How the AFL (Australian Football League) identify talent

Written by Unassigned, 16 Feb 2019

The NAB AFL Draft Combine is an element of the NAB AFL Rising Stars Program that has events running throughout the year.

The Draft Combine’s place in the NAB AFL Rising Stars pathway is pivotal. Held in October prior to the NAB AFL Draft, it is a key part of the player talent identification process. The four-day event seeks to help identify potential AFL players who can combine athletic and mental ability with AFL skills.

The Combine offers players in the under 18 system ranking and assessment by clubs. As has become ritual, within days of the AFL season ending, the off-field season begins when AFL club recruiters and the country’s finest talent converge at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium for the NAB AFL Draft Combine. The majority AFL draftees will emerge from this talent pool.

Over the four days of the Combine, each potential draftee will be put through a range of physical, medical, psychological, psychomotor and skills tests to compare the best against the best from around Australia.

These tests include the physical tests you might expect: kicking skill test designed to measure technique, speed of delivery, trajectory and accuracy over varying distances; clean hands/handball test; goal kicking test, and – more recently personality/psychometric tests.

The AFL Combine is a big deal: it could involve as many as 300 AFL under 18 players taking the assessments. In 2013, the Combine went international: for the first time they are also recruiting under 18’s internationally from New Zealand, Fiji, and Ireland. All AFL clubs are represented, and keenly interested is identifying their next superstar.

Key staff involved in the recruitment for the various clubs, are the club recruiters, talent managers and club psychologists. Draft Combine is run by AFL National & International Talent Manager Kevin Sheehan, assisted by Talent Operations Manager, Roger Berryman.

Why psychometrics?

The Australian football industry is continually upgrading the talent pathway to meet the needs of young players and the AFL clubs. AFL clubs have always made their judgement on a prospect’s playing ability and game sense; however at the Combine they now want to be able to look a little deeper into the physical, skill-based and intangible areas, such as a player’s personality and underlying motivations. They want to assess players not only based on their football ability, but also on their character.

The solution they have introduced is behavioural interviews combined with psychometric testing which provides key insights into the make-up and personality of the player. Clubs are after players who are considered technically skilled at playing football, but are also tough, disciplined and team players.

The psychometric assessments are outsourced to HFL, using 2 tests from the GeneSys suite of psychometric tests (15FQ+ and VMI).

The 15FQ+

The 15FQ+ is a comprehensive personality assessment instrument which measures an individual’s behavioural style based on is based on the “big 5 theory” and on 16 personality characteristics on dichotomous scales.

These 16 factors provide an indicator of innate preferences that map into Interpersonal Style, Thinking Style and Coping Style.

These characteristics are further broken down into 32 personality traits, such as team, leadership, subordinate and influencing style.

By understanding behavioural preferences, an individual can leverage their strengths to build on, and become aware of their development needs to address.

## The VMI

A self report test that has 11 scales, built to 3 second-order dimensions:

  • Interpersonal values: which influence an individual’s approach to relationships (Altruism, Affiliation, Affection)

  • Extrinsic factors: which sustain behaviour in the workplace (Achievement, Financial, Security, Aesthetics)

  • Intrinsic could: guide an individual’s decision in respect to everyday problems (Moral, Traditional, Independence, Ethical)


  • Ease of use for AFL. Tests are administered and delivered online at the camp, with paper and pen as the 2nd option when conducted in states other than Victoria (e.g. Adelaide, Perth etc). It provides AFL with a tool that can easily be executed by the players during the Combine and state camps.

  • Quality: A high quality psychometric system that has been developed by one of the world’s leading psychometric publishers - highly regarded internationally, able to provide comprehensive norm groups, including Australian norm groups.

  • Demonstrates strong reliability and validity: Reliability means accuracy, and validity means that a test actually measures what it sets out to measure. All GeneSys tests have high reliability of at least 0.8.

  • Good sized norm group: Respondents are scored against a norm group of 8405 Australian general respondents. We will over time be able to generate an AFL combine players norm.

  • Flexible reporting: HFL provides fully computerised reports which are sent to AFL within less than a week from test administration. 2 different types of reports are generated:

o A candidate report for recruiters, talent managers and candidates – short summary easy to understand

o An Extended Report for the club psychologists, which provides the raw scores for interpretation - with a greater degree of detail than the broad written report - by a psychologist.


It is the third year AFL has engaged HFL as their provider for the psychometric tests which are part of the overall combine tests. The psychometric assessment is usually spread across a number of different testing days:

In July, as part of the state camps, we test 4 groups (100 players in total) in one day, at AFL House in Etihad stadium through online testing administration. There is a representation of players from all over Australia: Tasmania, South Australia, Vic Metro and Country, Western Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory and New South Wales.

Then in October, as part of the National Combine, we test another 120 players through paper administration at AFL House, followed by another 25 players at the SA State Combine –and 25 for the WA State Combine.

HFL provides all logistical support before, during and after administration, and generates all reports to be sent to the national AFL operations managers. HFL also provides support to the talent managers and club psychologists with any interpretation of data if required. We also provide direct individual feedback to the players themselves over the phone if they wish to get insight into their data.

In the first year (2011), we also ran a session specifically with the club psychologists to brief them in detail on the GeneSys tools used for AFL.

If you are interested in discussing how psychometrics can help you in your talent identification program, or recruitment services, please contact us using the form below.

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