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Champion, Mentha among best Indigenous draft prospects in 2024

Jackson Clark -

Western Australian livewire Malakai Champion and versatile Territorian Ricky Mentha have emerged early as the top Indigenous talents to keep an eye on for the 2024 AFL Draft.

Champion is a small forward who is coming off an excellent season in the West Australian Football League Colts competition after kicking 22 goals from 14 games as a bottom-aged player.

He averaged just under 15 disposals per game, while providing plenty of creativity and defensive pressure for Subiaco.

A member of West Coast's Next Generation Academy, Champion gathered 16 disposals in the U17 Futures game for Team Selwood.

Originally from Kalgoorlie in regional Western Australia, Champion was included in the AFL Academy squad that was announced late last year.

WA Football Commission State Talent Manager Adam Jones said at the time that his selection was 'significant recognition' for his ability.

"Generally the best 30 or so players nationally are selected each year by a panel with AFL recruiters and AFL Academy staff," Jones said.

"On average, around 85 per cent of players selected in national academies end up getting drafted.

"Malakai is a dangerous small forward who has electric speed which he used to apply pressure.

"His goal sense is outstanding, which makes him very good offensively and defensively."

Champion has been on the radar of AFL recruiters for a couple of years now after starring performances in the U16 National Championships, which led to his selection in the All-Australian team.

Alice Springs born Ricky Mentha is reaping the benefits of relocating to Victoria after an excellent season for Coates Talent League club Gippsland Power in 2023.

Ricky Mentha showed impressive signs for Gippsland Power in the Coates Talent League last year. (Image: DAEJ MEDIA)

Mentha – also in the AFL Academy – is described as a versatile prospect who can play up forward or in defence, utilising his athleticism and neat kicking skills.

He has previously impressed in the U16 National Championships with the Northern Territory and has spent time training with the Melbourne Demons this year.

Meanwhile, the AFL has asked clubs to suggest ways to increase the number of Indigenous players coming into the competition as part of its competitive balance review.

The AFL has also suggested that clubs could receive incentives for the development of Indigenous and multicultural players.

Four Indigenous players were selected last year's draft.

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