Knightmare's Draft Wrap: Bonar puts surgeries behind him

Aiden Bonar (2nd F R) celebrates a goal while playing for Dandenong Robert Prezioso/AFL Media/Getty Images

Each week, ESPN.com.au AFL draft expert Christopher Doerre - aka Knightmare - casts his eye over the country's best junior footballers to give readers an early insight into the next generation of AFL stars.

As well as attending live games, Doerre pores through match vision, analyses the stats and talks to industry sources to ensure he can offer the most insightful draft analysis.

Aside from the weekly wrap, Doerre will also unveil his power rankings at the end of each month.

And as we get closer to November's national draft, Doerre will also predict who goes where with his annual phantom draft.

Player Focus

Entering first round contention is Aiden Bonar [190cm & 89kg] who has overcome two ACL surgeries over the past two years. Bonar played arguably his best game of the season in gathering 20 disposals, 11 contested possessions, five clearances and one goal. Bonar helped Team Harvey to a 55-point win against Team Enright in the Under-18 All Stars game. If not for the time missed with injury, some believe Bonar may have been in the mix for the top overall choice. Bonar is a rare athlete with excellent power, strength and acceleration. He is also a strong contested mark, having taken four against Greater Western Victoria in his second TAC Cup game for 2017. His commitment to pressuring the ball carrier was the most impressive element of Bonar's victory over Team Enright. He worried opponents into making mistakes through chasing efforts, taking time and space away from the ball carrier, and when Bonar connected on tackles, he tackled them hard, pinning their arms.

It was also promising to see some offense from Bonar. Off of a handball receive 60m from goal, he accelerated to 35m and finished for the goal. If Bonar can hurt the opposition in this fashion in addition to winning the contested ball, tackling and marking the ball forward of centre, he could well develop see into something special.


Hurting Team Enright with his vision and precise kicking to dangerous targets by foot, Lochie O'Brien played one of his better recent games. O'Brien hurt the opposition with 24 disposals, seven marks and one goal. O'Brien is expected to feature inside the first round on draft day and is arguably this year's premier ball user and one of the best outside runners in the draft pool.

Splitting his time between playing through the midfield and up forward, Luke Davies-Uniacke caused headaches for Team Enright. Through the midfield he won the ball in the contest, used his acceleration and was precise by foot over short distances. What really stood out from this contest though was how dangerous he is as a forward. Davies-Uniacke pushed to full-forward and isolated Team Enright's defenders one-on-one in the goal square and used his strength to maintain front position. He did not look like he would lose a contest, similar to Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield when pushed well forward, even when matched with a key defender. Having that weapon in his arsenal, in addition to dynamic midfield play, suggests Davies-Uniacke has reclaimed favourite status for the number one overall selection. Davies-Uniacke amassed 23 disposals, six marks, four inside 50s and one goal.

Awarded best-on-ground honours, Jaidyn Stephenson provided his trademark outside run, leading up well to the football and also showing a commitment to pressure the ball carrier and tackle with force. With another outstanding performance on the big stage, Stephenson did his top five chances no harm, gathering 22 disposals, eight marks, five tackles, four inside 50s and four goals.

Impressing around the ball, Zac Bailey routinely won first possession at the coalface and was lively each time he was around the ball. His agility, acceleration and evasiveness in traffic is special and are standout qualities. The only thing that let Bailey down was his kicking, it was not always precise. Bailey secured 18 disposals and four marks.

Hurting the opposition with ball in hand, Brandon Starcevich moved well through traffic, displaying quickness and composure. His vision and execution to lower his eyes and hit up inside 50m targets was excellent. Starcevich's strength was also notable, standing up through tackles and winning the hard ball at stoppages. Starcevich gathered 18 disposals, four inside 50s and one goal.

Gold Coast Academy ruckman, Brayden Crossley used his size and strength through the ruck to win the ball for himself. He also proved so strong that even when tackled by two opponents simultaneously, they failed to bring Crossley to ground. Crossley collected 14 disposals, four marks, five tackles, 15 hitouts, one goal and almost kicked a second goal from outside 50m which was touched on the goal line.

Presenting up well towards the football and reading the drop of the ball effectively, Hayden McLean made the most of his opportunities with 12 disposals, six marks and four goals.

Tasmanian key forward, Hugh Dixon [195cm & 92kg] didn't impact the scoreboard, but he impressed with some unselfish play. He registered 10 disposals and four goal assists. His clean hands, football smarts, composure and vision impressed recruiters.

For Team Enright, James Worpel was a pillar of strength through the midfield with 21 disposals, 13 contested possessions, four marks, four tackles and seven clearances. His contested ball winning, strength to stand up through tackles and powerful tackling was a highlight.

Winning the contested ball and pressuring intently around the contest, Brayden Ainsworth accumulated 20 disposals, 10 contested possessions, five tackles and seven clearances.

Providing an effective target up forward, Larke Medalist Oscar Allen was one of the most effective forwards on the field with 18 disposals, six marks, two goals and three behinds. He was named Team Enright's best player. Allen's early reading of the play and ball in flight in addition to his leading patterns, football smarts and cleanness at ground level should see him in the first-round mix. His play resembles Jack Gunston as an undersized but very effective key forward.

Using his football smarts, vision and clean kicking, Dylan Moore was effective through the midfield and up forward with 17 disposals, five marks and one goal.

Using his evasiveness, vision and clean kicking, Nick Coffield played with composure and hurt the opposition with 15 disposals, five marks and five rebound 50s.

Tackling intently and looking dangerous up forward, Lachlan Fogarty gathered 14 disposals, five tackles, seven inside 50s and 1 goal.

Proving a marking presence up forward, ruckman Sam Hayes was reading the ball in flight expertly and taking marks at full stretch, making the case that he can be used as a genuine key forward. The big man furthered his case for first round selection with 14 disposals, four marks and one goal.

Noah Balta was heavily involved down back and relentlessly took on the game, accelerating almost every time he got his hands on the ball. While Balta read the ball in flight effectively down back and was strong in one-on-one marking contests, it was his ground level work for a key position player in combination with his pace that really stood out. In receiving an opportunity late in the contest up forward, Balta won a ground ball at full speed, picked it up cleanly and accelerated into goal for an easy finish. Balta is a human highlight machine and routinely makes eye-catching plays; he secured 12 disposals and one goal.

Taking on the game fearlessly with his run off half-back, Jack Petruccelle was impactful with each touch, catching the eye of recruiters with his sheer acceleration. He also took an exciting aerial mark, leaping over the back of an opponent. Petruccelle gathered 11 disposals, four marks and one goal.


Team Enright

In a best-on-ground display, Izak Rankine gathered seven disposals, four tackles and kicked two goals in the first half for Team Enright. At halftime with Team Enright leading by 45 points, Rankine changed sides. Team Harvey didn't let the lead extend out any further, reigning it back slightly to 39 points. Rankine in the second half managed six disposals and two goals, swaying the momentum. As we speak, Rankine is the leading candidate for the 2018 number one overall selection.

Providing a star target up forward for Team Enright, Max King was a highlight. The big man secured 11 disposals, eight marks and kicked two goals and four behinds.

Arguably the best ruckman in the junior ranks, Bailey Williams not only dominated with his tap work but was also Team Harvey's best target up forward. Williams gathered six disposals, five marks, 16 hitouts and two goals.