AFL Draft: Eight players receive mid-season draft exemptions, mid-season contender playing with Richmond VFL
Eight players received late exemptions for the mid-season draft. From a recent West Coast debutant to a relative of an Indigenous football legend, here’s the bolters in the mix.
Eight state-league players were granted late exemptions for the mid-season draft this week, and their stories vary considerably.
Players must receive an exemption to be drafted if they did not nominate for the previous draft period, with the allowance generally indicating that a club or multiple clubs are interested in selecting them.
From a 28-year-old key forward to a West Coast debutant to the great grandson of an Indigenous football legend, here’s the eight bolters who could join your club.
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Jake Florenca (South Fremantle/WA)
Midfielder, 25, 184cm, 86kg
Arguably the most high-profile of this list after an eye-catching AFL debut for West Coast as a Covid top-up player in round 8, where he impressed with his work in the clinches. The 184cm midfielder tallied 19 disposals, 13 contested possessions, seven tackles, four clearances and 102 KFC SuperCoach points against Brisbane, who have no shortage of quality midfielders. Florenca has been in blistering form in the WAFL, where he is averaging a whopping 20 contested possessions, 32 disposals nine clearances, nine tackles across the first three rounds, and was one of the WAFL’s best with 18 possessions and a goal against the SANFL last weekend’s representative game. Could he play for two clubs inside the very same season?
James Blanck (Box Hill/VFL)
Key defender, 21, 195cm
A rock-solid defender with good hands overhead, Blanck trained with the Hawthorn over the summer with several others Box Hill Hawks players but was unable to be listed with the club, but now is able to after receiving an exemption to be nominated for the mid-season intake. The Hawks have been beat up in this year by key forwards, conceding 13 goals in the past fortnight alone to Richmond and Essendon. Will Blanck follow Jai Newcombe’s lead and become the next Box Hill export to join the Hawks through the mid-season draft?
Kallan Dawson (Williamstown/VFL)
Medium defender, 23, 194cm
Dawson has improved considerably this year after five VFL matches in two seasons in 2018 and 2019 for Williamstown. He shone in his most recent VFL match against Frankston, hauling in 11 marks (four of those intercept marks), seven intercepts and finishing with 15 kicks at 80 per cent efficiency. The 194cm defender rates elite for marks and intercept marks in the VFL.
Wade Derksen (Peel Thunder/WA)
Key forward, 20, 195cm, 90kg
After playing his first match for the year in the reserves, the Northern Territory native has made an immediate impression at WAFL senior level for Peel Thunder, kicking seven goals in three matches. highlight was a four goal, 15 contested possession and 22 disposal outing against West Coast’s reserves side playing in a forward-ruck role, starring with his athleticism in the air and at ground level. He played two matches for Essendon’s VFL side last year.
Kim Kantilla (South Adelaide/SA)
Small forward, 179cm
Like Derksen, Kantilla started the season in the reserves and stood tall against an AFL reserves side in the Adelaide Crows. Just weeks after joining South Adelaide from the Tiwi Bombers, the X-Factor forward racked up 18 disposals, 11 marks and booted three goals against the Crows. He is the great grandson of David Kantilla, who is recognised as the first Indigenous Australian to play in the SANFL.
Liam Reidy (Frankston/VFL)
Ruck/forward, 21, 204cm
Reidy presents as an option for a club in search of a ruckman. The 204cm prospect is averaging nine touches, four tackles and 83 ranking points across seven matches for the Dolphins, impressing with his follow up work and competitiveness.
Zac Strom (South Fremantle/WA)
Key forward, 28, 198cm, 103kg
Strom has been in the WAFL system since 2013, playing 140 matches and kicking 69 goals. The 28-year-old has started this season strongly, averaging 14.7 disposals, 6.3 marks and kicking seven goals from his three matches, including three against the Eagles. Strom is a strong body that can make an instant impact at AFL level, and he trained with Fremantle during the pre-season in search of a list spot. Could one of the Western Australian clubs be in the frame?
Brett Turner (Glenelg/SA)
Midfielder, 25, 185cm, 88kg
Like others on this list, Turner turned it on against an AFL listed side in the Adelaide Crows. Try these numbers on for size – 38 disposals, 23 kicks, 27 uncontested possessions, 14 score involvements and four goals. The experienced midfielder hurt his foot in his next match and has not featured since but remains on the radar.
MID-SEASON BOLTER IN TIGERS’ SIGHTS
Mid-season draft contender Massimo D’Ambrosio is back under Richmond’s watchful eye as the intake approaches.
D’Ambrosio strengthened his chances of landing on an AFL list on June 1 with a standout performance for the Young Guns against Vic Country last weekend, tallying 32 disposals, 22 kicks at 77 per cent efficiency, nine marks and seven rebound 50s.
A part of Richmond’s VFL program during the pre-season after being overlooked in last year’s drafts, the 178cm distributing defender made his VFL debut in its season-opener – showing positive signs in a 15-disposal and 10 intercept possession display – and is set to don the yellow and black for the remaining two matches before the mid-season draft.
He has been named on a wing for the Dreamtime at the ‘G curtain raiser against the Bombers.
Former Richmond defender and Tigers VFL coach Steve Morris has helped mentor the silky youngster during his time at Punt Road.
Sydney, Hawthorn and Geelong, who all have selections in the mid-season draft, are among the clubs who have inquired about D’Ambrosio.
The 19-year-old, renowned for his elite kicking and decision-making, returned to the NAB League and dominated for the Western Jets after his promising VFL debut, averaging a formidable 27.8 disposals, eight intercept possessions and eight rebound 50s.
