Tasmanian draft prospects like Tarryn Thomas, Chayce Jones and Rhyan Mansell could be playing AFL football by 2020 according to experienced talent manager Mathew Armstrong.
The talented Northern trio are among the players that Armstrong believes could reverse the state’s recent decline in top-flight graduates.
“I’ve been in touch with AFL recruiters continuously over the last 12 months, sometimes on a daily basis,” Armstrong told The Examiner.
“Within a year or two we could potentially see some of these boys get AFL games.”
Armstrong was speaking in the wake of impressive displays by the 18-year-olds for his Allies side at the AFL under-18 national championships in Victoria.
The head coach believed the trio performed well under the scrutiny of national selectors and ensured their prospects of being drafted remained strong.
“The team went quite well, if it wasn’t for poor kicking in a couple of the games we could have won three out of four. We created enough opportunities but couldn’t convert them at key times.”
The Allies are a cocktail of footballers from NSW/ACT, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Tasmania had nine representatives in the squad, including Northern Bombers Thomas and Mansell plus Jones, of Launceston.
The Allies defeated Victoria Country in round 1, before narrowly losing to traditionally strong outfits Victoria Metro and Western Australia and also went down by four goals to South Australia.
Thomas, a versatile ruck-rover renowned for his speed and precision, produced several highlights.
“He played really well in the last game and had an excellent academy series, as did Chayce, whose performances did his chances of a potential draft no harm at all.”
Despite being an absentee from the opening games, Mansell returned in style by kicking a classy goal.
“Rhyan had a quad injury which prevented him for getting enough quality game time and as long as he continues playing well for North Launceston, he can prove himself at the next level.”
Armstrong added that selectors had been monitoring the players over a sustained period at club level, with the championships used to wither down the extensive list of draft hopefuls.
Allies strength and conditioning coach Ross Brosnan, who worked closely with Armstrong during the month-long tournament, echoed comments on the trio’s ability.
“Tarryn consistently comes up with big plays throughout games on a regular basis,” Brosnan said. “The amount of work that he puts in behind the play goes unnoticed at times, but by his standard he had a good tournament.
“Chayce was consistent as well, everything he does is clean and crisp on the field and his intensity around the ball is already at an elite level. He is also vocal on and off the field.”
“Rhyan missed the first two games, but came into the side and accounted himself well. He puts his body on the line and is physically robust.”
With a strong knowledge of the AFL’s physical demands, Brosnan believed both Thomas and Jones possessed the key attributes required.
“Chayce’s close down speed is at an elite level (while) Tarryn has put on size to match his height, which has allowed him to physically impose himself against other players. His acceleration and deceleration is also at an elite standard already,” he said.
Jones was the only player from Launceston to be selected for the under-18 All-Australian team in the championships. He averaged 21.5 disposals and 6.8 tackles to be one of the Allies’ best performers.
Armstrong said it has been five years since a Launceston-born player was drafted into the AFL, with the Kolodjashnij brothers Jake and Kade drafted to Geelong and Gold Coast respectively.
Kingborough’s Hugh Dixon was the last Tasmanian drafted, and was selected at pick 44 by Fremantle last November.