On November 25 the AFL draft will occur at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney, where clubs will look to bolster their lists with some of the country’s best young talent. Sam Powell-Pepper, a strong-bodied midfielder from the East Perth Football Club in Western Australia, is one of the highly rated prospects and it is not hard to see why.
Within the past fortnight, he has produced two outstanding performances highlighting his potential. In the WAFL Colts Grand Final against Claremont, he almost inspired the Royals to a famous victory with 22 possessions, seven tackles and four goals. And in the inaugural U18s All Stars Match, he accumulated 18 possessions, laid five tackles and got the ball inside attacking 50 on four occasions to be named amongst the best for Team Judd.
The former Mt Hawthorn junior and Wesley College student has caught the eye of recruiters due to his courage, athleticism, versatility, his dare to run and carry, and his ball-winning ability.
“I model my game on players like Dustin Martin and Luke Parker I guess. Just being that crash and bash player and trying to get it out to the other mids and using that breakaway speed around the stoppages and in the forward line,” he said.
This was especially evident in the Under 18s Championships, with his performances against Vic Country (15 possessions and three goals), South Australia (13 possessions – 11 contested – and five clearances) and Vic Metro (14 possessions, four tackles and two clearances).
Another part of Powell-Pepper’s season that will have recruiters monitoring him closely in the lead-up to the draft was his performance for East Perth’s League team this year.
He made his debut against Peel Thunder in round 20 and was named in East Perth’s best players after gathering 16 possessions, laying seven tackles and kicking a goal. He played a further four games, and credits his time with the senior group.
“In that short period of time, playing the senior games I reckon it has improved my disposal and my decision-making. Just being around the bigger bodies and AFL-listed players has helped me quite a bit,” he said.
He also paid tribute to retiring East Perth greats Craig Wulff and Paul Johnson. “I remember when I was younger I was coming down to the East Perth games and watching Wulffy and playing alongside is a massive honour and he helped me a lot with my footy I guess, at training and on the field. Johnno was a good leader as well, always got around the boys. Both were really good role models.”
Powell-Pepper was one of seven West Australians – Sam Petrevski-Seton, Noah Hura, Josh Rotham, Luke Strnadica, Jeremy Goddard and Jake Waterman - to be a part of the AFL Academy and claimed he learnt “quite a few” lessons.
“I started off as a backman because I played back in the State 16s and Jakovich [Glen] helped me with a lot of my footy skills down back and Chris Johnson, was only there for a short period of time, but I still learnt leadership skills and dietary,” he said.
His performances while in the Academy did not go unnoticed and last year he was awarded the Cameron Ling Medal for being the most courageous, versatile and humorous player in the Level 1 AFL Academy intake.
“That medal is really special to me because a lot of good footballers have won it who are in the AFL at the moment [past winners include Lloyd Peris and Hugh Goddard]. It’s a big honour to win it and to be compared to Cameron Ling is a big honour as well,” he said.
There is no doubt that Powell-Pepper will be a welcome addition to any AFL club that is looking for a hardened and explosive midfielder. The sky is the limit for East Perth’s rising star.