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Footyology’s draft rankings – No. 1: Cameron Rayner


A ferocious forward and competitor, Cameron Rayner is undoubtedly the best of this year’s AFL draft crop, says Bede Briscomb. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Footyology’s draft rankings – No. 1: Cameron Rayner

Bede Briscomb    

No. 1 – CAMERON RAYNER
Victoria (Western Jets)
Half-forward/Midfielder

Born: 21/10/1999
Height: 187cm
Weight: 88kg

TAC CUP STATS
Disposals: 20.6
Kicks: 11.9
Handballs: 8.7
Kicking efficiency: 56%
Handball efficiency: 72%
Tackles: 4.4
Marks: 3.3
Goals: 1.4
One elite attribute: One-on-one contests. A dynamic forward who has every athletic tool at his disposal and will beat almost anyone in a one-on-one contest.
Best-case comparison: Nathan Fyfe (but shorter)

WHAT HE’S GOT

Competitive mindset: Hates to lose.

Defensive pressure: Rayner’s instincts when he doesn’t have the ball are to hunt and hurt which will make him a coach and fan favourite very early on. Registered 11 tackles with a fractured hand in August.

Contested marking: Good hops, solid hands, beautiful timing and no regard for his own safety allows him to consistently take tough pack marks.

Contested work: Coaches and fans will love his consistent second and third efforts. The side step, spin and fend-off are all part of his arsenal.

Instinctive goalkicker: Much like Dangerfield or Martin, I can see Rayner being played one-out in the square and giving defenders nightmares.

Explosiveness: Rayner’s burst and pace is phenomenal. If his tank develops, he can be a legitimate outside runner. His ability to recover and go again is almost unprecedented.

WHAT HE LACKS

Kicking efficiency: This is the biggest knock on Rayner and a key hurdle to him becoming a bona fide midfielder. Doesn’t have a particularly smooth action and it spirals off the boot from time to time.

Tank: Doesn’t yet have the capacity to play a full game in the midfield and that won’t change until about year three or four.

BEDE BRISCOMB PROFILES CAMERON RAYNER

North Melbourne’s round 23 victory over Brisbane ensured the Kangaroos avoided the ignominy of their first wooden spoon for 45 years. But it was a win which might also have come at considerable cost.

That convincing 49-point win over the Lions cost the Roos the No.1 pick in this year’s national draft.

Though meaningless in the grand scheme of things, North would no doubt argue the win made an important cultural statement about setting the right standard for the club.

Good for them. Personally, I’d rather have the player good enough to dominate the next 250 or more games in my club’s colours. And that player is Cameron Rayner.

The Western Jets’ prospect, 187 centimetres and 88 kilograms, is undoubtedly the best of this year’s AFL draft crop. A ferocious forward, with the capacity to have stints in the midfield, Rayner is someone around whom you can build a team.

According to AFL Talent and Development Manager Kevin Sheehan, he’s a bit like Dustin Martin with a leap and Nathan Fyfe with some burst.

“He’s a mercurial player. He can do most things very, very well,” Sheehan told Footyology.

“He’s got special ability in the air. He’s special around goals; he’s got that ability to go ‘bang!’ off one step from 50 metres out.

“He’s got that power away from a stoppage. No doubt it’s like Dustin Martin as he gets out of the centre with his speed and his ‘don’t argue’. He’s strong, he’s powerful.”

Rayner will be an immediate goalkicker in the AFL – he averaged one and three goals per game in the TAC Cup and AFL Under 18 Championships this year – but perhaps the thing which will endear him to coaches most is his defensive pressure.

Rayner is “Cyril-esque”. When the opposition has the ball in defence, his instincts are to hunt and hurt. He averaged four tackles per game in the TAC Cup this year and in a game against Oakleigh Chargers laid 11 tackles with a fractured hand.

He’s also a bull in the contest. The side-step, the spin move and the fend-off are all part of his arsenal, and he has tremendous recovery and repeat speed that allow for consistent second and third efforts.

That’s not to say that, like almost every draft prospect, the 18-year-old doesn’t also have areas for improvement.

“Rayner is super quick but he doesn’t have the natural tank of Dustin Martin,” says Sheehan. Martin was untrained, played a bit at Bendigo, but hadn’t been training in a professional environment and he came out and got a 14, almost 15 in the beep test.

“Rayner hasn’t got that. He’ll have to build it. It will take a few seasons, but it’s something he can improve on.”

Cameron Rayner in action for Vic Metro during the under 18 championships. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Thankfully for fans of Rayner’s eventual AFL club, the kid from Sydenham has the mindset of a good old-fashioned competitor.

NBA legend Kobe Bryant once said: “If you see me in a fight with a bear, prey for the bear.” Rayner is that kind of operator.

“I’ve always been like that. I don’t like to lose in anything; it could be a PlayStation game, playing in the back yard with my brother, footy tipping, a wrestle, a game of Connect Four or on the field,” he told the AFL website’s Callum Twomey in June. “That won’t ever change.”

Every time Rayner walks on to a football field, he goes in thinking he’s the best player out there. It’s in his strut. It’s in his fearless play style. It’s even in his haircut.

Irrational? Maybe. But is that just what Brisbane, perennial strugglers who have lacked an identity for over a decade, needs? Yes.

If the Lions do take Rayner with the first pick, they will immediately become one of the darlings of the AFL in 2018.

With a brigade of supremely talented youngsters like classy wingman Hugh McLuggage, gutsy inside mid Jarrod Berry, dangerous swingman Cedric Cox, clean defender Alex Witherden, and Eric Hipwood – who in his first 30 games averaged more goals per game than either Lance Franklin or Joe Daniher – Brisbane will have both hardness and plenty of flair.

With hungry blue-chippers like Dayne Zorko, Dayne Beams and potentially Luke Hodge, they might actually win some games, too.

North Melbourne, as a result, will miss out on a bona fide dynamo who would have been perfect to pair alongside Ben Brown. Not that the Roos can’t still pick up a genuine gun.

With fourth pick in the draft, North will likely still get a good shot at prolific inside midfielder Adam Cerra, game-breaking wing/forward Jaiydn Stephenson, one-on-one jet Paddy Dow or readymade ball winner Luke Davies-Uniacke.

Every one of those kids has a legitimate chance of making an All-Australian squad one day. Indeed, Sheehan reckons Davies-Uniacke is capable of contributing on an AFL grand final stage right now. But players like Rayner don’t come around all that often.

As for the “go home” factor that has hamstrung Brisbane’s development in recent years, well, that won’t be a problem, according to the man himself.

“I don’t think that’s in my make-up,” Rayner told the media at the AFL Draft Combine last month. “I feel that if I was to go to a club, you’d want to get the best out of the club and the best out of the players, so I’d definitely stay there.”

Smile, Brisbane fans. You’re going to get a good one.

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