Grassroots talent – a look at SA country footy’s AFL draft picks 2011-2020

Ahead of this week’s much-anticipated 2021 AFL Draft, PETER ARGENT looks at players from grassroots country football in the second decade of this century. 

At the 2011 national draft held in Sydney, after the first five picks were taken by new franchise GWS Giants, Port Adelaide collected left-footed Murray Bridge Imperials young gun Chad Wingard.

Already known as a driven character who knew exactly what he wanted out of football, Wingard played in an A grade premiership at his foundation club in 2009.

“He would have started but only being 60kg and just 16-years-old at the time, we thought it was more prudent to start him on the bench,” said his Imperials flag-winning coach Tony Fielke, also a SANFL league footballer from the Riverland himself.

“He came on 19 minutes into first quarter – kicking five goals, including three of the most freakish you’d wish to see, in the style you’ve enjoyed seeing him produce at AFL level across the past decade.

“I mentored Chad through his early years and had no doubts about his ability.”

Chad Wingard in his League debut for Sturt against Glenelg in Round 1 of season 2011. Photo: Peter Argent


A couple of lads from the South East, Lachlan Neale and Lincoln McCarthy, are both currently playing at the Brisbane Lions.

Neale, a Kybybolite Tiger, won the Alan Stewart Medal in the SANFL under 18s Grand Final of 2011 despite the Bays’ loss and coupled that with a Brownlow Medal in the Covid year of 2000.

Neale’s junior coach at Glenelg, Wayne Smith, was always confident he was going to have a significant impact on our national football code.

“Lachie had broken a bone and his arm and was in a sling,” Smith recalled.

“I was driving through the streets of Glenelg, out of season and I saw Lachie bouncing a footy on the footpath with the hand he could use.

“I rang our development manager at the Bays, Brenton Hole, straight away and said this lad will make it.”

Brenton Hole has played a big role in a number of Glenelg talents from the South East, including Linc McCarthy and his adjustment to the rigors of city life after he moved up to Adelaide from the Bordertown Roosters.

In 2012, after playing a couple seasons of league footy with North Adelaide, Sam Mayes, a Ports Bulldog from Port Pirie, was a first round selection for Brisbane.

That season, the younger of the Murdoch siblings, Brodie, from Mid South East club Port MacDonnell, followed his brother Jordan onto an AFL list.

Their grand-father, Bill Murdoch, was a legend of country footy, playing upwards of 500 games and still coaching A grade footy in his 80s.

Already a premiership player at West Gambier, athletic key position player Tim O’Brien was collected by the Hawks.

Hawthorn also took a chance on the lightning quick and skilful Amos Frank from the APY Lands in the rookie draft of 2012.

Angaston Panthers pair Sam Colquhoun and Jack Hannath had to wait until the pre-season draft of 2013 to find their way onto an AFL list – Colquhoun, under 18s MVP, with the Power and Hannath, now working with SANFL’s elite junior program, to Fremantle.

South Clare Demons’ Luke Dunstan, captain of SA’s first National Under 18s championship side in 2013, was taken in the first round by the Saints, while his junior colts premiership team mate Riley Knight was selected the same year by the Crows.

A young Luke Dunstan leads the SA Under 18s into battle. Photo: Peter Argent.

Riley Knight’s father, Rob, coached both his son and Luke Dunstan for six years at the NEFL Demons.

“Each started in sub-mini colts at the club, with both about six years old,” Knight said.

“Both debuted in our under 14s (Junior Colts) as 10-year-olds and were very young (just 14) when they first played an A grade game at South Clare.

“I was their Junior Colts coach for three years.

“In our first year we only won a single game, the last game of the year against BBH at Burra and the boys did a lap of honour they were that excited.

“In the second year, the scores were locked away at three quarter time in the grand final against Eudunda-Robertstown and we went down by seven points.

“Third season we got the flag, knocked off the Southern Saints, to gain some revenge.

“Luke and Riley played state SAPSASA, under 16s and under 18s together.

“They were both different – Riley is a running machine, while Luke is a power athlete.”


A young Riley Knight playing for the Eagles. Photo: Peter Argent

Held in Adelaide, the 2016 AFL Draft had athletic talent Aaron Francis from the Riverland collected by Essendon at number six overall, while Millicent Saints lad Mason Redman also was secured by the Dees.

