Fantastic five: Rays win big at Draft

Judson Clarke,Mac Andrew and Miller Bergman 259753. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Tyler Lewis

Four of the Dandenong Stingrays’ best realised a childhood dream across Wednesday and Thursday’s AFL Draft.

Stingrays head-coach Nick Cox spoke to Star News Group ahead of the draft and outlined what each of his best prospects can bring to AFL level.

Mac Andrew was the first Ray to hear his name called, selected at Pick 5 to the Gold Coast Suns.

“He’s got the ability to get the ball back with his marking power that is only going to improve when he puts on a bit of size as well,” Cox said.

“He could be one of the better players in the draft, longevity wise.

“Once it’s on the deck he can become that extra midfielder.

“Not many people like that come around too often.”

Connor MacDonald was the second Stingray to be selected, going to the Hawthorn Football Club at Pick 26.

Cox praised MacDonald’s improvement in his weaknesses this year, while also revealing what makes him so appealing to the Hawks.

“He just keeps turning up wherever he plays,” Cox said.

“Whether that bet at Vic Country, Haileybury or the Stingrays, he just keeps turning up and performing.

“If you said to me ‘what is his trait that separates him from someone else?’ it is quite simplistic, but it’s that.

“His inside work is pretty good, his ability to read hands is great as well, and he has the next string to his bow as well, by going forward. He will be a great asset wherever he goes.

“He makes others look better”.

Small-forward Judson ‘Juddy’ Clarke was the third Stingray to be selected and the second Berwick listed player (Andrew the first), going to Richmond at Pick 30.

Clarke had the ability to roll into the midfield for the Dandenong side this year, but at AFL level Cox believes his ability to hit the scoreboard and weave his way out of trouble that will hold him in good stead.

“His agility is top notch, his ability to use the ball and hurt teams with his kicking (as well),” Cox said.

“He has pure pace too, he adds another dynamic with his pace.

“He has been touted as a small forward, but he can pinch-hit in the midfield which he’s worked really hard on.

“There are a few assets (that appeal to AFL clubs), not just one, that’s the pleasing thing for Judson.”

Miller Bergman became the third Berwick Football Club product to be selected and the penultimate Stingray when North Melbourne selected the beaming half-back with Pick 38.

Cox described him in one word as “class”, but he had a lot more praise for the prospect likened to Lachie Whitfield and Bailey Dale.

“You can’t buy talent, (and) he’s got it,” Cox said.

“His ability to hurt sides is something that will be pivotal going forward for AFL sides.

“There is a lot like him (at AFL level). He competes well enough to get the ball back and when he gets the ball on the outside, he hurts teams with his kicking, like Bailey Dale does.”

The final Stingray to go was Josiah Kyle – the Next Generation Academy prospect with St Kilda – going through to the Saints in the final day of the draft.

While he was a player that didn’t benefit from the break at all after a slow start, Cox is fully aware of Kyle’s potential and ability to fill a highlight reel.

“He probably has the most talent on our list; he just needs to put it together more consistently,” Cox said.

“He has some traits that are just, unbelievable.

“I think in a full-time system, he will definitely develop.”

Many Stingrays missed out on being selected, but some will return for a mature age year and others will pursue the state league avenue.