I’ve been working through this all of Tuesday and with that, I’ve completed the annual first-round phantom draft!!!
I’ve been doing phantom drafts over the past six years, but this is easily the toughest draft to predict. All the Victorians did not have a taste of senior footy this year, and whilst other states were able to get state footy in. As a result, some got more exposure than others, which makes this even more difficult.
Before all the Academy selections, there are 21 picks to be made, that becomes 27 with six academy players that are tipped to be drafted inside the first round – next to key position players, it’s a good year to be an Academy kid.
There’s a lot to go through so I won’t muck around anymore with this intro, but here is who I think will go where in the first round on Wednesday night.
Pick 1: Western Bulldogs – Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Academy Selection)
The consensus is that the Crows will bid on the freakishly talented Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with their first pick. It won’t be hard to see why if you’ve seen the highlights package: He’s quick off the mark, strong in the air and kicked 24 goals in nine matches for the Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League last year, which means he knows where to put them as a key forward. I think the Buddy comparison is a stretch, but he’s still a hell of a kid.
Pick 2: Adelaide – Riley Thilthorpe
There’ll be a bit of intrigue on who the Crows will take with this pick. Logan McDonald and Elijah Hollands have also been thrown up, but it’ll be difficult to see them overlook the local boy in Riley Thilthorpe. His strong overhead marking and abilities in front of goal make him a dangerous target, plus his ruck abilities will ease some pressure off of Reilly O’Brien and could actually form a dangerous one-two ruck combo.
Pick 3: North Melbourne – Logan McDonald
Well, North just offloaded Ben Brown and, as good as Nick Larkey is, they would love someone like Logan McDonald as a partner-in-crime type as a key forward. They would be so good together for the next decade. McDonald looks like he can play right away if his form in the WAFL this year is any indication: 21 goals from nine games and that’s SENIOR FOOTY, which is pretty good for a teen playing against bigger bodies.
Pick 4: Sydney – Denver Grainger-Barras
The Swans would love another key defender, particularly with Aliir Aliir now at Port Adelaide, and well wouldn’t you know? There is a kid available here that can play the intercept marking role in the back half to perfection. Grainger-Barras has a remarkable ability to read the play and his vertical leap and marking hands already make him a very strong defender. Just imagine what he’ll be like once he adds some muscle to that lean frame.
Pick 5: Hawthorn – Elijah Hollands
There’s still a bit of risk attached to Hollands considering the fact that he hasn’t played footy for an entire year and was on the mend from a ruptured ACL that he sustained in February. However, the attributes this kid has would make it unlikely he slips this far. If he keeps himself fit and firing in the next couple of years, then he’ll find himself a welcome addition to the Hawks’ on-ball brigade with his strength and class.
Pick 6: Gold Coast – Will Phillips
There will be every chance that the Suns will land on Will Phillips with this pick and why wouldn’t you take him? In 2019 he was a part of that excellent Oakleigh Chargers midfield with Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson. If these three are in the same midfield over the next five to seven years, then that spells trouble. Phillips brings a strong inside game who also has the poise and composure to hit targets on the outside – an outstanding balanced midfielder.
Pick 7: Essendon – Zach Reid
The Dons need some key position players and whilst they’ll get Josh Eyre and Cody Brand as Academy selections, neither are as good talent wise as Zach Reid who would just be behind Grainger-Barras as the best tall defender in the draft. Whilst not overly strong yet, what he does possess is an elite skill set, superb aerial ability and is able to take an intercept mark. There is scope to play either end, but his exposure in the forward half is very limited.
Pick 8: Sydney – Braeden Campbell (Academy Selection)
Expect a bid (Most likely Essendon) for Braeden Campbell to come around the bottom half of the top 10. He is every bit of a top-10 prospect as punters say he is. His use of the leather by foot is exceptional and his speed is remarkably elite. Whilst there is scope for him to play in the midfield in later years, it looks likely that a spot in the forward line will be where he starts his career, showing his capabilities in 2019.
