RILEY Collier-Dawkins hasn't always been a big, ball-winning midfielder who leans on his size to rack up disposals.
It wasn't until a growth spurt in his 16th year – when he shot up about eight centimetres in the space of 12 months – that Collier-Dawkins had first call on the inside midfield role.
His new-found size took some getting used to this season, as he learnt ways to use his body at the stoppages and methods to make the most of his frame, and he was also used in the forward line while playing for Vic Metro at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.
Collier-Dawkins can show his talent in flashes. It can be a tough pick-up at ground level, or a spinning handball in the middle of traffic, or standing up in a tackle and feeding the ball out. A lot of his best work is done under pressure because he's busy when the ball's there to be won.
His finals series for the Oakleigh Chargers showed his ability as a tall and strong midfield option for clubs.
He started with 20 disposals and a goal against the Western Jets in the elimination final, before he kicked a goal from 26 disposals in the preliminary final against Gippsland Power and had 19 touches and booted 1.2 in the Grand Final loss to the Dandenong Stingrays. His clearance work, power, size and speed from the stoppage means he has some genuine AFL traits.
Until the finals series, Collier-Dawkins had been an inside midfielder who had struggled to amass bigger numbers of the ball – which in theory should be his go-to trick.
He also much prefers handballing than kicking – he handballed twice for every one of his kicks in the TAC Cup this season – so could probably better balance that and have more confidence in his kicking which can also be sharpened up.
Everyone looks at Carlton's Patrick Cripps as the player Collier-Dawkins should aspire to be. Cripps also went through a growth spurt in his teenage years before maturing into the commanding player he is now, but with their similar size and strengths, the likeness is obvious.
Collier-Dawkins has plenty of admirers in the first round of the NAB AFL Draft. Clubs looking to add to their midfield stocks, such as Greater Western Sydney, Port Adelaide, Adelaide and Richmond look likely to consider him with top-20 choices.
You're not looking at the finished product just yet with Collier-Dawkins, which is the exciting part. There's so much scope for development with the 18-year-old that he could blossom in a full-time environment. You don't have to look hard to see moments in the clinches that will translate to the way AFL is played.