At last, the final instalment of this year’s player projections, dealing with some of our more speculative prospects at the rookie end of the playing list.
38. Matthew Goodyear
This year’s entrant into Hine’s Hall of Smokeys comes in the guise of one Matthew Goodyear, a pacy onballer who has shown a hunger for the hard stuff at junior level. He comes to the club with some question marks over his kicking and projects as a speculative type, but this is to be expected in the third round of the draft.
His numbers for the Calder Cannons were commendable, resulting in him coming runner-up in their best and fairest. We should remember that Calder came runner-up to Oakleigh this year, so he was standing out amidst a well functioning unit. For Vic Metro he was less conspicuous, although there are some suggestions that injury may have played a part. Nonetheless, even getting a run at state level is a tip of the hat.
What is immediately apparent with Goodyear is that he has some pace to burn, which does lend itself to answering some of our deficiencies in this regard. His kicking efficiency does need to be addressed, but thankfully his handballing is a strong point that he may be able to utilise to offset any shortcomings elsewhere. We obviously don’t want to add to our kicking woes, but I’ll reserve my concerns until I’ve seen him punt the sherrin around Victoria Park a few times.
He needs to add some mass – about 6-8kgs going by the numbers – but it’s worth noting that he does stand at 185cm, so in terms of height we’re heading in the right direction. His highlight reel showcased a willingness to get into the thick of things, a brisk sidestep and an ability to motor away from traffic.
Amongst the likes of Moore, De Goey and Maynard he does appear a less likely prospect, but Hine’s ability to pluck a player from the later stages of the national draft, even the rookie draft, has been proven. I’m not expecting to see him debut next year, as there’s already a bit of a queue forming on that front, but I will be looking for him to have increasingly productive games throughout the VFL season, featuring within the midfield. His kicking will obviously been a facet we hone in on.
39. Michael Manteit
In the rookie draft, it was back to our now familiar hunting ground in Sandringham and a continuation of our strategy in the national draft, as we brought in the 188cm Michael Manteit with our first live selection. The footage of Manteit looks promising, whilst reports about his professional attitude should also put him in good stead heading forward.
An interesting little tidbit regarding our latest recruits from the Dragons is that they both finished in the top three for Sandringham’s best and fairest: Maynard in 1st place and Manteit in 3rd place, both ahead of the highly rated Angus Brayshaw. This of course isn’t to say that either will prove superior to Brayshaw, but it does provide some insight into how they were rated – with a likely focus on team ethic – by those following them closely.
Similar to Maynard, Manteit projects as a rebounding half-back flanker, possessing good use by foot along with the feature that appeared unique to his highlights package in particular: a willingness to butter-up his touches by overlapping and becoming an option once more in the chain. If we’re looking to improve the quality of our rebound from the back half, these are attributes that will be important.
As a rookie prospect, I do like the look of Manteit as he comes with some immediately identifiable strengths, without too many reported shortcomings. Of course, given he was overlooked in the national draft and found his way via the rookie system, he is far from a sure thing to make it as an AFL player. Sometimes however, the short-lived fear of missing out entirely on a dream is the best tonic in getting youngsters to reach their full potential.
I’m not expecting Manteit to feature at senior level next year all things considered, but will be hoping to see him provide some quality rebound from the back-half at VFL level. Of course, nobody expected Langdon to be blooded so early or perform as well as he did last year, so attaching himself to the former Sandringham captain, who shares some similar traits in playing style, wouldn’t be a bad idea.
40. Paul Seedsman
I was expecting some big things from Seedsman this year and it’s safe to say that he fell short of delivering. In his defence, he was plagued by injury during the preseason and some niggles throughout the year, which clearly set him back. Nonetheless, I was a little disappointed with his work ethic at times at both AFL and VFL level. Some of this could be put down to lack of fitness, but there were some instances where I felt he was a little selective with how he applied himself.
Watching Seedsman tear through the middle of the ground or blitz a wing when the field has opened up is a thing of beauty, and his ball use often caps such moments off. He averaged just over 15 disposals in the 9 games he played, breaking the 20 disposal mark only twice, signaling to me that he needs to boost his productivity.
When the play sets up for him, he’s capable of turning a bit of space into a paddock and hurting the opposition. What I would like to see is Seedsman go a little harder when making space to become an option; when closing down space on the opposition; or of course, when looking to chase down or wrap up an opponent himself. He has a tendency to enter cruise control for periods and whilst I advocate running smarter and not harder, he needs to build his fitness to a point where he can remain a factor for longer. Although his game is largely based on run-and-carry, at 189cm I’d like to see him become more of an aerial/intercept factor.
There’s little doubt that Seedsman can become a weapon and he’ll hopefully benefit from a solid preseason ahead of next year. He looks to have added some definition to his frame and with recent recruits shaping as potential threats to his own senior opportunities down the line, I’m hoping he’ll properly cement himself this year — and with interest.
