The Barlow Medalist: In Search of the next Mature Aged Rookie Superstar

It appears that just 13 games in 2010 was all it took for Fremantle’s Michael Barlow to drastically change the approach football managers take to AFL draft.

For those not familiar with the Barlow story. Michael Barlow was rookie listed by Fremantle after previously trying out for St Kilda and Essendon. Barlow didn’t play TAC Cup as a junior skipping the traditional “talent identification pathway” to play country football. In 2008/9 Barlow played in the VFL for Werribee where he was awarded the Fothergill-Round Medal as the league’s best young player and was runner up in the JJ Liston Trophy for the league’s best and fairest player. Debuting in the AFL at aged 22, Barlow quickly established himself a Dreamteam/real life superstar. In those 13 games with the Dockers in 2010, before Rhys Palmer intervened to shorten his season, Barlow averaged 109.8 which was the 8th highest that season. He only scored <90 twice and had a highest score of 146 against Collingwood no less. Best of all for Dreamteam owners he went from a bargain $105,800 to top out at $454,600 a profit of $348,800.

Combined with the impact of draft concessions to Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney, the Barlow Factor has seen Rookie Lists stocked with mature aged recruits with state league experience rather than raw development picks.

Why the glut of mature aged rookies? If/When you have an injury on your main list would you rather have a ready-made replacement who can play immediately or play a raw 17 year old who is 197cm and looks like he would snap in a tackle?

Football managers upgrading their list for 2012, and to a lesser extent to keep their jobs, are looking at players previously overlooked in the draft for a variety of reasons.

Why were these guys overlooked? Major injuries, height, speed, other sporting passions, focusing on school and a general lack of maturity are some of the responses newly mature aged draftees have outlined.

Recent success stories such as Barlow, James Podsiadly, Nick Duigan, Paul Puopolo, Ian Callinan, TendaiMzungu, Alex Silvagni, Michael Hibberd, Isacc Smith, Stewart Crameri and Zac Smith amongst others have given football departments the confidence to take a “Moneyball” type approach to draft previously underappreciated talents.

The Rising Star Award will always go to the new exciting players. So to recognise the most successful first year mature age rookie, the AFL should develop an award to be called, the Barlow Medal. To be eligible for the Barlow a player cannot have been on a AFL main list, sorry Jon Giles/Darren Pfieffer, prior to 2012 and has to be 20 years of age or older.

The potential Barlow Medallists are a mix of players on main and rookie lists, * denotes Rookie Listed and will need to be promoted to be eligible for Dreamteam.

Ahead of the NAB Cup, let’s review the top 10 Contenders for the 2012 Barlow Medal, in alphabetical order.

Stephen Clifton – Greater Western Sydney Giants. Midfielder – $121,800

24 year old midfielder who was GWS first pick in last year’s rookie draft and added to the main list in 2012. Stephen Clifton has strong Barlow pedigree, he won the JJ Liston Trophy for the best player in the VFL in 2010, was a three-time premiership player in the VFL with North Ballarat, the same team as Orren Stephenson, and won the club B&F in the 2010 premiership year. He had previously trained with North Melbourne without being added to the main list. An experienced, at least in age, player Clifton was the leader for GWS in the NEAFL last year, where he averaged 84 Dreamteam points. A tough inside midfielder, who won the first 3km time trial, Clifton kicked nearly a goal a game in the NEAFL. Sheedy has said he will play and has leadership/future coach qualities, only question is how much time he spends on the ground.

Reason not previously drafted: Unknown. Had elite TAC numbers in 2005.
Likely Dreamteam average: 70-75
Likely Week 1 Starter: 9/10
Likely Job security: Depends on how many players Sheedy wants to test out. Barring injury should play a major role in 2012.

