“One of rarest things that a man ever does is to do the best he can.”

– Josh Billings (pen name of Henry Wheeler Shaw)

HJ MitchellI was 10 years old when on 17th December 1967 at Cheviot Beach, Portsea as a boy scout on a weekend camp; fate dictated our group would be near the spot of the disappearance of the Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt. I will always remember the impact of that day, not least of which was witnessing for the first time helicopters flying around above me.

Forward 38 years and I’m again involved with 10 year olds coaching my son’s U10 football team. Little did I know that four members of that team would go on to become AFL draftees – Luke McDonald, Jack Billings in 2013 and Jack Sinclair, Hugh Beasley in 2014. Another AFL draftee (Jay Kennedy-Harris 2013) joined this junior team in U14s after becoming friends with Luke.

Five AFL draftees from the one junior football team. I reckon that has to be some sort of record. Our U10s lost the Grand Final and then went on to win three consecutive premierships. One of the boys’ favourite training drills was handballing around a 20m square both ways. Players would line up in equal numbers at each point of the square and start with one player handballing to a players moving off laterally from the next point of the square who would then handball to the next moving player and so on. Then a second ball would be introduced going in the opposite direction. Then a third going the other way. Then a fourth. The record was fifteen balls with 24 players.

I remember Luke’s Dad, Donald, arranging for 3 North Melbourne players to come down to training one night. Glenn Archer was one of them. He stood and watched the boys do their handball drill mesmerised. He told me there was no way his playing group could do that drill so cleanly and quickly.

Anyway, enough of the background. If Luke McDonald was a racehorse, his breeding would be attractive to buyers. His old man, Donald, played 155 games for North Melbourne, coached Werribee (VFL) to a premiership in 1993, coached Box Hill Hawks (VFL) to a premiership in 2001, and coached Hawthorn for 4 games in 2004 after Peter Schwab was sacked. An impressive pedigree but there’s been plenty of racehorses and footballers that have never emulated or bettered the feats of their lineage.

Fierceness, a ruthless approach, undiminished hunger for the contest and a relentless application to the task are traits that rarely seem to be genetic. In horseracing parlance, it is sometimes referred to as ‘having a heart the size of Phar Lap’. Luke McDonald is the most competitive football player I have coached or seen in junior football over 10+ years.

Luke McDonald’s attitude defines him as much as anything else. He’s a competitor in everything he does: he likes stopping opponents as a defender, and he just as much enjoys running off them, taking a few bounces and skipping up the ground. He has some breakaway speed, good aerobic ability, and he’s trusted with the ball. In 2013, he starred in his Werribee VFL debut with 27 disposals, then went through a quiet patch but hit form at the back-end of the year in the VFL finals, when he averaged 25 disposals across Werribee’s three games. He’s a good size to play in a few roles, is a nice mark, and plays well when it matters. He’s also a leader – he captained Vic Metro in 2013.

And I couldn’t help putting in a quote at the top from a Billings. Luke and Jack are best mates and Luke is one of that rare breed who always does the best he can.

2015 Price: $354,800
2015 Position: DEF
Games last season: 20 (+3 Finals)
Average last season: 66
100+ games last season: 0
Sub 80 games last season: 14
Price range last season: $182K – $305k
Missed games last season: 3 (rounds 8, 17 & 23)
Significant history: Drafted at pick 8 in the 2013 national draft (father-son selection)
Under 18 All Australian 2012 & 2013 (Captain)
Son of Donald McDonald (155 games for North Melbourne)
Ranked 1st amongst 2014 rising stars in Total Kicks
Ranked 1st amongst 2014 rising stars in Total Uncontested Possessions
Ranked 1st amongst 2014 rising stars in Total Rebound 50s
Ranked 1st amongst 2015 rising stars in Total Effective Disposals
3rd in 2014 NAB AFL Rising Star Award

CLICK HERE FOR ALL OF OUR SUPERCOACH 2015 PLAYER PREVIEWS

Luke’s first AFL season this year was a good learning experience for him. His consistency was impressive, registering double-figure disposals in every appearance. He wore the vest once in Round 7, missed one game with a virus (Round 17) and was rested in the final round.

A further indication of his competitiveness is that his best games were arguably in the Kangaroos’ three finals appearances.

RISK FACTOR

I have no doubt that Luke McDonald, barring mishaps, will be a 200+ game player. He’s one of those particularly valuable players that thrive on work, thrive on challenges, and thrive on pressure.

He is a mid-pricer and I doubt whether he will retain DPP in 2015 – not that I think it matters with him holding down a HBF.

