Sam Walsh is the complete package.
Sam Walsh is the complete package.

Hype over ‘once-in-a-generation’ teen

AFL teams spend years running their eye over the next group of draft prospects before the day to make a decision arrives.

They'll break down every single aspect of a hopeful draftee, magnifying every piece of their game in the hopes of uncovering the league's next superstar.

Some years the draft becomes a lottery with no clear standout among the group, other years however there is a consensus top pick.

That's the case this year after an 18-year-old midfielder emerged from a talented class to stake his claim as the top dog.

Sam Walsh has drawn comparisons to star ballwinners Joel Selwood, Josh Kelly and Adam Treloar after a standout junior career.

The Geelong Falcons product's endurance, elite ball use and leadership left Brownlow Medalist Patrick Dangerfield glowing after they trained together.

"I wouldn't be handing (pick one) over for anything," Dangerfield said on SEN's Time On.

"He will lead a football club at some stage, I believe. So I'd be doing everything I possibly could to secure him."

"He spent a week at our footy club through that AFL academy and he wouldn't have looked out of place playing AFL footy this year.

"I look at him, and I didn't play with Joel Selwood when he was 17, but I see a lot of similarities.

"He's a very driven individual and carries himself extremely well. On the track, even though he's physically not as developed as he will be in a few years time, he would've played AFL this season for most football clubs.

"He was comfortable in our environment really quickly - in an environment that is incredibly daunting because you're training with AFL players and mixing with people that go out there and play AFL every week and he looked right at home from the very beginning.

"He's going to be a very special player for a very long period of time."

 

AFL national talent manager Kevin Sheehan is confident players like Walsh, Jack Lukosius, Max King and Izak Rankine can have the sort of careers that will make this year's national selection meeting known as Super Draft Mark 2 down the track.

"I think on pure potential that comparison is fair," Sheehan told AAP. "We're looking into a crystal ball here - as we do every year - but observations in matches, their athletic testing and interviews over a two or three-year period all suggest it's an elite group.

"Right along the way all of those things have given us great confidence that this can be Super Draft Mark 2.

"But we're talking potential here and that has to be converted into production in the AFL.

"It will obviously take time to see whether that eventuates but working in this futures market as we do we're very bullish that this is going to be a great group."

Ahead of the AFL Draft later this month, we take a look at the most highly rated young guns clubs will be fighting over.

SAM WALSH (Geelong Falcons)

- Position: Midfielder, height: 184cm, weight: 74kg.

- Walsh is the consensus pick to go to Carlton with the No. 1 pick. A gifted, hard- working midfielder described as a once-in-a-generation talent a club can build a team around. Named captain of this year's under-18 All Australian team.

JACK LUKOSIUS (Woodville-West Torrens)

- Position: Key forward, height: 194cm, weight: 85kg.

- An outstanding athlete with speed and endurance who has been favourably compared to St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt. Clean overhead and an elite kick, Lukosius is capable of pushing up onto a wing and has also been used down back.

IZAK RANKINE (West Adelaide)

- Position: Half-forward/midfielder, height: 180cm, weight: 76kg.

- Regarded by some as the most exciting prospect in this year's draft pool, Rankine has a bag of tricks that will quickly make him a fan favourite. Oozes class, has pace to burn and has a nose for goal.

MAX KING (Sandringham Dragons)

- Position: Key forward/defender, height: 202cm, weight: 86kg

- Was in the conversation to go No. 1 before he underwent a knee reconstruction in April. But the big-marking forward's recovery is going well and his combination of strength and agility will ensure he doesn't slide too far down the pecking order.

CONNOR ROZEE (North Adelaide)

Connor Rozee can play almost anywhere.
Connor Rozee can play almost anywhere.

- Position: Half-forward/midfielder, height: 180cm, weight: 76kg.

- The versatile youngster with footy smarts, pace and strong overhead skills pushed himself into top-10 calculations with an outstanding back half of the season. Impressed across half-back in the Roosters' SANFL premiership side.

BEN KING (Sandringham Dragons)

- Position: Key forward/defender, height: 202cm, weight: 85kg.

- Like his twin brother Max, Ben King is an imposing tall forward whose power overhead is complemented with agility that keeps him in the contest after the ball hits the ground.

BAILEY SMITH (Sandringham Dragons)

- Position: Midfielder, height: 185cm, weight: 82kg.

- The hard-running midfielder has elite endurance and pace to go with his noted ball-winning ability. He was slowed by an Achilles injury late this year but showed more than enough early to earn his spot in this elite group.

NICK BLAKEY (Sydney Swans Academy)

- Position: Tall forward/midfielder, height: 195cm, weight: 80kg.

- The son of footy great John Blakey was eligible to go to North Melbourne or Brisbane under the father-son rule but elected to stick with Sydney - where John is the coaching director - who have nurtured his undeniable talent.

Nick Blakey carved his own path rather than following his father’s footsteps.
Nick Blakey carved his own path rather than following his father’s footsteps.

- with AAP


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