Pick 9: Essendon – Archie Perkins
The Dons don’t have too many tall midfielders in their line-up, but a player that has as much upside as Archie Perkins would be given every chance to be a permanent feature in the Essendon’s 22 in the years to come. His pace off the mark is explosive and he doesn’t shirk a contest, rather he attacks at speed. His talents aren’t wasted up forward either, showing for Sandringham that he is capable of impact on the scoreboard too.
Pick 10: Port Adelaide – Lachie Jones (Academy Selection)
Around the 10-12 mark is where you can expect a bid coming in for Port Adelaide’s academy lad, Lachie Jones. A strong-bodied defender that has already tasted senior experience for Woodville in the SANFL this year. His intercept abilities are a strength as well as his abilities to run with the footy and rebound from half-back. His strength also makes him hard to beat for both small and mid-sized forwards.
Pick 11: Essendon – Nikolas Cox
Given their lack of key position players, their last pick in the first round would most likely see them snare a tall prospect that can help them with their next tilt at winning a final. Nik Cox has amazing athletic attributes – recording elite numbers in the 20 metre and the 2km time trial, and his skill set for someone his size his already very good. Significant muscle needs to be put on, but this is a guy that has a very bright future wherever he lands.
Pick 12: Adelaide – Tanner Bruhn
Tanner Bruhn is perhaps one of the most balanced midfielders in this draft, for as tough and as strong as he is in the contested spaces, his class and composure with the footy in his hands are welcome commodities to most clubs that are crying for midfielders. The Dons like him a lot, but if he slips past (It’s very possible), then the Crows would love a player that will contribute to their midfield brigade of the future.
Pick 13: GWS – Oliver Henry
The younger brother of Geelong’s Jack, whilst Oliver shares the same brilliant aerial abilities that his brother has, Oliver is a bit smarter in terms of his decision-making abilities and has been used more as a forward for the Geelong Falcons in the NAB League in 2019, kicking 18 goals from 15 games. His defensive pressure needs improvement, but a player of his capabilities should be expected to be taken anywhere from 10-20.
Pick 14: North Melbourne – Heath Chapman
A player of his size (193cm) can play as a key position defender, but would need to put on some significant size to combat the seasoned bodies. But his ability to rebound and generate offensive run out of the defensive half are elite. His endurance base is very strong and has a good football IQ making him very decent as an intercept defender. His performances in the WAFL Colts this year suggests that he’d slot right into a bottom eight team, such is his talent,
Pick 15: Fremantle – Nathan O’Driscoll
I like him at this pick, given his sister is also at the Dockers in the AFLW – who doesn’t love a family club? All that aside, the Dockers would like a player that works as hard as O’Driscoll both on the inside and out. He thrives on the contested ball and is a sure tackler when the opposition has it, but he is equally cool when he has the ball on the outside and knows how to get into the right spots.
Pick 16: GWS – Brayden Cook
A player that looks like he’ll be considered the ‘Draft Bolter’ of this year considering where he has come from – the benefits of actually getting gametime in different states!. Playing primarily as a forward for South Adelaide, Cook kicked 19 goals in 10 matches whilst averaging 19.6 disposals, four inside 50s and 7.3 marks per game, showcasing his smart decision making and strong overhead marking abilities.
Pick 17: Collingwood – Finlay Macrae
Much like his half-brother Jack at the Western Bulldogs, Finlay Macrae is an accumulator of the footy who knows how to use it well, such is his composure and elite decision-making abilities. Macrae’s not overly quick and a bit like his half-brother, doesn’t win the ball with much fanfare, but sides often welcome those kinds of no-fuss on-ballers who know how to get in the right spots and make a good decision 90 percent of the time.
Pick 18: GWS – Bailey Laurie
A smaller type player that possesses elite football smarts and a strong work-ethic, Bailey Laurie has the speed and evasiveness to be a gun small forward, but can also be a midfield option in future years. A player his size (179cm) can’t afford to waste the footy, but Laurie makes every possession count and has this innate ability to make the football talk. The Giants could use another player that can play small, but also can work higher up the ground.
Pick 19: Collingwood – Kaine Baldwin
He hasn’t played a game since 2018 when he was playing under-16’s due to a shocking injury run, but Collingwood are a team that would love a key forward to help provide some depth. It’s a risky call for someone who has a dodgy knee, but the rewards if he pulls through can be very high. As a key forward, Baldwin has incredible strength, great hands and showed in the under 16s that he can cover ground no problems.
