The Western Bulldogs will walk into this year's AFL Draft with a draft pick in the top 10 for the first time since Marcus Bontempelli was taken with the fourth overall pick back in the 2013 AFL Draft. The Bulldogs' first pick in the 2017 AFL Draft will sit in at the ninth overall pick.
The depth of this year's draft class reportedly isn't the greatest, but with some solid talent on offer early in the first round, the Dogs are well placed to nab a quality talent with the ninth overall pick, and with this pick, there is one young man that the Western Bulldogs should look to if he remains available - A selection I think will be a perfect fit for the club.
This young man is a rebounding defender from the North Victorian suburb of Eltham who goes by the name of Nick Coffield. Ironically, this is the same suburb that gave the Bulldogs the man we all call 'The Bont'. However there is a huge emphasis on the word 'If', as there are a number of clubs in the top 10 that will also look at this kid, as he has the qualities to become a future star in this league.
But why do I think that he will be a perfect fit at the Western Bulldogs?
Well for starters, with the retirements of club legends Robert Murphy and Matthew Boyd, spots for a role in defence have opened up a little bit, and even though the Dogs recruited Hayden Crozier from Fremantle, he can be used up forward as well as a rebounding defender. The selection of Coffield at pick nine would shore up the Dogs' defensive stocks in years to come.
There's no denying that the young man from the Northern Knights is a top-10 prospect. Primarily as a rebounding defender, there is enough in his game to suggest that he could move into the midfield over time, but for the time being let's focus on what he's managed to produce in 2017.
Playing as the captain for the Knights in the 2017 TAC Cup, he averaged very strong numbers - averaging 21 disposals per game, going at 72 percent efficiency by foot, as well as averaging just under five marks, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s per game in 16 games this season. In addition he has proven his worth in front of the big sticks, slotting through 15.3 in his TAC Cup campaign this year, showcasing how versatile he can be.
A year prior to this, Coffield was recognised by the Knights as their best first-year player, winning the club's Rising Star awardhese numbers rewarded Coffield with a spot in the TAC Cup team of the year on the half-back line, named in the team alongside potential number one draft choices Cameron Rayner, Luke Davies-Uniacke and Paddy Dow, but that wasn't all.
Coffield's good form warranted a spot in the Vic Metro team in this year's under-18 championships, and it was here that he shot into top-10 draft calculations with an awesome campaign, averaging 22 disposals, four marks, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s per game in four games and with this, he was one of nine Vic Metro boys named in the Under-18's All-Australian team in what was a successful campaign for Metro.
Northern Knights' talent manager Rhy Gieschen had this to say in an article for a local newspaper earlier in the year:
"One thing we noticed towards the end of last year and particularly during practice games (This year), he is always looking to provide on field leadership, setting up, directing, assisting others and bringing others into the game." And goes on to say that:
"He is really direct and honest not only with his own performance but with the rest of the playing group and even myself and the coaches as well... He is so passionate about improving the culture and direction we're trying to head as a club and an organisation."
Coffield was one of many aspiring draftees to be selected in the under-18s All-Stars game, which was held on the morning of the 2017 AFL Grand Final, and whilst he found himself on the losing team, he still put up reasonable stats of 15 disposals at 86 percent efficiency along with five rebound 50s and always was trying his best at setting something up from defence.
There's so much to like about this young man, the first one is that he is a good size for an AFL player. Standing at 190 centimetres tall, Coffield has what many aspiring midfielders do not have, but they would do anything to have it - that's the height. Midfielders who are standing at over 190 centimetres have been all the rave in the AFL over the past few years, and combined with his skill set, could become a serious weapon in five years.
Even in defence he can provide as a solid intercept marking option if that's the path his club wants to roll with, but judging on his performances this year, his go is more of a running defender, but still he looms as a very dangerous player if he gets his way with the footy. He is very composed with the ball in hand and his composure, agility and evasiveness has many draft experts scream out Scott Pendlebury comparisons. Furthermore, he is quite quick when he takes off. At the draft combine, he was in the top five draft prospects in the 20-metre sprint, with a time of 2.91 seconds, just 0.04 seconds behind the fastest time.
The negatives in his game are minimal. As a running type of player, he's not yet able to excel in winning contested ball and the statistics show not only that, but he's not a renowned tackler. In both his TAC Cup campaign and in the Under-18 championships, he averaged just two tackles per game and in terms of contested possessions, he could only average seven per game, however he is still very young and there's no doubt he will be given every chance to build on his game.
Take his ability and combine it with his extraordinary leadership capabilities and it's not hard to see why he's a very in demand prospect. Collingwood (Pick six) and St. Kilda (Picks seven and eight) have also been strongly linked to Coffield, but given what they need, they could potentially pass him up to the Bulldogs, who I think should pounce on him.
Given that he grew up supporting the Western Bulldogs like another ex-Northern Knight and another Eltham boy in Patrick Lipinski, this would sound like the ideal scenario if he could slide down to the Doggies at pick nine. The young man can be a future captain of this side and has the scope to become a bona fide star of the AFL for years to come.
But I'll put this out to you Bulldog Supporters - Terrific kicking ability and versatility, outstanding leadership qualities, superb pace, agility and evasiveness, a very humble personality and an uncanny ability to create from half-back. Doesn't this sound familiar to a recently retired Dog who may have worn the number two?
Not only will the AFL Draft itself be a very interesting night, but I will be very intrigued to see who the Western Bulldogs will draft in with their first top-10 selection in what's been a few very positive years.