Tory Dickson – Western Bulldogs. Forward – $98,700

Your thoughts on Shannon Grant will play a major role in whether you consider Tory Dickson. Picked 57 in last year’s main draft, Dickson was reunited with his Bendigo Bomber coach Grant. Grant’s reason for the pick, simply “he can play”. If you believe Shannon Grant, Dickson can play but who is he? Dickson is mature, physical forward who can pinch hit on the ball. He has switched between the VFL and suburban football, in 2009 he won the won the B&F for Frankston in the VFL in 2009.  In 2010 he kicked 112 goals for Noble Park before kicking 48 goals from 19 games for Bendigo in the VFL in 2011. He had a limited preseason with Bendigo coaching staff thinking he was operating at only 70 per cent in 2011. Until the draft he worked with his Dad, a prison builder, and as a personal trainer, Dickson is expected to benefit from full preseason. Intended role with the Bulldogs is a defensive half forward flank, which suits Dickson who has good size, an eye for goal and good clearance skills. Will compete withDjerrkura/Veszpremi for the departed Josh Hill’s time across half forward.

Reason not previously drafted: Elite Tennis junior who didn’t play TAC.
Likely Dreamteam average: 60-65
Likely Week 1 Starter: 5/10
Likely Job security: Grant and new Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney both worked with Dickson at Bendigo last year. Should get games it just depends if they are at the start of the season. Looms as a mid-season trade down target.

Sam Gibson – North Melbourne Kangaroos*. Midfielder – $85,800

Was Captain and Best and Fairest winner at Hawthorn VFL affiliate, Box Hill last season where he averaged 28 disposals as was top 3 league wide in disposals, kicks, marks and handball receives. His VFL stats equates to an average Dreamteam score of 107. Gibson has been described as inside/outside midfielderthat can go forward a kick a goal.  A civil engineer by trade, the rookie scale salary of $40,000 is big drop to which Gibson replied “Money’s not an issue for me. This is more about an opportunity. It’s something that you can’t really put a price on”. Now at 25, Gibson is ready to take that opportunity as he demonstrated by winning the clubs first 2km time trial. He has stated he is not there to make up the numbers and if he can perform like fellow Box Hill alum, Ed Curnow of Carlton, then Gibson will be a strong Barlow contender, he just needs to get promoted to the main list.

Reason not previously drafted: Was on Hawthorn’s rookie list from 2007/2009 but never performed strongly enough to force his way onto a premiership strength list.
Likely Dreamteam average: 75-80
Likely Week 1 Starter: 5/10
Likely Job security: Brad Scott played mature aged rookies, Cam Richardson and Cam Pedersen, last year.Neither had strong Dreamteam numbers or job security. Will Gibson, a midfielder, be different? The NAB Cup will tell but if he gets a chance wouldn’t expect him to lose it.

Kyal Horsley – Gold Coast Suns*. Mid – $119,800

Another 24 year old midfielder who finished second in the Sandover Medal, the WAFL’s B&F Award, playing for Subiaco last year. Originally from Kalgoorlie in outback WA, he didn’t move to Perth until age 20. Has played close to 100 league games, last year averaged 24 possessions and 3 tackles per game. Has a good kick to handball ratio of 1.8 kicks per handball, great for Dreamteam. Solidly built with a racking left foot, Horsely should slip right into the young Suns side. A plumber but trade should slot onto a half back flank and de-clog the Suns back line.

Reason not previously drafted: Played state hockey as a teen.
Likely Dreamteam average: 70-75
Likely Week 1 Starter: 5/10
Likely Job security: Horsley needs to beat out McQualter and Coad to get promoted.Will depend on injuries and solid NAB Cup.

James Magner – Melbourne Demons*.Midfielder – $85,800.

A tough inside midfielder, now aged 24, gets his crack in the AFL after several strong seasons in the VFL.

Last year, Magner led the VFL in disposals, contested possessions and clearances and won the Sandringham B&F. A tough, inside midfielder, Magner led the VFL in hard ball gets with 30 more than his nearest competitor as a result was mainly seen at the bottom of packs pumping out handballs. He has a handball kick ratio of nearly 1:1 only slightly higher than handball machine, Matt Priddis who is a strong comparison in terms of game style. Played in the VFL for Frankston and Sandringham where playing for the Saints affiliate, earned him invite to Saints pre-season training before Melbourne pounced. Magner is an elite endurance runner, whom Melbourne coaches feel is capable of a lock down role in 2012. AFL Prospectus gives him the biggest endorsement noting Magner is a lot like Barlow. Rookie listed will need a strong NAB Cup and injuries to be promoted.