Pick 20: Collingwood – Reef McInnes (Academy Selection)
If the Pies can get through their first two picks before a bid comes through for big-bodied midfielder Reef McInnes, then they’ve done away with this Draft. Expect a bid coming from anywhere between 10-20, with McInnes’ ability to win contested ball at the stoppage as well as possessing a remarkable burst of speed. His height also means that he could provide an option up forward or even play a role in defence.
Pick 21: Richmond – Tom Powell
Every year Richmond seem to find themselves a slider: Jack Higgins, Riley Collier-Dawkins and Thomson Dow were the last three players to be drafted by the Tigers and all three carry good credentials. Tom Powell is another that boasts great talent. He’s outstanding at winning his own ball and has no worries making the right decisions on a consistent basis. There’s every chance he may go earlier, but the Tigers always luck out on a player at this stage of the first round.
Pick 22: Melbourne – Jake Bowey
Diminutive in size, but Bowey is not short on skill-set or heart for that matter. Whilst better suited on the outside, where his skills and pace can be on full display, he doesn’t hesitate to hit the contest at pace when he’s called upon. He’s shown capabilities as a small forward last year as well with two bags of three goals for Sandringham in the NAB League. A side like Melbourne would welcome players with pace that can also bring presence as a pressure forward.
Pick 23: Hawthorn – Connor Downie (Academy Selection)
Linked as part of Hawthorn’s next-generation academy, expect a bid for Connor Downie to be made somewhere between here and the start of the second round. He’ll be a fine addition for the Hawks, with his ability to run and carry on the outside a big strength. He’s got a fantastic attitude towards working on his game and was set to be named captain of the Eastern Ranges team this year, such is his leadership capabilities.
Pick 24: Melbourne – Jack Carroll
Jack Carroll is a player that carries plenty of upside that should see him taken around this mark, possibly even earlier. Whilst he lacks the strength and body mass to compete with senior bodies right now, what he does show is brilliant use of the ball by hand or foot and is versatile enough to play a variety of roles. He’s got good height at 188cm and has got a good leap, which could see him play a role at either end, as well as a role on the wing.
Pick 25: GWS – Isiah Winder
A 180cm player who can play either as a small forward or as a midfielder, Isiah Winder is someone that has elite athletic attributes. Blessed with explosive pace, very good vertical leap and on top of that, has a fairly decent skill-set on him already, Winder could find himself bolting up the order towards a late first-round/early second. Has played senior footy this year in the WAFL as well as dominated games in the Colts, a player that could legitimately be anything.
Pick 26: Fremantle – Brandon Walker (Academy Selection)
The Dockers have a couple of Academy boys to look out for this year, with Brandon Walker being the best of the bunch. Listed as medium-sized defender at 184cm, Walker is blessed with great speed and is a sound decision maker by foot, which makes him potent coming off the half-back line. If the Dockers can stave off a bid around this mark, then they would do very well for themselves considering the ceiling on this young man is very high.
Pick 27: St Kilda – Eddie Ford
At 189cm, Eddie Ford can play a lot taller as a forward than that with his elite vertical leap. Ford also possesses goal-sense and x-factor that can add another dimension to a forward line like the Saints. If he’s not kicking goals then he often has a hand in helping them out – being more of an impact-per-possession player as opposed to an accumulator. There’s scope for him to be a midfielder, but he can be dangerous as a forward target.
And with that comes an end to the first round. For those that don’t have a first-round pick: Brisbane will open their account with pick 25 Geelong’s first pick stands currently at 27, Carlton’s first pick is at 31 and West Coast’s first pick will be at 62, which could actually go earlier once we get a gauge on which clubs pass their selections.
The National draft is one night only – thank god for that, because two nights is flat-out unbearable. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting draft ahead, with plenty of key position players up for grabs and pick swaps bound to happen as the night unfolds.
We’re bound to get a surprise or two, so until then pray that your favourite under-18 gets to your club, unless you’re a Doggies supporter, which in that case start celebrating Jamarra and party hard!