The NEAFL Sample, Part One
(Feature image by Sharon Vella/NEAFL).
Welcome to the first instalment of our debut series analysing the performances of three AFL draftees in the 2019 NEAFL season. If you’d like to learn more about ” The NEAFL Sample” series and what’s still to come, you can read the series bio here. We touch on a couple of key points to consider across the series, including some limitations we encountered.
First up, we dive into new Gold Coast Sun Connor Budarick, and his efforts across his eight NEAFL games in 2019. Despite his impressive performances across pre-draft competitions and early glimpses at AFL level, this piece will focus solely on Budarick’s performances for the Suns in the NEAFL last year, where he managed to earn a NEAFL rising star nomination for some noteworthy performances.
Firstly, some background information: Budarick outside of the NEAFL
Pre-selected by his parent club in the 2019 AFL Rookie Draft (Round two, pick 19), Connor Budarick is profiled as a small utility, mainly playing off half-back, but with the potential to push into the midfield in coming years.
Budarick has enjoyed a good start to AFL life, making his debut in the Sun’s Round One loss to Port Adelaide. Budarick played predominantly off half-back, collecting eight disposals, while also laying three tackles.
Prior to his AFL debut, Budarick also managed to start in both Marsh Community Series games for the Suns, averaging 11 disposals, two marks and three tackles across the two fixtures.
Outside the NEAFL in 2019, Budarick starred for the Allies in the U18s Carnival, earning All-Australian honours after averaging 15.5 disposals at 64.5% efficiency across his four games. Budarick also shone in last year’s Academy series, captaining the Suns to their first series win, while also winning the Harry Hunter Medal as the competition’s best and fairest player.
What did we see from Budarick in the NEAFL last year?
Last season was Budarick’s second at NEAFL level, having featured for the Sun’s NEAFL side in 2018. Below we list some key features of his performances that stood out while watching, good and bad.
Despite standing at only 175cm tall and weighing a slender 72kg, throughout the lead-in to the 2019 AFL Draft, Budarick’s tackling pressure was renowned as one of his greatest assets, averaging 9.5 tackles in his four U18s Carnival performances.
No different in the NEAFL, the young Sun ranked in the 92nd percentile for tackles per game. This ranking was the Sun’s fifth highest among eligible players, and put him in company with the likes of Giant Jye Caldwell (94th percentile) and former Swan James Rose (91st percentile).
The footage supports Budarick’s high ranking, as you often find yourself drawn to the young Sun’s countless follow-up efforts and tenacity when hunting his opposition. He possesses a strong core and willingness to apply pressure at the contest and beyond. He wasn’t one to shy away from stronger opposition last season, regularly matching it with physically-stronger midfielders around stoppages, such as Brisbane’s Rhys Mathieson and former Lion Nick Robertson.
Clean hands & Accumulation
Despite Budarick’s handball efficiency in the NEAFL sitting at 70%, approximately 8% under league average, Budarick’s hands in contested settings were remarkably clean for an Academy prospect playing in a senior competition.
In many of the clips edited Budarick oozes composure, gathering the ball cleanly before cleverly disposing the ball through traffic, or even over his shoulder to teammates in space. Despite the statistics pointing to potential concerns regarding handball efficiency, Budarick’s awareness around stoppages is obvious, and his intent to release players into space from contested settings is promising. Have a look for yourself below.
Budarick also possessed the ability to accumulate disposals at NEAFL level, either off half-back or around stoppages. Budarick averaged 19 disposals per game, ranking him in the 77th percentile last season. These performances saw him ranked equal with new Roo Aiden Bonar and also above current teammate Corey Ellis (71st percentile).
Acceleration & Running Capacity
The kid can move, which should come at no surprise considering Budarick’s 2019 combine results, where he featured in the top 10 for the agility test (9th), yo-yo test (3rd) and 2km time trial (7th).
Budarick’s first step is a sight to behold, often finding himself gifted opportunities off half-back to take his opposition on in a foot race, before explosively changing direction and leaving the opposition in his wake.
Budarick averaged 2.13 rebound 50s per game, ranking him in the competition’s 73rd percentile. In these scenarios, Budarick illustrated his promising speed and agility, often receiving switch kicks from his teammates, before taking off with an explosive first couple of steps.
Watch just a couple of examples below. Budarick’s low centre of gravity and courage to move the ball quickly is promising to see in a young prospect playing senior football.
Budarick’s disposal efficiency in the NEAFL last season was underwhelming, ranking him in the 23rd percentile among players who averaged ten or more disposals per game. Despite his low ranking, Budarick placed higher than AFL-listed players such as teammate Michael Rischitelli and Giants pair Zac Langdon and Bobby Hill (just to name a few).
*5 or more kicks per game
*10 OR MORE DISPOSALS PER GAME
Upon reviewing footage of kicks classified as ineffective, it’s clear Budarick’s numbers are skewed negatively due to his clearance-winning ability. A number of kicks classified as ineffective were also clearances where Budarick looked to clear congestion with kicks up the ground.
There’s still some concern with Budarick’s efficiency by foot despite his clearances skewing efficiency numbers. When pressured by his opposition, Budarick’s kicking and decision-making resembled something more like the draft prospect he was, compared to the confident AFL-listed player we saw in-and-around stoppages.
Despite what we’ve mentioned above, Budarick’s kicking mechanics look clean, and pairing this with his excellent hands and decision-making tendencies around stoppage, we’re confident as Budarick matures these concerns will quickly fade. It’s clear he’s more than capable of making good decisions with the football in hand, and as he finds his feet at the senior level, these traits will outweigh the questions regarding his efficiency.
We’re big fans of Budarick as a prospect for the Suns. What excites us most is probably his instincts around the contest. He seems to understands space, and how to set-up his teammates to take advantage of any space their given. These traits are especially impressive considering the senior opposition Budarick faced in the NEAFL last season.
We hope you found the resources used insightful. We aim to provide readers with new content previously unseen or undervalued. The NEAFL provides a great environment to analyse prospects as they face senior competition, similar to that of the SANFL and WAFL, where prospects face quality senior competition regularly.
We also appreciate the people who’ve taken the time to read this far. We’re currently at the very beginning of this project, but hope to continue striving to build on every piece we complete, providing greater insights on prospects, teams and football overall, as we see it.
If you have any questions about this piece, please get in touch via our email below. We’re also happy to discuss anything related to this series, or any other work down the line.
**p.s. all percentile rankings are based off players who registered 6 or more games in the NEAFL last season. Again, check out the series bio to learn more about what criteria we’re using when conducting analysis.