West Australian youngster Jaeger O’Meara headlines the elite group of 17-year-olds invited to the NAB AFL Draft Combine ahead of October’s GWS mini-draft.

The top eight players of the 26 who nominated for the trade incentive scheme, as voted by AFL clubs, will be put through their paces at the national combine, which kicks off on Tuesday October 4 at Etihad Stadium.

The players, born between January 1 and April 30, 1994, are too young to be selected at the 2011 NAB AFL Draft, but can be claimed by a club with one of four special picks at the mini-draft that the Giants must trade away.

The mini-draft is expected to be held toward the end of this year’s trade week, which starts on Monday October 10 and finishes the following Monday.

The thinking behind the scheme is that clubs will trade experienced players, draft picks or both to the Giants, which will help with their list build, with AFL clubs given the chance to claim one of these highly-regarded under-age players in return.

O’Meara has been the standout player of this select group for some time, having impressed at this year’s national carnival and made his debut at senior level in the WAFL for the Perth Demons.

The forward/midfielder possesses a rare combination of speed and endurance with foot skills to match.

He is coveted by both Western Australian teams, but it is also believed several other clubs are considering their options to put together a trade package that would secure the No.1 pick at the mini-draft, which would in turn be used to claim O’Meara.

The Giants cannot keep any of the players eligible for this scheme for themselves, but can on-trade the four picks over the next two years as they see fit.

The quality of this group will likely tempt some AFL clubs into making attractive offers to take part in the mini-draft, which could see GWS trade the rights to two or even three of the four draft picks this year, with the remainder to be retained for a similar scenario next year.

Both Port Adelaide and Adelaide are fans of SA youngster Ben Kennedy, who also had an excellent championships and has been a regular for SANFL club Glenelg at senior level.

North Ballarat onballer Brad Crouch is another hot prospect available via the scheme.

He had been sidelined since breaking his leg playing for Vic Country at the national championships in June, but made a stellar return to the North Ballarat line-up with three goals and 22 touches in the Rebels’ TAC Cup elimination final loss to Oakleigh.

Just what it will take for AFL clubs to satisfy the Giants in a trade situation remains unclear, but the Crows were alarmed at the asking price – thought to be a player rated in the club’s top seven or eight – after making initial enquiries back in June.

The following eight players have been invited to attend the draft combine, noting that AFL clubs can also consider all players in the pool of 26:

Brad Crouch
Club: North Ballarat Rebels/Beaufort FC
Age: 17
Height: 184cm
Weight: 83kg
AFL national talent manager Kevin Sheehan says: “He had an outstanding year in the TAC Cup and NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, winning All Australian Honours. Excels with his ball-winning across half back or midfield and makes good decisions with the footy. He was selected in the AIS-AFL Academy 15th intake which comes together this month.”

Dayle Garlett
Club: Swan Districts/Upper Swan JFC
Age: 17
Height: 181cm
Weight: 68kg
Sheehan says: “Left-footed medium forward with terrific goal sense and feel for the game. He averaged 19 disposals in NAB AFL Under-18 Championships with six inside 50s. He has already progressed to play good football at WAFL level this year. He was selected in the AIS-AFL Academy’s 15th intake.”

Brodie Grundy
Club: Sturt/Unley FC
Age: 17
Height: 200cm
Weight: 92kg
Sheehan says: “Mobile ruckman who showed great promise and rapid improvement in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, winning All Australian Under-18 honours. Played senior football at Sturt later in the year, and showed talent at stoppages with his ruckwork and mobility around the ground. He was selected in the AIS-AFL Academy’s 14th intake.”

Matthew Haynes
Club: Northern Knights/Carey Grammar
Age: 17
Height: 190cm
Weight: 76kg
Sheehan says: “Dashing tall midfielder whose breakaway pace is his x-factor. He averaged 14.2 disposals at 70.2 efficiency in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships this year. He was part of the AIS-AFL Academy in the 14th intake.”

Ben Kennedy
Club: Glenelg/Brighton FC
Age: 17
Height: 174cm
Weight: 73kg
Sheehan says: “Powerful small forward with a penetrating left foot. He is a goal kicker with pace and ability to compete well in the air for his size. He played senior football with Glenelg and won All Australian Honours at under-18 level this year. He was selected in the 15th intake into the AIS-AFL Academy.”

Jaeger O’Meara
Club: Perth/Dongara JFC
Age: 17
Height: 182cm
Weight: 75kg
Sheehan says: “He is a gifted medium midfielder with breakaway pace and elite endurance. He has averaged 20.6 possessions at 71 per cent efficiency in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, winning All Australian honours. He was part of the 14th intake in the AIS-AFL Academy.”

Shannon Taylor
Club: Claremont/North Beach JFC
Age: 17
Height: 177cm
Weight: 72kg
Sheehan says: “Classy, composed small forward/midfielder with excellent speed and ability to win clearances. He averaged 14.2 disposals in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships at 66 per cent efficiency. He was selected in the AIS-AFL Academy’s 14th Intake.”

Nick Vlastuin
Club: Northern Knights/Eltham FC
Age: 17
Height: 186cm
Weight: 83kg
Sheehan says: “Strongly-built midfielder who attacks the ball strongly and excels at clearances. He missed the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships due to injury but excelled at NAB AFL U16s level in 2010, winning Vic Metro’s MVP award. Part of the AIS-AFL Academy in 2010/11.”

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