He’s a Magpie tragic, so there can be no excuses for leaving any stone unturned.
41. Brenden Abbott
A really interesting prospect and probably the type that the rookie draft is made for. Abbott comes to the club with a readily apparent weapon in his left boot, being a naturally powerful athlete who tested very well in 2013 outside of the endurance segments, who will obviously have no issues in terms of building the required size, but potentially a few early ones in trimming down and getting his fitness up to grade.
What is clear however is that if Abbott can embrace his opportunity and the demands that come with it, then he projects as a powerful footballer. He certainly appears to be quick over short distances – something his testing confirmed – whilst he hits the contest with intent. He looks capable of getting 50-60 metres comfortably out of his left leg, but I’ll be keen on seeing how he uses the ball – in execution and decision making – over shorter distances.
At 186cm he appears capable of playing at either end, with Hine suggesting we’ll look to fashion him as a forward first up — which stands to reason given our influx of half-back prospects and our need for some alternatives up front. He has registered a couple of bags at WAFL level as a forward, but whether this translates at VFL or AFL level remains to be seen, given he is too small to be a key position prospect and certainly larger than most traditional opportunistic forwards.
Outside of his fitness, there were some queries as to his overall commitment after he headed home during the 2013 season. Looking further into this, his reason for leaving the state program and returning to Albany was due to his mother being diagnosed with cancer, a move that nobody could blame him for. There will also be plenty of discussion based on his family ties, through no fault of his own of course, being the nephew and namesake of the Postcard Bandit, along with his father also having served some time in the past.
No doubt, he has had an interesting and possibly challenging upbringing, but whilst some of these aspects may cause some concerns in terms of how he’ll adapt to the demands of professional football, they are also experiences that could serve him well. He is already acquainted with Marley Williams, who is no stranger to controversy but could very well prove the ideal mentor as someone who has no illusions as to how precious the opportunity to represent our club is.
2015 will be more about how well Abbott acclimatises to our training regime and the life of a professional footballer in general. He’ll need at least a year to get somewhat up to pace I expect, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be looking forward to seeing what he can produce on field.
43. Adam Oxley
As with a few of our other youngsters, 2014 was sadly a write off for Oxley, who proved such a promising prospect in his debut season that he was immediately promoted to the senior list after his first year. I was impressed with Oxley in 2013, having burst out of the blocks during the first half of the VFL season to surprise most onlookers, notching a couple of games as a substitute in his first year.
He tired by the end of that season and also missed some game time through injury, but even when he plataued he was still able to demonstrate his strengths, albeit to a lesser extent. His reading of the play is exceptional, which enabled him to very quickly become a productive player across half-back and when working into space in transition. When on song his intercept marking was a feature and he played a significant role when we were switching play, always knowing where to position himself and using the ball exceptionally well once he received it.
Rather than just picking off the play that unfolds ahead of him, Oxley also knows how and when to push forward to become a threat in his own right. He would often push to our forward 50 and his conversion rate, whether snapping or going the orthodox route, was generally reliable — he likes a goal and knows how to finish in various scenarios.
I haven’t seen Oxley up close for over a year now, so I’m not sure as to how he has filled out what was a fairly slim frame. Oxley only possesses average pace and I don’t personally see him as a line-breaking factor, but he does offset this somewhat by knowing where to position himself and of course, making the most of his touches.
He has one of the most fluent kicking actions I’ve seen at the club, generating his power and accuracy through smooth mechanics rather than brutish legs of the Dew and Hurn variety. It’s not so much about distance with Oxley though, but more about his ability to find moving targets with good vision and well placed passing.
It has been so long since we’ve seen Oxley that next season will feel very much like a rehash of his first. We’ll need to be reminded once more of what he can bring to the table, particularly given he’ll now be trying to stand out amongst some similar types.
44. Corey Gault
When Gault broke his collarbone out at Windy Hill early in the VFL season, I feared that may have been the end of his career at Collingwood. Having been shifted to the rookie list, it was a cruel way to start what was a visit to the last chance saloon. To Gault’s credit, he got himself back on the field before the VFL season was out and managed to stand up against Geelong in our VFL clash with them at Simonds Stadium, the game that secured a spot in the VFL finals.
On that day, Gault was moved into the ruck in the last quarter and in many ways single handedly turned the tide by jumping over his opponent to give us first use out of the square. His heroics and the injury farce that played out at senior level afforded him a chance to debut against the Hawks in the final round, managing to register a goal from a difficult set shot with only his second kick.
Admittedly, his second goal was less impressive – a soccer off the ground that looked ill advised at the time – and he did look a little fumbly under the lights of the MCG. He threw himself in willingly enough and registered a handful of hitouts on what was a difficult night to judge first gamers. He’ll have benefited from the experience and whilst I’m still not sold on his long term future, I was pleased that we retained him for another year.
