Few draftees of this year's class have turned as many heads as 170cm Eastern Ranges forward Nick 'The Wizard' Watson.

The electric small forward has been on the draft radar since 2021, exciting onlookers with unmatched small forward craft and Tom Papley-esque on-field character.

Hailing from the East-Ringwood juniors and Rowville Sports Academy, Watson has always loved a goal and backs himself in a one-on-one battle with anyone, even kicking 12 majors as a 14-year-old standing one-out in the goal-square all game.

Making his Coates League debut in 2021 as a 16-year-old, Watson was prolific almost immediately, racking up 13 touches and two goals per game as a pure small forward punching well above his size and age.

He carried this form into 2022, kicking 18 goals from seven matches with the Ranges and featuring as a near two-goal-a-game bottom-ager for Vic Metro, all while gaining a near-cult social media following with countless Baseline Footy clips capturing the constant swagger and spectacle of his play at Caulfield Grammar.

He credits the professionalism of Metro teammates Will Ashcroft, George Wardlaw and Caulfield skipper Blake Drury for his development in 2022, learning leadership traits and work ethic before entering his draft year.

2023 brought about a change in style for the livewire forward, as he embraced more footy outside the forward 50, testing his abilities as a high-forward, midfielder and even as a running half-backman.

He averaged 20 disposals, four marks and still more than a goal per game in an adjusted role for this year's Ranges side, while entrenching his projected top five draft status with a stellar Metro campaign, booting 14 goals from just four matches in the U/18 National Championships.

He seemingly lacks for nothing as a small-forward talent. He has elite forward craft, creativity, speed, agility, game sense, ground-ball ability, footy IQ and a clear X-factor.

He's more than capable in the air also, relishing any chance to use his vertical leap to jump on packs and reel in a contested grab or present on the lead.

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His confidence is second to none, often taking it upon himself to win a game off his own boot or lift his team with a five-minute burst of brilliance.

He has an uncanny knack to read the play and make a fool of his direct opponent, needing only an inch to swoop on a play and split the middle in a flash.

He will likely become the most polarising player of this draft; a fan-favourite for whoever picks him, and the clear villain for any fanbase watching him provoke the crowd or rile up an opponent after a goal.

He can bring life to a match like a Tom Papley, Jack Ginnivan, Cody Weightman or Kysaiah Pickett, but like any developing small forward, may struggle to find the ability to consistently impact games sitting exclusively forward of centre.

Thus far, he has silenced every critic who cites his size when doubting his potential, but the footy world will watch with keen interest as Watson steps foot on the AFL scene.

Position: Small Forward
Height: 170cm
Weight: 68kg
State: Victoria
Club: East Ringwood

Strengths

Forward Craft
IQ
Match-Winning
Ball Use

Draft Range

Pick 2-7

Potential Landing Spots

North Melbourne (Picks 2+3)
Hawthorn (Pick 4)
Western Bulldogs (Pick 5)

AFL Comparison

Tom Papley
Cody Weightman
Jack Ginnivan

Expert comments

"An electric small forward with innate goal sense and elite ground level craft, Nick Watson makes up for what he lacks in size with pure footballing wizardry." - Rookie Me Central