After starting in the junior grades at Alberton, Tumby Bay lad Luke Partington moved across to Norwood and was collected in the second round by West Coast.

In 2019 he returned to Glenelg and won a Magarey Medal in the Bays’ premiership season, being in a special club of two, with only George “Blue” Johnston to have achieved both in the same year back in 1934.

Perhaps to most unique journey out of grassroots football is Barossa District player Jack Madgen’s rise to AFL ranks.

He was secured by Collingwood in the 2018 Category B rookie selection from basketball, after not having played football for a number of seasons.

Back in 2010, Jack won the BLG Senior Colts media award (Barracker- Coop Footballer of the Year).

He would play Colts football in the morning, suit up and play for Roger James in the A grade in the afternoon and then go out and play hoops in the evening with the Eastern Mavericks in what we now call NBL1 basketball.

He then spent four years at Delta State College in Cleveland, Mississippi, excelling in its basketball program and gaining a marketing degree.

“Jack was always driven to get the most out of his natural sporting talents,” his coach at Barossa District, SA Football Hall of Famer Roger James said.

“His work ethic was outstanding and he had solid all-round skills to back that up.

“At A grade level, I asked Jack to ruck against some big and solid opponents we had in the BLG competition.

“He is a great young man, from a really good family with his parents, Deb and Gene, true salt-of-the-earth characters.”

After four years of American College basketball and a short stint with the Cairns Taipans, Madgen started at Collingwood, standing “Buddy” Franklin on debut.

Jack Magden in the ruck for Barossa District. Photo: Peter Argent

Two members of Melbourne’s premiership success this year, West Coast lad Harrison Petty (2017) and Tom Sparrow (2018), had come from rural clubs.

Sparrow hails from Bridgewater in the Hills, while Petty, who’s sister Hannah is an accomplished netballer, coming from Wudinna on the Eyre Peninsula and was playing both winter and summer sport against men.

Number five pick in the 2018 draft was a lad from the South Augusta Bulldogs, Connor Rozee.

In the 2019 second round selection were a couple of housemates, Mintaro-Manoora talent Harry Schoenberg and Lucindale lad Will Gould who became mates at Prince Alfred College.

Schoenberg is the grandson of Eudunda icon Greg Post.

A couple of lads from the Yorke Peninsula, who also shared a dwelling while studying at Henley High, were Bute’s Lachie Jones, who had a debut to remember with the Power this year, and Ardrossan’s Caleb Poulter, who took strong steps in his first year at Collingwood in ‘21.

Sydney Swans’ Will Gould playing for Glenelg in 2019. Photo: Peter Argent


2011 Draft

Rd          Pick no

1             6             Chad Wingard                   Sturt                     Port Adelaide

Priority 29           Alex Forster                       Norwood             Fremantle

2             46           Nicholas Joyce                  WWT Eagles       Adelaide

2             48           Jordan Murdoch              Glenelg                Geelong

3             58           Lachie Neale                      Glenelg                 Fremantle

3             66           Lincoln McCarthy             Glenelg                 Geelong

4             71           Cameron Sutcliffe            WWT Eagles       Fremantle


2011 Rookie Draft (effective the 2010 draft)

2             32           Jake von Bertouch           Woodville-West Torrens   Adelaide


2012 Draft

1             8             Sam Mayes                        North Adelaide                Brisbane Lions

2             28           Tim O’Brien                       Glenelg                                 Hawthorn

2             40           Brodie Murdoch               Glenelg                                 St Kilda

4             66           Kaiden Brand                    West Adelaide                   Hawthorn

4             77           Brad Hartman                   Sturt                                     Geelong


2012 Rookie Draft

2             34           Amos Frank                       WWT Eagles                       Hawthorn


2013 Draft

1             18           Luke Dunstan                     WWT Eagles                     St Kilda

2             31           Malcolm Karpany             WWT Eagles                     West Coast Eagles

2             32           George Hewett                 North Adelaide               Sydney

3             39           Cameron Giles                  WWT Eagles                      Carlton

3             42           Matt Fuller                         Norwood                          Western Bulldogs

