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.
The best key position player outside the AFL has emerged and looms as both a plug and play piece and a long-term answer. A former Geelong Category B rookie, Blake Schlensog was unlucky to be delisted at the conclusion of the 2020 season, following rapid improvement in his two-year stint with the Cats.
In joining South Fremantle this season, Schlensog has developed into the WAFL's premier key position player. Spending the first half of the season in defence, leading the competition for marks and intercepting to a best-in-competition standard, Schlensog intercepts routinely due to how early he reads the ball off the opposition's boot and consistently gets to the drop of the ball.
The versatility of Schlensog is what can be taken out of his 19 disposal, nine mark and four goal performance for South Fremantle in their 36-point win against Swan Districts. What makes Schlensog so draftable and intriguing, aside from his versatility, is the diversity of ways he impacts the game. Already proven as a key defender through the first half of the season, Schlensog looked natural as a forward, leading high up the ground and displaying a high work rate, never getting in the way of teammates and fellow star key forward Mason Shaw.
The way Schlensog won ground balls cleanly and turned on a dime, turning opponents inside-out at will, the vision and kick placement to hit meaningful targets by foot and finishes from general play off a few steps were a site to behold. Aerially, Schlensog attacked the ball and in one-on-one contests he regularly worked to acquire front position. It's not something commonly seen, but Schlensog, even while stationed as a key forward, took several intercept marks in the front half of the ground, reading the ball so early off the opposition's boot. Schlensog was also very competitive in the contests he was asked to ruck, not only competing with, but for the most part bettering the WAFL's premier ruckman in Corey Gault.
Unlucky not to be re-drafted during the mid-season draft, Schlensog is the complete package at 199cm and 99kg. With similar capabilities to Dougal Howard, though generally playing higher up the ground to maximise his intercepting capabilities, Schlensog, with his rapid rate of development, is an obvious choice for any club looking for a ready-to-go key position player. At just 20-years of age, Schlensog's future looks bright.
If Schlensog improves the consistency of marking overhead and out in front to become a dominant mark and contested mark, he has the scope not only to get re-drafted but to become an excellent key position player at AFL level.
South Australian Under-19s internal trial
Rising draft stocks
Running amok through the midfield, overager Mani Liddy played a complete game. He displayed good agility, a sharp change of direction and evasion in traffic. Liddy took on the game with his run, acceleration over several 10-15m bursts, before placing his kicks each time beautifully for his leading forwards inside 50m. Through the midfield, Liddy won first possession and displayed impressive strength to stand up through and shrug tackles. Liddy, who had enjoyed a five-game run at SANFL League level in the leadup to the game, averaged 17 disposals and should figure prominently for South Australia during the Under-19 Championships.
Impressing with his clean ground ball pickups at speed, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, the son of former Saint Terry Milera was one of the best afield. Wanganeen-Milera took on the game in small bursts and displayed composure with ball in hand, as well as good skills. The special sauce from Wanganeen-Milera was how early he read the game, with intercept possessions off the bounce and off opposition handballs.
Displaying leadership in defence, Port Adelaide father-son prospect Jase Burgoyne was one of the best performers. The son of Peter made opponents look silly on multiple occasions with his agility, composure with ball in hand and evasive tricks.
Other strong performers
Excelling by foot with his long kicking and vision the best displayed in the internal trial, Lewis Rayson located and hit numerous long targets in the corridor in a timely fashion. His agility and evasion were further strengths, while his tackling and commitment to pressuring opponents into mistakes was also impressive.
Exciting with his run and dare, kicking, vision and unselfishness, Lachlan Grubb was among the most damaging with ball in hand. The overager routinely hurt the opposition, both by foot and looks like a genuine matchwinner.
Seemingly winning every ground ball there was to win in congestion, Adelaide Next-Generation Academy prospect Isaiah Dudley displayed an innate ability often among heavy numbers to position himself where the ground ball would be first and managing to regularly win it.
Displaying his skills, composure and lowering his eyes to hit often the best short targets, Adelaide Next-Generation Academy member Blayne O'Loughlin was solid in defence. When he attended stoppages, he often won first possession.
Son of Daniel Motlop, Jesse Motlop impressed on debut for South Fremantle. Not eligible as a father-son with Daniel not playing 100 games for either North Melbourne or Port Adelaide, Jesse Motlop is instead a Fremantle Next-Generation Academy prospect. Motlop was relentless with his chasing and tackling, with his forward pressure the defining strength to his game. It was impressive to see the small Motlop tackle and take down League opponents and have each of his four tackles stick. Motlop's work at ground level was also impressive, taking ground balls one-touch off the bounce and with ball in hand showed good composure, speed and agility. The debutant managed 13 disposals, six marks and two goals in an impressive display that should see his draft stocks improve dramatically.
Named Perth's best in their nine-point loss to East Perth, overager Jack Avery continued his strong vein of form in defence with 20 disposals, only enhancing his draft credentials.