AFL Draft Wrap: Thomas firms as a first-round pick

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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

Potential first-round selection Tarryn Thomas -- a North Melbourne Next Generation Academy member from Tasmania -- helped the AFL Academy to a 43-point win against North Melbourne's VFL side. The win speaks to the incredible strength of this year's draft after last year's AFL Academy lost both of their matches against VFL opposition.

Thomas, who first came onto the draft scene with several eye-catching performances for Tasmania during the 2016 AFL Under-16 Championships, was impressive in the AFL Academy's win with 14 disposals, 10 contested possessions and two goals.

Building a reputation for his pace and line-breaking speed, one of the standout features of his game is his forward pressure. He displayed this on Saturday, pressuring North Melbourne's ball carriers into mistakes.

Thomas also possesses impressive ground ball-winning abilities and agility. On one play in the goal square, Thomas turned on a dime to chase an errant bouncing ball, tapped it to himself, picked it up cleanly and snapped truly before his defender could even change direction. It's the sort of instinctive and freakish play Thomas is capable of.

Thomas' game is not dissimilar to Gold Coast's Jack Martin as a light-bodied speedster. He has the versatility to play through the midfield, down back or as a forward. Clubs will consider bidding on Thomas with their first round selections if his development continues.


AFL Academy v North Melbourne Playing a key part for the AFL Academy's win, Sam Walsh amassed 22 disposals, nine marks, five clearances and one goal playing predominantly through the midfield. The positive sign from Walsh -- who is the most prolific ball winner in this draft class and possesses a promising mix of speed and endurance -- was his delivery by foot into the forward 50m. Walsh lowered his eyes and found his targets, with 10 of his 15 kicks effective. If Walsh continues to improve his consistency by foot, he can be a top-five choice on draft day.

The TAC Cup's other prolific ball winner, Bailey Smith, spent time stationed off half-back and through the midfield. He also played a major part with 19 disposals and 11 contested possessions. The likely first-round draft choice was particularly impressive in his use by foot with eight of his nine kicks effective.

Setting the tone for his teammates early in the contest, Western Bulldogs father-son prospect Rhylee West secured nine of his 17 disposals in the first quarter. West also collected nine tackles and five inside 50s. The physical maturity of West showed and he looks like a ready-made player.

Arguably the AFL Academy's most impressive and pushing his case for selection inside this year's first 10 draft choices was Jackson Hately, who produced 17 disposals, eight tackles and two goals. The 192cm midfielder along with West was a tone-setter through the midfield with his distribution by hand and tackling a highlight.

Spending the first half in defence before shifting forward in the second half, Jack Lukosius impressed with 12 disposals, four marks and two goals. Lukosius' kicking was a highlight, with nine of his 11 kicks effective. Lukosius has experienced immediate success against mature bodies, kicking four goals on debut in a final and kicking three goals in the opening round in the SANFL which is a great indicator that he is ready for AFL opportunities in 2019.

Giving North Melbourne something to think about, Max King stretched the Kangaroos' backline with seven disposals, four marks (three contested), two goals, two behinds and three score assists. It was not only King's three contested marks that were impressive but his work at ground level also was of a high standard which makes him such a threatening forward. Interestingly, all seven of King's touches resulted in scores, but this is not uncommon considering King gets most of his touches so close to goal.


Leading the way for Gippsland in their convincing victory against Bendigo was underage forward Sam Flanders, who starred with 20 disposals, 13 contested possessions, seven marks (four contested) and four goals. The medium forward has some early Patrick Dangerfield about him with his powerful ground-ball winning capabilities, acceleration and marking strength one-on-one. He's an impact player and one to watch for the growth of over the next 18 months.

Son of ex-Hawk and Saint Dean Anderson, underager Noah Anderson is another who looks like a top draft choice for 2019. The 188cm, 86kg explosive midfielder gathered 32 disposals, six marks, 10 inside 50s, two goals and three score assists for Oakleigh in their win against Northern.

The work of James Rowbottom through Oakleigh's midfield was also notable. The 185cm, 78kg stoppage specialist secured 22 disposals, 14 contested possessions, 10 tackles, 10 clearances, eight inside 50s and four score assists.

Carlton father-son prospect Ben Silvagni was another notable performer for Oakleigh with 19 disposals, 10 marks, six inside 50s, two goals, four behinds and three score assists. His presence as a marking option so far in 2018 has been notable with his work at ground level and forward pressure also impressive.

Continuing to boost his draft prospects, Tom McKenzie has continued his strong vein of form with 26 disposals, 13 contested possessions, 10 clearances, six inside 50s and three score assists for Northern. McKenzie is a big improver with the contested side of his game something that has developed over the offseason for one of this year's best users by foot.

Looking like a new man running through the midfield for Calder after making the transition from defence in 2017 was overager Mitch Podhajski, who should again be on draft radars in 2018. The 191cm, 87kg Podhajski amassed 28 disposals, 17 contested possessions, seven marks (one contested), six tackles, two goals and two score assists. Named Calder's best in their loss to Sandringham, the powerful, ball-winning midfielder has developed the contested side of his game and critically is showing he also has the forward craft. Podhajski is taking marks forward of centre and has also kicked two goals in each of his three games.

Showing his class in Western's win against Eastern was Zac Butters. The 178cm, 70kg midfielder gathered 27 disposals, 14 contested possessions, eight clearances, eight inside 50s and five score assists. Butters showed great composure and lowered his eyes finding targets inside 50m. He made smart decisions in traffic, showed great ball control with his ground ball pickups, sidestepped players and kept the ball moving forward.

Taking the bulk of the kickouts for Eastern, Xavier Fry performed strongly with 27 disposals, eight marks and 13 rebound 50s. Of the 23 kicks the 183cm, 77kg defender took, 17 kicks were effective. Fry was reliable and often damaging with his ball use. He showed good vision, hit his targets and importantly kept the ball moving with speed.



Luke English in Perth's win against East Fremantle gathered 33 disposals, seven marks and two goals. This follows 28 disposals, six marks and one goal in round one. The 181cm, 78kg midfielder won last year's Jack Clarke Medal as the best WAFL Colts player in 2017, averaging 25 disposals and almost six tackles per game.