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LOOKING AT FALCONS AFL PLAYERS IN 2016 AHEAD OF DRAFT

Thursday, November 24, 2016 - 2:22 PM by Chris Pike
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AHEAD of Friday's 2016 NAB Draft where West Perth players look set to feature, it provide a good chance to reflect on the Falcons players currently in the AFL set up.

The 2016 National Draft will take place in Sydney on Friday with Josh Rotham and Liam Baker looking set to become the latest West Perth products to enter the AFL system.

Meanwhile, Marcus Adams showed that he could have a long career ahead as the most recent draftee to make his mark from West Perth in the AFL while a favourite son called time on an outstanding career.

Adams was drafted by the Western Bulldogs at the end of 2015 and while injury meant he missed the drought breaking premiership, he played some strong AFL football to become the latest West Perth product to make his mark.

Former Adelaide captain Nathan van Berlo announced his retirement to close 2016 while fellow Falcons products Mark LeCras, Jack Darling, Bradley Hill, Stephen Hill, Rohan Bewick, Mark Hutchings, Blake Acres and Nick Robertson all had strong seasons in the AFL as well.

West Perth continue to be one of the strongest producers of talent that go on to significant AFL careers.

It is a tremendous credit to West Perth that the players drafted from the club have a good strike rate of going on to long careers. Since 1988, West Perth has produced two players to play 200 AFL games or more and another 10 to make it to 100.

That doesn’t take into account Paul Symmons who played 99 AFL games while LeCras and Stephen Hill are now approaching 200, and Bradley Hill and Bewick the century mark.

Adams came to West Perth in 2014 after originally starting his WAFL career at Swan Districts, but then taking time out of the system. But he arrived at the Falcons and had a good first season firstly up forward, but then finding his feet down back.

He then delivered a standout 2015 season as a key defender that led to his drafting to the Western Bulldogs. With them crying out for a defender, he quickly found his feet playing 11 games before a foot injury saw him lose his place.

While he didn’t get back in for the Grand Final victory, he showed he is a more than capable AFL player and has a good future ahead of him with the Bulldogs.

Van Berlo's outstanding career with Adelaide came to an end in 2015. After being drafted from West Perth in 2004, he had a tremendous time with the Crows with his reputation only growing in his years as captain.

In total, he played 205 games with Adelaide but just three of those came in 2016. But he is settled in Adelaide and has been appointed to a development coaching role in 2017 meaning the West Perth dream of the three van Berlo players coming together won't eventuate.

LeCras was taken in the same draft as van Berlo, and he had another solid season with West Coast in 2016 playing 23 games and kicking 38 goals, including the elimination final loss to the Western Bulldogs at Domain Stadium.

The 30-year-old has now played 177 AFL games and kicked 377 goals for the Eagles.

LeCras' forward-line teammate at West Coast, Darling also had another solid campaign in 2016 playing 23 games and kicking 44 goals.

Another Eagle, Hutchings continues to make the most of his second chance in the AFL that came after he returned to West Perth from his time with St Kilda. After helping West Perth to the 2013 WAFL premiership, he has continued to step up in West Coast's midfield.

In 2016, he played another 18 games and has now earned another contract to continue his AFL career.

Bewick is another West Perth product who has a secure future having just re-signed with his AFL club which should see him become at least a 100-game player with the Brisbane Lions.

Bewick has continued to be a solid performer largely at half-forward for Brisbane and played another 14 matches in 2016 before re-signing to continue for at least another two years.

Robertson continued to be a teammate of Bewick's at Brisbane and added another six games in 2016 to take his career total to 26.

Acres was taken in the 2013 National Draft along with Robertson and he has now played 26 matches with St Kilda in the last three years, including 16 in 2016 in the best season of his career.

Stephen Hill had another strong season for Fremantle in 2016 playing 21 matches and finishing runner-up in best and fairest voting behind Lachie Neale.

Younger brother Bradley also played well with Hawthorn with another 20 games to take his career tally to 95. But once the season was over he requested to return home to Perth and was granted his wish to join the Dockers.

That will see the brothers join forces together with Fremantle from 2017 onwards and it's something Bradley can't wait for.

"I had a little chat to my manager and said that I was thinking of coming back home and playing with my brother," Bradley Hill said.

"I didn’t know if it would happen this year because obviously I was still a contracted player to Hawthorn. But I was pretty excited to come across.

"We now have to focus on pre-season first and then we'll get to Round 1. We don’t know what's going to happen but hopefully we have a good season."

Those players are continuing West Perth's strong history of providing AFL stars. It began when Craig Turley was the first Falcons player drafted in 1988 and he went on to play 131 games with both West Coast and Melbourne.

Then there have been the likes of Todd Curley (115 games, Western Bulldogs), Mark Merenda (101, West Coast/Richmond), Justin Longmuir (139, Fremantle), Mark Seaby (115, West Coast/Sydney), Quinten Lynch (227, West Coast/Collingwood), Kepler Bradley (117, Essendon/Fremantle) and Michael Pettigrew (103, Port Adelaide) who have all made 100-plus AFL appearances.

PLAYER            CLUB            YEAR    AFL GAMES    
Craig Turley        West Coast        1988    131    
Dennis Repacholi    Western Bulldogs    1989    0    
Brad Gwilliam        West Coast        1989    8    
Derek Hall        West Coast        1990    76    
Todd Curley        Collingwood        1991    118    
Paul Symmons        West Coast        1992    99    
Brady Leckie        Richmond        1992    0    
Mark Merenda        Richmond        1993    101    
Ashley Blurton        West Coast        1994    24    
Ian Downsborough    West Coast        1994    39    
Ryan Smith        Fremantle        1994    0    
Neil Mildenhall        Fremantle        1994    7    
Brendon Fewster    West Coast        1995    70    
Craig Smoker        West Coast        1995    17    
Paul Whitelaw        West Coast        1995    0    
Darren O'Brien        Melbourne        1995    24    
Steven Koops        Fremantle        1995    89    
Martin Whitelaw    Fremantle        1995    1    
Brendon Logan        Adelaide        1996    0    
Troy Longmuir        Melbourne        1997    83    
Ryan Webb        West Coast        1997    0#
Justin Longmuir        Fremantle        1998    139    
Clayton Lasscock    North Melbourne    1999    0    
Simon Duckworth    West Coast        1999    0#
Mark Pearson        West Coast        1999    0#
Wayde Skipper        Western Bulldogs    2000    60    
Mark Seaby        West Coast        2001    115    
Digby Morrell        North Melbourne    2001    72#
Quinten Lynch        West Coast        2002    227#
Kepler Bradley        Essendon        2003    117    
Michael Pettigrew    Port Adelaide        2003    103    
Brent LeCras        North Melbourne    2003    6    
Nathan van Berlo    Adelaide        2004    205*
Mark LeCras        West Coast        2004    177*
Max Bailey        Hawthorn        2005    43    
Steven Browne        Carlton            2007    23    
Josh Smith        North Melbourne    2007    11    
Stephen Hill        Fremantle        2008    172*
Jay van Berlo        Fremantle        2009    32#
Jack Darling        West Coast        2010    128*
Rohan Bewick        Brisbane Lions        2010    92*
Andrew Strijk        West Coast        2010    13#
Josh Donaldson        Carlton            2010    0#
Bradley Hill        Hawthorn        2011    95*
Jordan Lockyer        Sydney            2011    0    
Mark Hutchings        West Coast        2012    56*
Blake Acres        St Kilda            2013    26*
Nick Robertson        Brisbane Lions        2013    26*
Marcus Adams        Western Bulldogs    2015    11*
                
* Currently playing                
# Rookie-listed