Recruiters are eager to see more of him at state league level after proving his worth in the NAB League, with the Jets also having the bye this weekend.
The Tigers have managed to fill the gaping hole left by the retirement of Bachar Houli, swinging Dan Rioli into defence in an inspired move, along with securing dashing defender Jayden Short on a five-year-deal.
The club also picked up running playmakers Tom Brown and Sam Banks in last year’s draft.
WILL POTENTIAL NO.1 CHOOSE OPEN MARKET?
Brisbane has been given no indication on whether father-son prospect Will Ashcroft will nominate for Lions in this year’s draft as the potential No. 1 pick continues to weigh up his options.
Ashcroft said on Wednesday that he was still yet to make a decision on where his future would lie.
Brisbane remains hopeful but far from confident that the Sandringham Dragons midfielder will choose to nominate for the club where his father Marcus won three premierships.
The 18-year-old grew up in Queensland but moved to Melbourne with his family at the start of 2018 and has begun a business and sports management course at Deakin University this year.
Likened to Carlton’s Sam Walsh, Ashcroft has starred as a 23rd man for the Lions’ VFL team in recent weeks and will get another chance to test himself at a higher level when he lines up for the NAB AFL Academy squad in their exhibition match against Collingwood’s VFL team on Saturday.
Academy coach Tarkyn Lockyer labelled Ashcroft a “true professional” who had no shortage of talent.
“His preparation, his diligence and his want to be as good as he can be and get the most out of his God given talent if first-rate,” Lockyer said.
“He’s really driven so he’ll see this game as a real opportunity to benchmark himself against not just the opposition that we’re going to play, but also to see where he where he fits with his peers as well.”
Recruiters still view Ashcroft as a top-three pick in this year’s draft, alongside Oakleigh Chargers pair Elijah Tsatas and George Wardlaw who will also feature as part of the AFL Academy team in the clash at Frankston this weekend.
“Elijah is winning it in the midfield, he’s got great speed. So he’s got some really high end AFL attributes,” Lockyer said.
“George is a real contested beast, inside midfielder. He’s a really strong and powerful athlete.”
Another Brisbane father-son prospect, Jaspa Fletcher, will also feature for the AFL Academy, along with exciting Essendon father-son prospect Alwyn Davey Jnr.
Fletcher is the son of former Brisbane Bears and Brisbane Lions player Adrian Fletcher, with Davey being the son of former Bombers small forward Alwyn Davey.
IS CADMAN THE NEXT CAMERON?
A KEY forward who has been likened to Geelong star Jeremy Cameron has been making waves in recruiting circles and is shaping as a potential draft bolter later this year.
Aaron Cadman was added to the NAB AFL Academy squad earlier this month and is set to play in Saturday’s exhibition match against Collingwood’s VFL side.
A hardworking lead-up forward, Cadman measured 193.7cm in March but is still growing and developing his game.
The 18-year-old has averaged 14.5 disposals, 5.5 marks, 8.5 score involvements and 2 goals from four NAB League games for the Greater Western Victoria Rebels this season.
“He’s got great running capabilities, he’s got good speed, he marks the ball at its highest point and he’s a raking left-foot kick,” Rebels coach David Loader said.
“He has got some similarities to a young Jeremy Cameron, who we had the pleasure of working with.
“I think he’s going to keep climbing up through the charts as the year goes on. I’m sitting back waiting for the day that he grabs hold of a game and kicks half a dozen goals and people say, ‘Wow, we’ve got something special here’.”
AFL club recruiters said they could also see the Cameron comparisons and added that Cadman was a “good country kid” who “has the frame and the physique that you can see really filling out well”.
SCULLY FAST CLIMBING UP DRAFT BOARDS
In 2009, Tom Scully was the No. 1 draft pick to Melbourne.
In 2022, another Tom Scully is quickly rising up draft boards and shapes as a high selection.
This year’s Scully is a 204cm key forward or ruckman from West Adelaide who has made a flying start to the SANFL under-18s season, which saw him added to the AFL Academy squad earlier this month.
Scully had averaged 12.6 disposals, 7.1 marks, 9 score involvements and 5.3 goals across seven SANFL under-18 games.
“He’s been kicking multiple goals week in, week out,” AFL Academy coach Tarkyn Lockyer said.
“He’s a really good contested mark, hit up forward and he’s been hitting the scoreboard really hard.
“He is certainly someone who will relish the opportunity to test his game against a quality outfit in Collingwood VFL.”
As impressed as recruiters have been with Scully, they are also keen to see him test himself against bigger and better opponents, with the towering tall having often been manned by significantly undersized players so far this year.
DAVEY MORE THAN JUST A SMALL FORWARD
Exciting Essendon father-son prospect Alwyn Davey Jnr has shown his ability to play through the midfield this year and has been hailed for having great “balance” in his game.
The son of former Bombers small forward Alwyn Davey, the Oakleigh Chargers product has had a strong start to the season in the NAB League and in school football with Xavier College.
Davey is part of the AFL Academy and will take on Collingwood’s VFL side on Saturday.
“He’s a small forward who’s also played a bit of midfield through Oakleigh and Xavier,” AFL Academy coach Tarkyn Lockyer said.
“The thing that I love about Alwyn and the recognition that he gets is that the balance in his game is excellent. His inside and outside balance, his offensive and defence balance — he values both. So he really is a well-rounded player, he’s got great finishing skills and he’s a really good decision maker. He has put together some really good form through the start of the year.”