Reason not previously drafted: Unknown “I started with Dandenong Stingrays and nothing happened after that”. Had strong junior stats, Magner calls himself a battler footballer.
Likely Dreamteam average: 70-75
Likely Week 1 Starter: 5/10
Likely Job security: Needs to beat out Thomas Couch and Dan Nicholson to get promoted. Seems likely mid-season trade down target.

Steven Morris – Richmond Tigers. Defender $104,200.

Steve Morris is a son of a gun. His dad Kevin Morris played in the Richmond premiership sides of 73/74. Morris was eligible as father/son pick 5 years ago but Richmond passed based on injuries and a lack of form. He trained at Richmond, Essendon, Collingwood and Melbourne without being picked up. Morris moved to SA and joined West Adelaide where he played in a variety of roles including forward, on ball, tagger before settling in across half back.

In those four years, Morris developed into one of the SANFL best defenders as shown by his inclusion in the 2011 SANFL Team of the Year. These accolades were based on a season where he averaged 18 disposals, worth 60 DT points. Morris is known for his attack on the ball, speed and shut down abilities. Only concern is the number of articles regarding poor kicking skills. Morris says he’s aware of this and hopes exposure to AFL coaching/preseason should improve his skills. This is still a concern for Dreamteam owners with Morris likely to play as the lock down back pocket with fellow recruit Brendon Ellis the playmaker off half back.

Reason not previously drafted: Injuries – ACL and stress fractures. Morris also claims he “just wasn’t quite good enough” at 18 to deserve father/son selection.
Likely Dreamteam average: 55-60
Likely Week 1 Starter: 8/10
Likely Job security: Richmond acquired Morris with a specific role in mind. Likely lock down small defender. Tigers have limited other options for this role, ieJeromeyWebberley. Will play but unlikely high scorer.

Sam Rowe – Carlton Blues. Ruck/Forward – $98,700.

Rowe is a 24 year old ruck/forward combo player ready to debut Round 1. At 198cm and 94kg Rowe says he understand what he need to succeed in his second AFL chance. Previously on the Swans rookie list in 2006/7, Rowe was delisted and moved to SA. For the past four years, Rowe has played in a Norwood side that contained fellow mature aged recruits, Nick Duigan, Paul Puopolo and Nick Lower. Their success in 2011, encouraged Carlton to take the plunge. If not for his carpentry apprenticeship would have been drafted last year. Rowe is considered a good kick and can take a contested mark. Averaged 13 disposals,15hitouts and just under a goal a game last season in the SANFL.

Reason not previously drafted: Was on Sydney Swans rookie list in 2006/7 without playing a game.
Likely Dreamteam average: 50/55
Likely Week 1 Starter: 8/10
Likely Job security: Kreuzer is tipped to play down forward this year with the number 1 ruck spot going to the injury prone Robbie Warnock. Rowe is competing with Mr Megan Gale, Shaun Hampson as the back up. Rowe is different in that he is more a forward that can ruck. Can see him playing alongside Kreuzer and Waite in the forward line and switching on the ball.

Ahmed Saad – St Kilda Saints. Forward – $115,800

Ahmed Saad has experienced a meteoric rise to AFL ranks. 6 years ago he took up AFL switching from soccer, 3 years ago he was playing B Grade suburban football and last year he starred for the Northern Bullants in the VFL winning, just like Barlow, the Fothergill-Round Medal as the league’s best young player. At just 175 cms, Saad impressed with his speed, ability to break tackles, forward pressure and goal kicking. Stats back that up as Saadkicked 49 goals in 20 games while applying 4 tackles per game. After BachourHouli, Saad will be only the second Muslim to play league football. Gave away a free kick a game the VFL last year, which should be a concern for Dreamteam owners.

Reason not previously drafted: Grew up in Egypt and didn’t play AFL until he was 16.
Likely Dreamteam average: 60-65
Likely Week 1 Starter: 6/10
Likely Job security: NAB Cup will be the key to understanding Scotty Watters structure. If Saints go with just Riewoldt and Kosi as key forwards, Saad fits into a small forward lineup with Schneider and Milne. If Beau Wilkes/Rhys Stanley play forward, Saad is likely to miss out.

