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Footyology’s draft rankings – No. 5: Jaidyn Stephenson


Jaidyn Stephenson bursts clear for Vic Metro against the Allies during the under 18 championships in July this year. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Footyology’s draft rankings – No. 5: Jaidyn Stephenson

Bede Briscomb    

No. 5 – JAIDYN STEPHENSON
Victoria (Eastern Ranges)
Half-forward/wingman

Born: 15/01/1999
Height: 189cm
Weight: 76kg

TAC CUP STATS
Disposals: 22.6
Kicks: 15.1
Handballs: 7.5
Kicking efficiency: 48%
Handball efficiency: 68%
Tackles: 5.5
Marks: 4.7
Goals: 0.9
One elite attribute: Athleticism. He’s aggressive, has breakaway speed, and saves his best games for the big stage, but needs to address kicking if he wants to be a permanent wingman.
Best-case comparison: Will Hoskin-Elliot combined with Andrew Gaff

WHAT HE’S GOT

Spring: Stephenson times his leaps to perfection and always gets up over his opponent. Occasionally gets pushed under the ball due to his light frame – a smart AFL player will be able to exploit that.

Goalkicking: Kicked plenty of goals as a forward and when he moved to the midfield nothing changed. Had 22 disposals and three goals in the NAB AFL All Stars game and kicked four goals in the opening 16 minutes of the first round in the TAC Cup.

Speed: Guys with Stephenson’s electric pace can usually go in short intervals. Not this kid; he’s got the endurance to sustain that damaging run over four quarters. Also has a quick side step.

WHAT HE LACKS

Ball skills: His kicking action is awkward and slow and it’s going to be a massive hurdle at the next level. Funnily enough, he’s a beautiful kick for goal. Handball technique needs work, too.

Strength: This will only be a problem if he’s being played as a half-forward. If he’s a permanent wingman he doesn’t necessarily need to be super strong through the upper body.

BEDE BRISCOMB CHATS WITH JAIDYN STEPHENSON

It’s not every day that a player like Jaidyn Stephenson comes around. The unique prospect from the Eastern Ranges is tall, skinny, fast, springy and he stuffs the stat sheet with goals and touches like few can. The challenge is going to be translating all of those talents into AFL success. Footyology sat down with him to discuss just that.

What do like most about football?

Probably the competitive side of it, competing against someone one-on-one and the challenge of trying to beat that person. Sometimes they’re going to be taller, stronger, quicker than you, so it’s just trying to find a different way to beat a new opponent each and every week.

What do like least about football?

There’s nothing I don’t like. I live and breathe footy and sport in general. When I get home I turn on the sport channel and watch whatever’s on. Darts, snooker, footy – it doesn’t really matter.

What do you think is the hardest position to play in footy and why?

Definitely full-forward. There’s a lot of times where the ball doesn’t come down so you can have dry spells. You’re also relying on other people to hit you up and if the kick isn’t right then you’re not getting the ball. You’ve also got an opponent where all he’s got to do is punch or tap it, whereas you actually have to mark the ball with pressure.

How do you assess your own performance after a game? Do you look at the stat sheet and have set KPIs you want to reach or is it something else?

As I come off I usually know when I’ve played a good game, but I think it’s more on impact; you can run around and have 25 touches and not really impact the game and you can have 12 touches and really impact the game. I think it’s more just watching the game footage and assessing from that rather than the stat sheet.

You said earlier this year that your season has been quite average. What specifically haven’t you liked about your season?

When I said that I was referring to the start of my season. In the first six or seven games I set lofty standards for myself and I wasn’t really reaching them. And then I realised midway through the season that it was the best for me because I could have sat at full-forward and kicked lots of goals, but then I’d be getting drafted as a 190-centimere, 78-kilogram forward, which isn’t really practical. And because I wasn’t playing too well, I got the opportunity to go on the wing, where I think I learned a lot and was able to show my versatility.

Stephenson marks for Vic Metro against the Allies during the under 18 championships. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

What AFL player do you look at now and say to yourself: “That’s the player I want to be when I’m at my absolute best”?

Obviously you want to be the best, so I’m going to say Patrick Dangerfield. I don’t have the same strength as him, but I love the way he bursts from stoppages and takes the game on and I think I can resemble that.

I’ve seen you projected to go as high as No.1 on draft day, which would mean you’d play in Queensland. Given you’re from Victoria, do you mind playing interstate?

I’m honestly open to anything. I’m a Brisbane Lions supporter myself, and I’ve got a lot of family up in Queensland, so I think I’d have the right support around me if I was to be drafted by Brisbane or Gold Coast.

You predominantly played as a forward growing up. Given your pace and ball-winning ability, do you think you could play off half-back in the AFL?

Yeah, certainly. I played with Blake Hardwick at the Eastern Ranges and he was one of the best forwards I’ve ever seen, and now he’s playing as a half-back flanker for Hawthorn – so it’s certainly a possibility, but I think I’d be more suited to a wing or, when I get a bit stronger, go into the midfield.

You’ve arguably got the highest potential out of anyone in this year’s draft. What do you think you need to do to fulfil that in the AFL?

Body size and strength is the main one. I’m still quite a skinny fella. My kicking is the other one. As a kid I was a decent kick, but since I’ve gone into the midfield that extra pressure and less time to dispose of the ball has been a challenge.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve had this year?

Just play the game. Lots of coaches tell me: “Take the game on. We don’t mind if you get caught with the ball”. So just play the game your way and don’t over-complicate things.

When you hear people say negative things about you and/or your game on the street, at the stadium, on Twitter or Facebook – how do you think you’ll react?

It honestly doesn’t bother me at all. Everybody has their own opinion and that’s fine. I don’t agree with a lot of them and when I do I take steps to address it.

Conversely, say you have a blinder next year and the media “next-big-thing” you saying you’re worth five years and $1.2 million, how would you react to that?

That’s harder than the negative stuff because there’s a lot of expectation. I always try to be humble and take everything as it comes. If I’m playing good footy, I’ll just try to perform the same way week-in-week-out.

Do you have a specific number in mind for where you’ll like to be drafted?

No, but I’d like to go top 10.

How would you react if you weren’t drafted in the top 10?

I think I’d end up a better player because I’d have a lot to prove and I’d want to prove the recruiters wrong. Show them they’ve made a mistake.

How does it affect you when you hear people say negative things about your game?

I’m a pretty laid-back guy. I don’t really worry about it. Just let my footy do the talking.

Do you think you could contribute in an AFL grand final as the player you are today?

I think I could. I’ve played against guys like Daniel Rioli and Jacob Weitering, and I think I held my own. Obviously I wouldn’t star, but I think I could hold my own.

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