Caleb Daniel Standing Tall in the AFL
Former Panthers star Caleb Daniel is making waves in the AFL for the Western Bulldogs.
Caleb started his journey with South Adelaide in the club's U13's Development Squad before working his way through the club's junior programs. At junior level he was a standout, claiming the Panthers U16 Best and Fairest in 2012 and representing South Australia at both U16 and U18 level.
Caleb made his SANFL League debut in 2013 at just 17 years of age and went on to play 21 games in the senior side before being snapped up by the Western Bulldogs at pick 46 in the National Draft.
Watch Caleb's standout performances for SA at the 2014 National Champs
A 167 centimeter forward, Caleb has always been considered too short to play AFL football. Nonetheless he silenced his critics time and time again and has not only made it that elite level, but is now thriving in it.
It was Caleb's ability to win plenty of uncontested ball and ground level play, along with his enormous aerobic capacity and mental drive that influenced the Bulldogs into pursuing the young forward.
And while his frame deterred many other clubs, it was his score of 16.1 in the beep test that really pushed him over the edge with the Dogs' recruiters.
"A 13 beep isn't good enough for that role," said Chief Recruiter Simon Dalrymple told the Herald Sun.
"But 16 is elite."
Unfortunately, Daniel's AFL debut was delayed due to minor knee surgery prior to the 2015 season. Although by Round 14 his form for the Bulldogs Reserves in the VFL could not be ignored and he forced his way into the AFL side, being named as the substitute.
Short on height and short on time (Caleb only entered the game after halftime) he made the most of his opportunity, recording 14 disposals, five marks and a goal by the final siren.
His debut performance and following matches solidified his spot in the side. He finished the season with 10 games under his belt and was selected as the Western Bulldogs nominee for the AFL Players Association Best First Year Player Award.
Watch Caleb's 2014 Highlight Package with South Adelaide
On top of his great debut season, Caleb had his first opportunity to play finals footy as a part of the side that was eliminated in the second round by the Adelaide Crows.
Caleb has been able to fill an important need for the Bulldogs. He works as a link man in their electric transition game, where his acceleration, agility and ability to hit targets with extreme accuracy has made his presence invaluable.
In 2016, Caleb has proven to be a prolific ball winner, averaging an elite level 21.6 disposals and 16.3 uncontested possessions.
Meanwhile, his elite ball disposal has proven to be a devastating weapon around the ground, especially when attacking his forward 50. Amongst his possessions, Caleb is also averaging 6.1 score involvements and a 50% percent retention rate from kicks inside 50 which are both above league average. Meanwhile, his long-kicking rating is +15 percent which equates to second overall in the entire competition.
His strongest game of the season came in Round 3 against reigning Premiers Hawthorn, where he gathered 29 disposals and kicked a goal, earning him a nomination for the AFL Rising Star award (annually awarded to the best player in the league younger than 21 and with 10 or less games of experience).
Hear Caleb Speak About his Round 4 NAB AFL Rising Star Nomination
Although being listed as the shortest player in the league, Caleb has made up for his lack of height with his attack on the footy and use of the ball.
Along with his short stature, his signature helmet, which became part of his kit whilst playing as a junior, has travelled with him through his years with the Panthers and now for the Western Bulldogs and has made him a cult figure around the league.
As a past Panther we are so excited to see the huge impact that Caleb is having on the national stage, not to mention that he is only 20 years old, and he has a lot of exciting footy ahead of him.