By Sam Watson
POOWONG junior product, Jai Newcombe is all but guaranteed to earn a spot on an AFL list in Wednesday’s mid-season rookie draft.
Newcombe, 19, is in his first year at Box Hill in the VFL and he’s been flourishing under AFL legend Sam Mitchell.
After six games in brown and gold, the midfielder is averaging 23 disposals, seven tackles and five-and-a-half marks.
Interestingly, Newcombe is the only player nominated for the draft under ‘other terms’.
These ‘other terms’ likely mean the former Poowong Magpie will be staying in brown and gold. He initially nominated on contract terms of six or 18 months, but when the third list of nominees was released, it was changed to other terms.
These contract terms are believed to be a three-year deal that would see him earn north of $150,000 in the second year.
It will likely ensure he will find his way to Hawthorn, as other clubs may not have room in their salary cap. This prompted Sydney, on behalf of many other angered clubs, to ask the AFL to review its mid-season draft nomination rules.
The AFL has not publicly responded to the complaints.
Hawthorn was expected to make two selections in the mid-season draft, but coach Alistair Clarkson said they would only make one draft pick.
And it would be a pick that would be ready to make an immediate impact at AFL level, hinting that Newcombe, who was a Hawks fan growing up, is their man.
The elite skills, hard tackling, goal kicking nous and courageous marking of Newcombe will hopefully get him a game in Hawthorn’s struggling 22.
It would be a huge turnaround for the youngster, who couldn’t secure a spot on Gippsland Power’s list as a 16, 17 or 18 year-old.
He did manage to get on the list as a 19-year-old in 2020, but COVID spelled the end of his short time on the NAB League team.