The future looks bright.

As we reach the mid-way point of the 2011 AFL season, the best under 18s are strutting their stuff, trying to catch the eyes of the prowling recruiters and player managers alike. Over a month of games, the best talent is split into two divisions culminating in the double-day double-header at Etihad Stadium in early July.

With Greater Western Sydney and the Gold Coast Suns making the most of the draft concessions, players will be looking to embark on their future as AFL footballers once October rolls around. For now, the young stars of the country will fight for State glory and the chance to take home a National Championship win.

Nick Riewoldt, Luke Hodge, Brendan Goddard, Tom Scully and David Swallow all former number one draft picks, each showed their hand at The National Championships and got the recruiters talking. With [layers being watched from around the age of 14, pressures to make all representative teams are high and these players have risen to the occasion. These are the players to watch from Division 1 of the Championships come draft day 2011.

Jonathan Patton (Vic Metro) – A 195cm powerhouse Forward, built to the likes of Jonathon Brown. His marking brilliance was on show in his side’s demolition of Queensland where the key Forward took 11 marks and had 19 disposals, half of which were shots on goal with Patton kicking 6.4 for the day. He has shown at TAC level he is becoming a strong force, kicking 22 goals from his 7 matches.

Verdict: Should go within the top 10, most likely will end up in the Orange, Silver and Black of Western Sydney. Pick 3.

Chad Wingard (South Australia) – The Sturt Midfielder has taken to league football brilliantly in the SANFL and has proven over his 4 games for Sturt that he can kick goals as well as win the ball in tough contests. His form across both Championship matches has been solid, racking up 20+ possessions against Queensland and NSW/ACT.

Verdict: The Midfielder has yet to prove himself and become that name on everyone’s lips, however with good performances across his remaining matches and with a good showing at the combine, this Adelaide boy could be a show around the Top-10 mark.

Stephen Coniglio (Western Australia) – A born talent, the Swan Districts running Half-Forward is captaining his side in the Championships and has proven this season that he is ready for league football. Has played 9 senior games on top of his Championship commitments, averaging 22 disposals in his two games thus far and kicking 6 goals. A star cricketer, Stephen had to make the decision of choosing between his two loves and it paid off now that he is also part of the AIS/AFL academy squad.

Verdict: A prodigious talent, this young man shows extraordinary ability and come the end of these Championships, he will have gathered the eyes of a few talent scouts and I wouldn’t be surprised if he went towards the top 3 tier of this year’s draft. Heading to GWS at 1 or 3 in the National Draft.

Devon Smith (Vic Country)- A Geelong Falcons ball-winner who caught the eye of many scouts against NT. After the missing the first game of his side’s Championship assault, Smith collected 27 possessions and 7 inside 50’s, coupled with his 6 goals and was named best on ground. Smith has only managed one TAC Cup game on return from hip surgery, however he racked up 33 touches and kicked 5 goals against the Murray Bushrangers.

Verdict: Fit and firing, the Geelong Falcons may have another champion on their hands if they can keep him on the park across not only the championships, but the rest of the TAC Cup season. I can certainly see this kid playing AFL Football. His ball-winning ability, coupled with his knowledge inside 50 is impeccable. Draft Range – 5 to 10.

With 3 more games to be played by each one of the sides, there is still a mountain of football ahead. The young stars of tomorrow will be putting their hands up in order to showcase their talent.

Round 3

Saturday June 18 at 1pm: SA v Vic Country – Adelaide Oval

Sunday June 19 at 11.15am: WA v Vic Metro – Patterson’s Stadium

Saturday June 25 at 10.45am: Qld v NT – Metricon Stadium

Saturday June 25 at 12pm: Tas v NSW/ACT – Aurora Stadium

Round 4

Friday July 1 at 12:15pm: Vic Metro v SA – Skilled Stadium

Friday July 1 at 2.30pm: Vic Country v WA – Skilled Stadium

Saturday July 2 at 12pm: NT v Tas – Visy Park

Saturday July 2 at 2.15pm: Qld v NSW/ACT – Visy Park

Round 5

Wednesday July 6 at 5.35pm: Vic Metro v Vic Country – Etihad Stadium

Wednesday July 6 at 7.35pm: SA v WA – Etihad Stadium

Thursday July 7 at 12.15pm: Qld v Tas – Skilled Stadium

Thursday July 7 at 2.30pm: NT v NSW/ACT – Skilled Stadium

Courtesy of AFL.com.au

DB

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