DOB: 12 October 2002 (18)
POSITION: Small forward
DRAFTED FROM: Claremont
A member of Fremantle's Next Generation Academy, Joel Western represented Western Australia at the U16 Championships in 2018, and since then, has had two impressive seasons for Claremont at WAFL colts level.
No player at colts level over the past two years has had more contested possessions, ground ball gets and inside 50s than Western and he has also had the second most disposals, score involvements and running bounces in those seasons.
His regular good form was recognised when he won Claremont's Most Consistent Award this year.
Western was also a major contributor in Claremont's premiership-winning season in 2019; he recorded 23 disposals, 15 contested possessions, four clearances and six tackles in the grand final.
Having played primarily as a midfielder over the last two years, Western is equally effective as a small forward where he can utilise his lightning speed, clean hands, defensive pressure and goal sense.
The 18-year-old didn't test at this year’s WA Combine, but his 2.73 seconds 20m time in February 2019 would be quicker than the all-time national combine record, set in 2010.
Fremantle development coach Tendai Mzungu, who was the club’s NGA coach between 2017 and 2020, said Western brought a lot of attributes to the table as a small forward who could also play in the midfield.
“Joel’s been through our academy over the past few years and we’ve seen how driven he is to improve and he will complement our list really well,” Mzungu said.
“His strengths are his natural speed, he’s very fast and elusive and really clean below his knees and provides some good outside run.
“His speed off the mark and his ability to break lines is a real strength of his. I think with his speed he can, whether it’s forward or through the midfield, give us an extra element of speed through our group.”
Western joins no.50 pick Brandon Walker as NGA graduates who were selected by Fremantle in the 2020 NAB AFL National Draft.
While the duo have experienced training in an elite football environment, Mzungu said the pair still have the opportunity to grow rapidly once they take up full time football.
“Both Brandon and Joel have a better understanding of what an AFL environment looks like than the average draftee, especially in terms of the preparation and the professionalism require,” Mzungu said.
“In terms of football, they’ve got a lot to learn like all the draftees who have come in. They’re buckets are only a quarter full so we’ll try and improve that as they go on.”