 1 goal. I can see him filling the Dixon void, playing alongside Day & Lynch. Apart from the hefty price, my only real issue with him is that he’s not a DPP. As a forward and ruck he would have been really appealing.