2008’s mature age AFL draftees

One of the things fantasy coaches always look for in national AFL drafts is the mature age player: a player who for whatever reason comes into the league significantly older than the 17 to 18 years of age that is the norm among AFL draftees. Think Darren Pfeiffer from last year’s draft, or Alwyn Davey of a couple of seasons ago. There are a handful of young men who fit the bill this year who should factor into your decisions.

Hayden Ballantyne – Fremantle small forward (FWD), 175cm, unknown weight, 16 July 1987
Everyone should know Ballantyne’s story by now: set to replace Jeff Farmer as the Dockers’ primary goalscoring small forward, he has been tearing up the WAFL to the tune of 75 goals this year and the Sandover Medal playing for Peel Thunder. It is no surprise that Ballantyne has now surpassed Chris Yarran as by far the most popular bench forward in the Fanplanner – albeit that half of the reason for that is Yarran is now the most popular starting forward, with Ballantyne shooting up the charts in starting 22s as well. I gave the Dockers a lot of stick for picking Hill over Rich, but choosing Ballantyne is a pleasing sign that the club want to start winning games now, not just warehousing talented kids for the long term. Perhaps surprisingly, Docker fans are not enthused with this pick. Ballantyne’s lack of upside is offset by the fact that, like Rich, he has honed his game in one of the two best feeder comps in the country to be of ready made AFL standard. I’m sure they’ll come around with a few Purple Jesus poses and, most importantly, some bags of goals early in the season.

Liam Anthony – North Melbourne medium outside midfielder (CTR), 189cm, 87kg, 9 September 1987
Another boy who played with the men in the WAFL this year, in this case for most of East Fremantle’s season. Quick and with good skills, Anthony is nonetheless coming under the baleful eye of Dean Laidley, Fantasy Antichrist, which means NO GAMES FOR YOU! Okay, maybe a couple to tease you, then it’s straight to the VFL seconds for the duration. Seriously, I can not make this clear enough. Do not buy North draftees. You know it to be true.

Rohan Bail – Melbourne medium forward (FWD/CTR), 183cm, 78kg, 26 June 1988
Not much is known about this kid. Apparently he was rookie of the year in the QAFL (starting to see a pattern, are we?) playing for Mount Gravatt on a wing, including four goals in the grand final, with major assets including endurance running and goal sense. In case you’re wondering why he wasn’t picked up in previous drafts, injuries are the excuse, though exactly what those injuries were isn’t disclosed. As far as his fantasy potential, you’d have to look at similarly gifted junior sportsmen like Tim Clarke, who made to the AFL based almost solely on their aerobic and athletic abilities, but couldn’t cut it because they weren’t good enough footballers. Bail will have to overcome the problem that Clarke couldn’t before you can consider him for fantasy, I suspect.

Mitch Robinson – Carlton medium outside midfielder (CTR), 192cm, 78kg, 7 July 1989
Robinson barely qualifies on this list as he will still be 19 once the season starts, but he does have six months on every draftee other than the aforementioned. His cachet is built mostly on an outstanding under 18 championships, where he was not only the best for Tasmania but for the whole of division 2, culminating in All-Australian selection. Some junior reports talk up his high possession rate, his long kicking and his defensive work, while others express concerns about his selfish attitude and his clanger count. Robinson will be ready to play fairly early. Will the coach give him free rein, or keep him at the Bullants to work on his negatives? He sounds like a natural-born braggadocio Blue, so maybe this is the perfect club for him. Follow him on and off the field in the preseason for his mental progress more than the physical.

Other players at the top end of draftee ages included Jaydyn Post, Jamie Bennell, Dayne Beams, Neville Jetta and David Zaharakis. Undrafted players who are in this range include Steven Gaertner and Luke Stanton, both of whom should be rookied in due course.

Have you already twigged on Ballantyne? Does Anthony tempt you despite Dean’s devilry? Do you know any more about Bail than the rest of us? How about Robinson, are you as arrogant as he is, arrogant enough to buy him? Let me know in the comments.

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