Orren Stephenson – Geelong Cats. Ruck – $98,700

A 29 year old, ruckman who at 200cm/104kg is ready to play in the AFLnow. Originally from Wagga Wagga, Stephenson has been the dominate ruck in the VFL over the past few seasons. He has won the three VFL premierships playing for North Ballart, made four VFL teams of the year selections, twice played for Victoria and was best afield in the 2009 VFL Grand Final. Stephenson had previously trained with both Hawthorn and St Kilda without success. Was drafted on strong performances against a number of current/former AFL ruckman. Geelong plan to play him this year, only concern is has the potential to be a Mark Blake type, lots of hit outs and limited possessions.

Reason not previously drafted: Played rugby league growing up.
Likely Dreamteam average
: 60-65
Likely Week 1 Starter
: 9/10
Likely Job security: With Simpson’s out for 3 months, Vardy recovering from injury and Ottens/Cam Mooney retired, Stephenson only has to beat out Trent West for the Round 1 lead ruck spot.

DanyeZorko – Brisbane Lions. Forward/Midfield – $104,200

After being overlooked 12 times in the past 4 years, a more mature 22 year old Zorkofinally gets his chance with the Lions in 2012. A Syd Guildford Trophy as B&F in the NEAFL, best on ground for Queensland against WA and a fourth consecutive B&F were the results of a fully committed pre-season from Zorko in 2011. Despite his short stature,175cm, he kicked a number of Trent McKenzie styled goals from outside 50m last year. Should slot right into AFL were his pressure and goal kicking will be welcome additions to the Lions forward line. A 12 goal performance as a makeshift full forward in the QAFL in 2010 highlights the special talents, Zorko brings belatedly to the AFL in 2012.

Reason not previously drafted: By his own admission, didn’t have the maturity/discipline/fitness required to play AFL.
Likely Dreamteam average: 65-70
Likely Week 1 Starter: 9/10
Likely Job security: Lions have suggested they will use him in Todd Banfield forward line sport with Banfield moved to the midfield.

Honourable Mentions

Mark Baguley * – Essendon Bombers. Defender/Midfielder – $85,800. Age 24.

Described as Michael Hibberd Mark 2. Running half back who can break zones with his long kicking skills. Only problem is the original Hibberd is on the main Essendon list already.Averaged 88 points in VFL with Frankston last year.

Thomas Couch* – Melbourne Demons. Forward/Midfielder – $85,800. Age 23.

Son of 89 Brownlow winner Paul Couch, impressed incoming Demons coach Mark Neeld playing for Collingwood’s VFL side. Recruited for work at stoppages, where he wins clearances and makes tackles. Averaged 20 disposals, at a low kick/handball ratio in the VFL last year.Needs to beat out Dan Nicholson and James Magner to get promoted.

Israel Folau* – Greater Western Sydney Giants.Forward – $115,800.Age 22.

Priced higher due to the name recognition.NRL superstar, AFL scrub? Even though he is only on the rookie list, you know he will play. Likely Full Forward. Will contest, create forward line pressure and kick the odd goal. Unlikely DT scorer.

Brendan Lee *– Essendon Bombers.Midfielder $85,800.Age 24.

Averaged 29 disposals per game and 5 tackles last year playing for East Perth in the WAFL.This equates to 102 Dreamteam points per game. Tough inside midfielder.Crowded rookie list means he will need injuries to get promoted.

Lee Spurr* – Fremantle Dockers. Defender – $107,800.Age 24.

Was named to the half back flank in same SANFL team of the season as Steve Morris last year.Averaged 22 disposals playing for Central Districts.Had 11 disposals in the last quarter of the SANFL Grand Final, including a missed game winning snap. Utility who will get promoted based on injuries.

Aaron Hall – Gold Coast Suns. Forward – $98,700.Age 21.

Tassie boy who performed well for Hobart in the TSL. Settled in across half back but can also go forward. Had late growth spurt adding 25cm since 18 where he was only 160cm. Dad, Dale, was drafted by the Swans in 1990.

The rest of the mature aged guys can be broken down into a few categories.

Goal kicking small forwards

  • Corey Dell’olio* – Essendon. Forward – $85,800
  • Rhys Cooyou* – Greater Western Sydney. Forward – $119,800.
  • Terry Milera – St Kilda. Forward – $115,800.
  • Tim McIntyre* – Adelaide. Forward/Mid – $85,800.
  • Cameron Shenton*- St Kilda. Fwd/Mid – $85,800.