3             46           Riley Knight                       WWT Eagles                      Adelaide


2013 Rookie Draft

1             3             Nathan Stark                     Glenelg                                 Melbourne

1             6             Nicholas Hayes                  WWT Eagles                       Brisbane Lions

2             19           Mitch Clisby                      North Adelaide                 Melbourne

2013 pre-season Draft

1             3             Sam Colquhoun                Central District                  Port Adelaide

1             8             Jack Hannath                    Central District                  Fremantle


2014 Draft

1             16           Sam Durdin                         West Adelaide                  North Melbourne

3             55           Dean Gore                         Sturt                                  Geelong    Hahndorf Magpies


2014 Rookie Draft

2             29           Sam Gray                           Port Adelaide                    Port Adelaide

3             35           Alexis Georgiou                 Melbourne                        Norwood

3             46           Zachary Bates                   West Adelaide                  Geelong


2015 Draft

1             6             Aaron Francis                    West Adelaide                  Essendon

2             28           Luke Partington                Norwood                          West Coast

2             30           Mason Redman                 Glenelg                             Essendon

4             56           Jordan Dawson                  Sturt                                   Sydney

4             62           Matthew Allen                 Glenelg                             West Coast

7             70           Matthew Hayball              West Adelaide                  Geelong


2015 Rookie Draft

2             27           Keenan Ramsey                Port Adelaide                    Adelaide

3             51           Johann Wagner                 Central District                 Port Adelaide (“The Recruit”)


2016 Draft


2016 Rookie Draft

1             3             Tom Keough                      West Adelaide                  Gold Coast

2             28           Cameron Hewett              North Adelaide                Port Adelaide

2             31           Jonathon Beech                West Adelaide                  Adelaide


2017 Draft

1             12           Darcy Fogarty                   Glenelg                 Adelaide

2             20           Callum Coleman-Jones Sturt                    Richmond

2             37           Harrison Petty                  Norwood            Melbourne

3             49           Jordan Houlahan              Sturt                     Essendon                 Mount Barker

4             59           Mitch Crowden                 Sturt                    Fremantle              Meadows

4             61           Dom Barry                           Glenelg                 Port Adelaide

4             66           Brandon Zerk-Thatcher Sturt                    Essendon


2017 Rookie Draft

2             20           Mitch Hinge                        Glenelg                 Brisbane Lions

3             42           Jarrod Lienert                   Sturt                     Port Adelaide

4             54           Toby Pink                           Glenelg               Sydney


2018 Draft

1             5            Connor Rozee                    North Adelaide                  Port Adelaide

1             14          Jackson Hately                  Central District                GWS Giants

1             23          Jez McLennan                   Central District                 Gold Coast

2             27          Tom Sparrow                    South Adelaide                 Melbourne

3             48          Ben Jarvis                          Norwood                          Geelong

3             50          Jacob Kennerley               Norwood                          Geelong

3             53          Aaron Nietschke               Central District                 Melbourne

5              76          Boyd Woodcock                North Adelaide                 Port Adelaide

2018 Category B rookie selections

Jack Madgen       Delta State University     Collingwood 3-year non-reg player (basketball)


2019 Draft

2            24            Harry Schoenberg            WWT Eagles            Adelaide

2              26           Will Gould                         Glenelg                     Sydney

3            50            Cameron Taheny              Norwood                 Geelong

5            65            Thomas Hutchesson       Adelaide                   Greater Western Sydney


2019 Rookie Draft


1             9            Tobin Cox                           Glenelg               Port Adelaide

1             15          Kade Chandler                   Norwood                Melbourne


2020 Draft

1             11          Luke Pedlar                       Glenelg                               Adelaide

1             16         Lachie Jones                       WWT Eagles                      Port Adelaide

1             25          Brayden Cook                  South Adelaide                 Adelaide

2             30          Caleb Poulter                    WWT Eagles                     Collingwood

3             44          Beau McCreery                South Adelaide                 Collingwood

4             59          Jacob Wehr                        WWT Eagles                     Greater Western Sydney

2020 Rookie Draft

1            14           Bradley Close                    Glenelg                                 Geelong

2021 Rookie Draft  

1             11         Lachlan McNeil                 WWT Eagles                    Western Bulldogs


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