The new under-18 competition is halfway through, and has raised more questions than it has answered about the pointy end of this year’s draft. Which keeps things interesting, mostly for the recruiters who will be picking there. This could be a year where they won’t be too disappointed if they miss out on pick one, given the evenness of the group and the lack of one blatant stand-out.
With three rounds to go, no player has really insisted that the top spot be theirs. That may well happen in the next few weeks but at the moment the same names are thereabouts, still dividing people. Peter Wright missed Vic Metro’s 44-point loss to Vic Country on Sunday, with Metro deciding to fulfil the requirement to give 32 players at least two games in the first three games before settling its side down, and the tall forward/ruckman is maybe one big game away from satisfying some of the recruiters’ queries, mostly tied in to whether they think he's more of a forward or ruckman.
Paddy McCartin kicked three goals for Country in week one and his stocks strangely seem to have risen in the two weeks he has missed since with a quad injury. Hugh Goddard hasn’t really grabbed hold of a game yet and was blanketed on Sunday by Darcy Moore, who had the best of his two games. He has long arms, intelligence, athleticism, and will be Collingwood’s first-round father-son pick.
Who will be the first player picked will depend, at this point, on which club has the pick. The Lions and Dogs could both do with a big forward but the Giants don’t need McCartin or Wright, which could bring Sam Durdin into the mix. The South Australian is just getting going after some injury problems but may appeal as a centre half-back who can play in many other spots. The dynamic Christian Petracca’s two games, as a powerful half-forward starting to roll through the middle, need to be considered, too, and Angus Brayshaw still looks the best of a midfield group that’s starting to grow.
Isaac Heeney is tied to Sydney as an Academy player, and Billy Stretch has had three very good games. Depending on where the Demons finish, he could be a third-round father-son pick. Liam Duggan, Corey Ellis, Jordan De Goey, Jayden Laverde, Touk Miller, Brayden Maynard and Jack Lonie among those starting to flesh out the midfield group. Edward Vickers-Willis, Caleb Marchbank and Kyle Langford have also started to request some attention, with Marchbank very good again on Sunday.
Tom Lamb, a hard-running but quirky forward, has balanced some of his best how-did-he-do-that football with losses of concentration that have recruiters unsure how high he’ll push up the order. He missed on Sunday with a minor groin problem but will be interesting to watch in the last few rounds as will Harry Dear and Zaine Cordy, father-son options for Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs who keep showing bigger and longer glimpses.