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Tomorrow's Heroes: Key defender's stocks on the rise

Callum Twomey  November 4, 2017 9:59 AM

Tomorrow's Heroes: Aaron Naughton The West Australian is considered one of the best key defenders in the draft pool.

In the space of a few weeks late in the season, Aaron Naughton's draft stocks soared like few others in this year's crop. And with good reason.

Following an impressive NAB AFL Under-18 Championships for Western Australia, which saw him earn All Australian honours, Naughton was elevated to Peel Thunder's senior side for his WAFL debut.

Over a seven-week stretch the key defender never looked out of place, averaging seven marks a game and 14 disposals playing with and against AFL-listed players. 

The 17-year-old has also shown he can push forward and be a marking target, averaging nearly a goal a game in his seven 'colts' appearances this year, but he is more at home as one of the draft's leading defenders.

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His size (194cm) makes him a really nice fit as a key defender at the next level, but you couple that with his excellent athleticism then it makes for a nice package. He ran 3.09 seconds in the 20-metre sprint at the NAB AFL Draft Combine, while his agility time of 8.22 seconds placed him sixth overall. He matched that movement and power by recording the fifth-best Yo-Yo test score (level 21.8), giving recruiters an insight into his ability to run all day alongside key forwards at AFL level. 

Above all of that are Naughton's football qualities. He's extremely competitive, fights hard to get in the right defensive position and tends to find a way to get a fist in whenever a marking contest is in action. He's also more than comfortable grabbing a mark, too, meaning he isn't totally a shutdown option.

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Naughton isn't the most polished defender out there, so there is a bit of a question on his kicking and decision-making with the ball. Generally he plays within his limits, though, and knows to not take too many risks by foot.

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Cale Hooker played forward this year, but made his name as an intercepting defender who could also shut down key forwards across the competition. Naughton carries some similar traits to Hooker.

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Is one of the top-ranked tall backs available to clubs so is expected to be a first-round selection. That could be as early as inside the top-10, such was his ability to step up and impress at senior level during the year.

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Naughton hates to get beaten, which is probably the most important ingredient to being a successful key defender. With great defensive instincts and an athletic profile hard to counter, Naughton ticks plenty of boxes. 

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