The retention of Gault may also provide a clue into why we didn’t target some ruck insurance this trade and draft period. By any measure, entering next season with only Witts and Grundy as viable primary rucks is fraught with danger, so perhaps the club has taken note of Gault’s performance in that aforementioned VFL clash and consider him to be a potential insurance policy should a worst case scenario occur.
Given that there’s a good chance we’ll see Grundy and Witts featuring at the same time in the seniors this year, Gault may also be used as relief for Mason Cox at VFL level. I don’t mind this, as I don’t feel Gault is ever going to become a dominant key forward, his best chance of an AFL career coming as a third marking target/relief ruckman. With this in mind, his aim should be to dislodge Jesse White should the former Swan’s indifferent form continue.
I hope the selectors will act accordingly if one is failing at senior level whilst the other is performing in the VFL; political motivations with a view to mask any trading mistakes cannot come into the equation. Given Buckley was prepared to drop White this year – overdue as some may have felt it to be – suggests that the call will be made if need be, ideally in a timely fashion.
A big year for Gault, as he’ll shoulder a fair bit of responsibility at VFL level whilst striving to secure his future beyond 2015.
45. Jack Frost
In such a difficult year it was near impossible at times to find the positives, but more often than not Jack Frost provided reason for the faithful to smile and hold out hope for a brighter future. He was the only Magpie to register 22 games this year, an immensely important feat given the absence of Brown, Reid and the form struggles of Keeffe. I believe he also picked up a niggle to his knee early in the year, so there’s no doubt he played through some discomfort along the way.
Of course, Frost wasn’t flawless but his commitment, aggression and ability to get a fist to the ball when all things were equal was encouraging. He’s got above average pace and a good leap, his closing speed being a real strength in his game. For a rookie listed player to notch up 22 games, never being the worst in any of them, is a credit to him. He is quickly becoming something of a fan favourite, even though there remain some concerns over his ability when in possession.
He was touched up on occasion, but performed just as many admirable jobs on some dangerous opponents. He is not without his foibles, as I was perplexed several times as to why we would switch to him on the very last line, as he’s not the player you want to get the ball to in that situation. He’ll likely remain susceptible to some questionable kicking – it’s not what he’s paid to do and it’s not like Presti ever kicked the ball – but his value as a combative key defender is unquestionable.
I’ve got no qualms in admitting my fondness for Frost, he battled manfully all year and his desire never faded. There’s a perverse pleasure to be had in watching him put the hurt on opponents: once he gets the arms locked in and shifts his centre of gravity, the poor bastard in possession is treated to something like rolling death, the Scandinavian squeeze.
It is going to be interesting to see what combination we go with next year, assuming that Reid and Brown are available more often than not. I was surprised that Frost wasn’t rewarded with a spot on the senior list, although his contract was extended for another two years and he’ll have to be elevated at the end of next season.
46. Mason Cox
The very definition of a project player, the 211cm international prospect represents our latest foray into unearthing an American gem. The blank slate theory has its pros and cons, as Cox will have a lifetime’s worth to learn about our game, but will also be free of any entrenched poor habits in terms of kicking mechanics.
The blank slate is worth expanding on, with credit to Mungo who raised this worthwhile subject only recently. Two recent examples in Shae McNamara and Caolan Mooney are worth raising – although both have since left the AFL – as players whose kicking technique stood up to and even surpassed quite a few AFL listed players who had a lifetime of the game in their blood. This could certainly benefit Cox, although I suspect given his physical attributes and the distance of the ball drop, he’ll always look a little awkward.
No matter how you look at it, Cox is a long shot. At 211cm complete with some athleticism and occupying a space outside of our rookie list, he is a shot worth taking regardless of the odds. At 23 years old, he comes to the club at a younger age than our previous experiment in Shae McNamara, so the minimum of two years that it will likely take for him to get even remotely accustomed to our game should see him still within his peak years.
Outside of his height, he also tested quite well in other athletic categories. In the footage available of his training and testing, he regularly gets off the ground in ruck and marking contests, which is good to see. He moves well and looks pretty clean at ground level for such a big man. Whilst it will take some time for him to look natural with his kicking and handballing, he does appear to be making some inroads in these areas from recent updates.
For all his height the subtle art of ruck work often occurs well before the ball-up — likewise in marking contests. He’s going to have to learn how to position himself and hold his ground before and during the contest, along with executing taps or holding marks while absorbing a fair bit of contact. This is only the beginning, as finding your feet amongst the frenetic and unforgiving pace of our game is no easy obstacle.
I look forward to tracking what should be an intriguing project, with little doubt that our own state side savant in Mungo will be tracking him closely all the way. His basketball background should provide him with good game sense and awareness, not to mention some deft touch, whilst his experience in soccer will ensure that his feet aren’t such a foreign appendage.
A long road ahead no doubt, but an interesting one to follow.