Exciting Essendon Next Generation Academy player Anthony Munkara could slip through the Bombers' grasp at this year's National Draft as the highly-rated forward continues to strengthen his prospects in 2022.
The Tiwi Islands teenager was a highlight in the AFL Academy U18's side on Saturday, with the leading draft prospects for this year on display against Collingwood's VFL outfit in Frankston.
Last year's AFL Academy squad saw 25 of 29 squad members drafted into the AFL last November, with this year's intake likely to see a similar trend.
Oakleigh Chargers midfielder and potential No.1 pick George Wardlaw was crowned best afield for the Academy in the 22-point loss, while Geelong Falcons ball-magnet Jhye Clark and potential Brisbane father-son selection Will Ashcroft were also prominent.
Munkara was another that had his range of traits on display, moving through the middle and in attack with his precision passing and agility.
The Northern Territory representative's performance adds to a promising year ahead of the National Draft, something the Bombers will be watching on with caution.
Munkara's journey could be similar to that of Gold Coast rookie Mac Andrew, who landed at Pick 5 of last year's National Draft as a graduate of Melbourne's Next Generation Academy after a year that saw the versatile tall sky rocket up the draft standings.
The AFL introduced restrictions on matching Academy bids on the first 20 selections last year, seeing Andrew out of reach for the premiers.
With the AFL's cut-off for Academy-matched bids moving back to after Pick 40 this year, the Bombers are unlikely to have the power to pluck Munkara from a rival club's selection.
The West Adelaide forward is framing as a potential first-round option and might be well out of reach for Ben Rutten and Adrian Dodoro.
The Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne and Collingwood are among the clubs that reaped the rewards of eligible early Academy bids prior to last year's introduced cut-off, having swooped on Jamarra Ugle_hagan (Pick 1, 2020), Tarryn Thomas (Pick 8, 2018) and Isaac Quaynor (Pick 13, 2018) respectively.
Munkara's value in the eye of AFL scouts would need to face a detrimental hit for the teenager to slide past Pick 40 and into the Essendon's lap, while a likely top 10 pick for the Tullamarine club may be too early to roll the dice on Munkara.
Of the 25 drafted to the AFL last year, 19 landed in the opening 40 selections of the National Draft at season's end, with Munkara likely among those to do the same this year.
The Bombers may also need to shuffle some selections across the off-season exchange windows as they plan to secure the rights to father-son duo Alwyn and Jayden Davey, the twin sons of former Essendon jet Alwyn Davey.
Like Munkara, Alwyn Jnr is touted as a potential first-round selection after a promising tenure with the Oakleigh Chargers.
The Bombers' father-son prospect also featured for the AFL Academy on Saturday, however had his capabilities limited as coach Tarkyn Lockyer looked to mix and match his bevy of emerging stars in midfield.
Jayden Davey will bank on prior performances in the lead up to the National Draft, having been ruled out of action this year after requiring a knee reconstruction.
Having not exchanged any of their future selections at last year's trade window the Bombers hold one selection across the opening five rounds of the draft, with Essendon currently starting at Pick 3 given their 16th-placed ladder position after 10 rounds.