Key forward prospect

  • Leigh Williams*– Melbourne. $85,800.


  • Josh Jenkins – Adelaide. Ruck – $104,200.
  • Ben Dowell* Adelaide. Ruck – $98,700.

Key defender prospects

  • Tim Mohr – Greater Western Sydney. Defender – $115,800.
  • Nathan Blee – Port. Defender – $98,700.
  • Tim Segrave*– Greater Western Sydney. Defender – $104,200.
  • Brad Mangan* – North Melbourne. Defender – $85,800.

Run with midfielders

  • Stephen Wrigley* – Brisbane. Defender -$85,800.
  • Jackson Sheringham* – Geelong. Mid – $85,800.
  • Tom Bell – Carlton. Defender – $95,800.
  • Shane Biggs* – Sydney. Mid – $98,700
  • Sam Dunell*- St Kilda.  Mid – $99,800

Non-traditional pathways

  • Mark Blicavs* Geelong. Mid – $85,800.
    Will join the Cats after competing at the London Olympics in the steeplechase. Hasn’t played footy since 14. Runs the 3km time trial a minute and a half faster than 2011 rookie winner Brad Hill.
  • Amos Frank* – Hawthorn.Forward- $85,800.
    From remote north South Australia, played one reserves SANFL game and went to the combine testing. At the testing he broke Patrick Dangerfield’s all time draft 20 metre sprint record.

By Damian Stone


  • flying first

  • Awesome article! Been waiting for something like this for a while.

  • great article. almost too good – spoilt for too much info these days……

  • Brilliant Article. Thanks!

  • Kudos Damian- a brilliant, most informative article INDEED!!!

  • Mate, you could sell this information!

    Thanks, cheers, I owe ya’ one!

  • Good article. Spewing to see some of the gems from the prospectus have been unearthed allready though :(

  • These articles keep flowing to such a high standard…Warnie you sure you haven’t got a couple of journo’s on payroll?

  • Fantastic article. So much research and time must have been spent on it. Although I have most of these on my radar, there are a few I hadn’t really considered. Again, so impressed. Well done.

  • Great article, a lot of names to watch in the nab cup

  • Great article mate :)

  • Awesome Info. Will be watching all these guys during the nab.

    Anyone got any info on the that Fan Show youtube clip?. Is that a new show coming up this year? or is it old?. Ive never heard of it before.

  • Will be keeping a close eye on rookie elevations. Bring on NAB cup!

  • feathertopDT

    Sam Rowe had a slight injury at a Carlton training session should still be good to go for the NAB cup though

  • GREAT ARTICLE WARNIE, i reckon sam gibson or Stephen Clifton

  • Tory Dickson is now into my rookie calculations

  • Geez Ed Curnow’s shoulder was heavily strapped at training! If he gets going though, he could be a beauty.

  • Great article! Already had trouble fitting all the good rookies in my midfield. Looks like I need to add a couple more names to the list!!! Bring on NAB Cup!

  • cool, thanks for that!!

    does pfieffer rate a mention? he is right up there on my radar, does he still count as one of these?

  • Brilliant article!, Gibson could be handy down back

  • Now that I’ve had a chance to read the article properly, GREAT write up Damien. I’ve had Clifton, Horsley and the Big O on my radar for a while, but now I definitely have a few more – Gibson & Magners (could definitely fit a priddis in my team for 86k!). My thinking on Saad is he might be groomed to replace Milne (32 this year) and be a late season downgrade with Saints looking to 2013

  • Stephen Clifton, Zorko and Stephenson as locked as Ablett, Franklin and Goddard.

  • Clearly this year we are lacking some clear cut rookie choices. The fact that GWS essentially grabbed a butchers fridge full of fresh meat has left us with only offcuts and offel.

    It seems that we have a year where the “mid-pricer” strategy might bear DT fruit.

  • Great article Damian. I hope you don’t mind me adding one more to your great list – Sierakowski, a Hawks rookie, was chased surprisingly hard by the Kangas. He turns 22 this year and from memory is listed as a defender. Big NAB cup watch on him.

