Abbott 'prime draft prospect'

Dale Miller
Brenden Abbott in action for Claremont last season. Picture: Sharon Smith

Retired Claremont champion Luke Blackwell has urged recruiters to draft former teammate Brenden Abbott, saying he could become an elite AFL player.

As Blackwell prepares to leave Perth for Melbourne after calling time on an illustrious WAFL career, he threw his support behind the powerfully-built 19-year-old Abbott.

"He's a good kid," Blackwell said.

"He just needs to work hard. He's a powerful athlete and he's a freak with some of the stuff he can do.

"He's a beautiful long kick and quick and strong. He's got every- thing. He just needs to focus and make sure he ticks all the boxes.

"He could be an elite AFL player if he gets everything right.

"Being in the system would be the best thing for him and I reckon even getting out of Western Australia could be the best thing for him as well."

Blackwell, 27, has retired as one of Claremont's all-time greats, with four EB Cook medals as the club's best and fairest placing him in the rarefied company of legends Denis Marshall and Graham Moss.

He also has two premierships, a Simpson Medal and the 2011 Sandover Medal to his name from six exceptional WAFL seasons that came after being de-listed by Carlton.

Blackwell topped off the accolades by being named this year's joint _The West Australian _-WAFL Player of the Year Award winner alongside Subiaco's Kyal Horsley.

Abbott has played 15 league matches. His best included an eye-catching five goals in Claremont's round 17 win over Swan Districts.

But his worst has involved walking out on the national under-18 championships last year and poor off-field habits that left him in substandard shape to start the 2014 season.

Abbott was forced to sit out this month's State draft combine with a serious ankle injury.

Blackwell, who admits to being a "ratbag" when he first joined Claremont in 2009, said clubs should overlook the teenager's shortcomings and select him in next month's national draft.

Blackwell predicted the Tigers would re-emerge as a powerhouse once the redevelopment of Claremont Oval was complete, with facilities that would be the envy of the competition.

And he said Ryan Neates could step into the breach in 2015 left by his own retirement, nominating the former Eagle as a future captain at Claremont.

Blackwell also backed the continuation of the AFL alignment system, but said the model needed to be "tweaked".

"Maybe the lesser clubs are the ones that have the alignment or their top-up players aren't as strong as East Perth's players have been in the past," he said.

The 118-game league player told his teammates the thing he had loved the most about his WAFL career was being part of a "gun side" during Claremont's run to three successive grand finals from 2010 to 2012.

"There were 20 to 25 blokes who you knew every game you were going to run out with and you'd win no matter what," he said.