Picking the so-called winners and losers of a draft is a pretty arbitrary and dubious task when looking back of the careers of those selected fifteen years ago, let alone before the players have kicked and ball for their new teams, training included.
The beauty of draft night (and now early-afternoon) is that all clubs are winners, at least until proven otherwise some years down the track. However, now with the successful introduction of live trading clubs can be more victorious now than ever before. The recruiting process has also never been as complex and scientific, thus, winners – or potential winners – can more easily be identified even on the actual draft days. That said, even the most prudent use of a draft pick can still be mistaken for a stab in the dark, and even the surest of things can turn out to be a bust.
Still, it can be fun to speculate.
It’s hard to have a bad night at the draft when you dictate the proceedings with the number one pick. Although, many could have been worthy of the coveted selection (think Jack Lukosius, Izak Rankine and Max King) Sam Walsh is set to become a fine player for the Navy Blues. However, the Blues proved themselves as a draft winner with the bombshell trade of night one. Carlton traded up to Pick 19 to foil arch-rival Richmond’s plans to select Morrish Medalist Liam Stocker after a live trade with Adelaide.
They bid farewell to their future first round pick next year, yet also gain another first round pick from the Crows receiving their 2019 first pick. Carlton have taken Adelaide to the cleaners. Stocker looks like an inspired selection at Pick 19, and while the Blues’ first round pick next year is expected to be lower than Adelaide’s, even if the Crows win the flag Carlton only have to finish 14th to break even on points. Also, keep in mind that this year’s draft is significantly stronger than next. I love how Carlton has backed themselves in – that’s what good footy clubs do.
Sydney Swans Academy prospect and star key forward Nick Blakey slipped to Pick 10 before being bid on by cross town rivals, GWS. It was believed Blakey would receive a bid within the top eight selections, thus proving to be a bit of steal for Sydney. The Swans also cleverly manufactured the first live trade in history with West Coast (who also benefited significantly from the deal). Sydney traded Pick 26 (that would have become null and void after Blakely’s selection) to West Coast for a future third rounder (which they effectively receive for free). After Blakey’s pick, Sydney traded their future second round selection (likely to be between 30-36) for West Coast’s Pick 22 that allowed them to draft James Rowbottom.
An example of using the system to your advantage and Sydney did it brilliantly.
Jye Caldwell was the member of the illustrious “fine nine” that sensationally fell to GWS’ first pick at Pick 10 (after the Blakely bid). A big win for GWS considering they were seeking to break into the opening seven selections via a trade with the Bulldogs in order to draft him. That would’ve cost them two first rounders, so things worked out perfectly there for the Giants.
With their two other first rounders the Giants drafted midfielder Jackson Hately and the surprise of night one, Xavier O’Halloran (despite not actually being invited to draft night, remarkably). GWS also traded up to select Ian Hill at Pick 22, which was a smart move as many still view Hill as a top-10 prospect, notwithstanding his underwhelming year. Academy prospect Kieran Briggs also satisfies their need for another ruckman, considering Briggs is the best ruck in this year’s pool.
The Dockers were also one of the big winners of the draft starting from night one when they recruited half-forward Sam Sturt, who was the “bolter” in the weeks leading into the draft. Sturt was Fremantle’s man after the Power foiled their plans and went early to select Zak Butters and Adelaide picked Ned McHenry with the proceeding pick.
However, Fremantle’s masterstroke was trading up to the Bulldogs’ Pick 32 to nab South Australian star midfielder Luke Valente. Valente was ranked as a top-10 prospect by Champion Data and would be even higher if the statistics provider included his faultless character and leadership abilities. The Dockers do not know how lucky they are – at Pick 32!
The Cats successfully secured Western Australian’s finest draftee in Jordan Clark at Pick 15, as expected. This is a very good pickup, as Clark is a star half-back who, in the view of some, has the potential to develop into a midfielder.
Geelong also nailed their later selections pairing best friends, Norwood teammates and Rostrevor College schoolmates Ben Jarvis and Jacob Kennerley together at Pick 48 and 50 respectively. Jarvis is a great key forward and potential long-term replacement for Tom Hawkins, while, Kennerley is an inside midfielder who showed at the National Championships that can play very well as a wingman where he starred for South Australia. All three will fit into Geelong nicely.
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