  • Great article… just what is needed before the 1st of Feb and NAB cup! Loving it!

  • Excellent summary article with a lot of gems in the detail. Thanks.

  • No mention of Darren Pfeiffer smashed it up in the sanfl last year and should get a chance at port

  • Being the brilliant article it is, you’ve missed the bit where it says, “to be eligible for the Barlow, a player
    can not have been on an AFL main list, sorry Jon Giles/Darren Pfeiffer…..

  • ahh haaa makes sense!

    how about miles then? no body is talking about him but he smashed it numbers wise last year..better than clifton!

    • true..Clifton has a few years on Miles though, bigger body and JJ Liston trophy winner

  • i have moved on mate ,and i never had an issue with rainman to begin with,he wasnt worried at all by what i was other sooks who had a go at me,and wcarey did ask them to ban me ,so he was one of them .but i wasnt worried about them sorts of comments its all good fun..i mixed him up with the drip that said ‘the sadest thing he heard was that i bred’..thats all so wcarey still did but in on an argument that not only wasnt his ,but wasnt one at all,which is exactly what u r doing eepobreci

    but if the ban him comment wasnt directed at me wcarey,then sorry again
    and ya spot on rainman,i cant wait since im one of the idiots who didnt buy assit coach last yr ,so cmon feb
    on another note its a pity supercoach couldnt come up with a different set up than dt this yr instead of copying them exactly,would of been a good chance for them to run the fixtures different,ie start head to head from rnd 1,it would of separated the two,they missed a chance to do something better than dt for once,,either way dreamteam is king,,but the 3 byes this yr is a fk up,and sc doing the same is aswell

    • DT and SC are run by the same company (Virtual Sports). So they will always follow each other with rules for how the game is played.

      • their following themselves then,,id of thought theyd be better off mixing it up a bit more than just the scoring and salary cap..but no biggy

    • I understand, just got a bit much, that’s all. (-:

      Tuppy, why don’t you use the FanPlanner @, is user friendly and even shows players byes.
      Anyway, 3 days to go!
      Atleast you haven’t fried your brain over team selection like the rest of us! (-;
      Good luck!

      • ye iv mukd around a bit on fanplanner ,but you know how it is its just not the same..but like u said i would of just fried my brain by now,,i did last yr starting the same time as everyone else haha :)

    • sooooooo, tempting…it’s almost too easy, but where to start?

      Ahhh, it’d only be a waste of time.

  • dont know why my replies arent going under the posts that their meant too ?

    • It’s because you’re not over it yet.

      • pfft who!! isnt ? ,sht u blokes must have went to a diff school than me ,if ya had u wouldnt be so eager to jump into other peoples business ,but i spoz the keyboard has done that for alot of warriors out there

  • Thanks for the positive feedback to the article everyone.

    Anyone got any questions on a particular player?

    I think the mature aged guys will play a major role this year. GWS will play all the kids but you have to worry how many points will they score. Given the byes, you wouldnt want more than 3-4 in your team. You just have the pick the ones that are the safest bets – Clifton, Shields, McDonald.

    Suns second year guys are overpriced, so the game ready mature recruits will play a major role in everyones team. They are $20 grand cheaper, which will net you $40 grand extra in cash increases over $104,000 grand rookies. From a cash cow and points perspective these guys will make or break a number of team, especially mine.

    I am treating these guys like lottery tickets, buy 4-5 hope two pay off in a Barlow type way. Zorko, Stephensen, Gibson and Magner are in my working draft team. With Couch and Baguley as cheap DPP options being considered. Hope respective list managers do us all a few favours and promote these guys.

  • Spurr should be a gun this year, but I do wonder if Freo will continue pumping out Barlow & Silvagni’s now that Harveys out & Lyons inthe coaches box..
    Coz the St Kilda under Lyon was never really too flash in the rookie stakes! Can’t think of many that got a decent run, & certainly not many that came off the rookie list.

    • hopefully that was just because none were any good..freo have been pretty good at finding them lately ,so maybe he will give a few a run

  • Sam Gibson… Will play rnd 1 & 2 and make way for captain jack :)
    Oh the pain… Ahhh the dream!

  • Fantastic write up!!!! Great stuff!!!