SELECTION PURPOSE

Continued improvement should see Luke increase his SC points and he should be considered as a member of your defence as the Roos should be up in the top third next year.

THE GOOD

  • He’s already shown consistency in games played and stats.
  • He will have got a lot of confidence out of his first season.
  • Nothing but upside.

THE DOWNSIDE

  • He hasn’t posted a ton in SuperCoach yet but that’s only a matter of time.

THE VERDICT

Luke McDonald is definitely in my defender’s mix. How the Kangaroos perform and sort their line up out in the practise rounds will determine where I put him.

Watch

What’s your call on Luke McDonald in 2015?

HJ_Mitch

Twitter: @HJ_Mitch

 

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12 Comments

General Soreness · 18/12/2014 at 10:01

Thanks HJ Mitch for the insights into a young Luke and his character. I wouldn't even had considered this bloke but for this write up and more importantly his character. Whilst he seemed a competitor in the games I saw him it is great to know that it is ingrained in his DNA that coupled with some decent skills generally makes for you better than the norm footballer. He is now elevated high on the watchlist for Def position given the absence of clear choice there I may just roll the dice. Again fantastic work.

@TG_Footy_Tragic · 18/12/2014 at 10:14

Great Piece HJ!

Loved the history and your POV on his junior years.
Definitely on the DEF watch-list, especially now that a lot of our trusted premiums have lost their DEF link.

Kev · 18/12/2014 at 10:17

Top write up, HJ Mitch. Looking at his raw stats, McDonald is a bit of an interesting one. He averaged nearly 17 possessions (5 of those contested) at 75.8 DE%, along with 3.7 marks from 81.8% TOG. They are pretty healthy stats for a first year player, yet he only averaged 66.

Not having seen many North games in 2014, methinks he needs to bridge that gap between this best and worst. SC scoring being the way it is, a second preseason under his belt will do him good to run out games and also influence them when they are on the line.

Not a lot of value in defence this year, so I'll be looking at quite a few mid pricers. On the watchlist

throttlefinger · 18/12/2014 at 10:42

Bravo HJ! That was so as enjoyable and well balanced in player background and SC insight that I have read. Watched quite a few Roos gams and thought Luke handled himself well. Think one of the early games he made a horrible turnover that resulted in a goal. Instead of sulking, he went back more aggressively, not backing down. Showed me much. Not sure he's SC relevant now, but I think he will be next season. This season he'll just be fun to watch. Again, great write-up!

    jockreynolds · 18/12/2014 at 21:16

    Throtts – I saw that early clanger as well, he made a few howlers in his first quarter or so. But even that day I remember being impressed with how he composed himself and got on with the job. I reckon he has something this kid. Like you – will bloody enjoy watching him this season

WombatsFC · 18/12/2014 at 12:29

Great piece HJ but, 2nd year defender @ 300k he's not on my radar unless he stars in the midfield during NAB. he aint no Ollie Wines

Itchy Nuts Pieman · 18/12/2014 at 13:09

Fascinating HJ. That's one hell of a team you had at your disposal. Really terrific insight into the kid. If he comes in at 300k I think youv'e made a solid case for value. I'll be keeping an eye on him. 23 games in his first season is a huge tick. Well done again.

phil · 18/12/2014 at 13:46

You must of read my mind Mitch!!! I started thinking about Luke (and also KK from Suns) just yesterday and will be watching the 2 very closely over the pre-season. Your brilliant review has increased my interest. Defenders are gonna be very hard to choose this year. With most people looking towards players like Waters, proven but injury prone, I'm starting to think you would be better off going one of these 2nd year early draft picks down there…….
One things for sure they will average more next year purely down to natural improvement. How much more, thats the question. Probably needs to be 90+

Tman · 18/12/2014 at 15:53

They just released the 2015 positions for sc or at least some of them.
http://www.foxsports.com.au/afl/afl-premiership/s

    jockreynolds · 18/12/2014 at 21:09

    Huge day of news Tman! Huge. Deledio.. Swan.. Floggard.. Bennell.. suddenly the old FWD line looks a goer!

jockreynolds · 18/12/2014 at 21:10

What an eye opener Mitch! Must say before reading this I has as much chance of selecting Lukey Mac as a one armed wood chopper – but with the news out today about the all the cream losing their MID/DEF DPP – who knows? I like this kid as well. Fantastic read old son

Hazey · 18/12/2014 at 22:06

Here’s hoping he isn’t left to burn by his more experienced team mates…. One out in the square against Chapman, Goddard, Hodge, Bartel n others in yr first season….eek!

Comments are closed.