With two excruciatingly boring nights of the AFL Draft over and done with, we can settle back into stories about who is training the house down, who is returning in career-best shape, and who is impressing at their new club.
Different year – rinse and repeat.
But having put myself through the pain of watching the AFL Draft (actually, I was reading the autobiography of Big Van Vader as I paid a little bit of attention to it in the background), I noticed how many times these young blokes were touted as a “special talent” or were categorised as a future star of the competition.
There sure seemed to be a lot of future stars of the competition amongst the names read out. However, we know that if ten of these kids turn out to be “special”, it will be an incredible draft year. Looking back five years at the 2016 draft, how many of these blokes would you now consider a special talent?
Andrew McGrath? Hugh McCluggage? Tim Taranto? Jy Simpkin? Tim English?
They’re the names leaping off the page from the first round – handy players, and potentially very good players, but in terms of stars of the competition, only McCluggage, Shai Bolton, Jordan Ridley, Luke Ryan, Sean Darcy, and Tom Stewart would tick all the boxes to be considered stars at the moment. Actually, Tim Taranto probably slots in there as well.
So, five years after kids were touted as stars, we’ve got seven from the 2016 draft that actually made the steps necessary to live up to the hype. Not a great hit rate.
The fact that Jordan Ridley, at pick 22, was the highest pick after McCluggage to make the step indicates that the draft is a complete crapshoot. Quite a few very good players – Isaac Cumming, Jack Bowes, Ollie Florent, and Brandan Parfitt… but in terms of breakout stars, many of the grandiose predictions of the draft “experts” tend to fall flat.
It doesn’t stop them, though.
Just yesterday, the boffins over at Fox Footy decided to give all the teams a grade on their drafting performances. Spoiler alert – 15 of the 18 teams received A-Grades or higher. This, of course, was based on pure speculation as none of the players have set foot on the ground for one second of an AFL season… so how the hell are you even pretending to grade them? I also have a sneaking suspicion that many people who write about the draft haven’t watched much of the NAB league at all to see the kids play. It’s why I don’t write about the draft – I have little idea and would prefer you just think I am a fool, rather than confirming it with a column on kids I am unfamiliar with.
It will be five years before we get a clear picture as to how well these teams drafted in November of 2021. I hope I’m still alive to read about it.
With that in mind, it is probably pertinent to take a look back five years ago and award grades on that 2016 draft. I mean, we’ve seen those boys become men and have witnessed what they are capable of. We know who the sleeper picks were and who failed to live up to expectations. Only now, with years in the system are we really able to assess who did best on that draft night. Only now can we offer draft rankings with some performances in the league to assess how well the clubs actually drafted.
Away we go.
ADELAIDE – Picks 15, 44, 51, 62, 75
DRAFT HAUL – Jordan Gallucci, Myles Poholke, Elliott Himmelberg, Matthew Signorello, Ben Davis
Just two players from this draft remain on the list, with Gallucci and Poholke no longer with the Crows, and Signorello not playing a game.
Even then, Ben Davis has just three games to his name, however, given he was the third-last pick in the draft, I guess any amount of games is a bonus.
The only potential winner here is Himmelberg, who has battled for a tall forward role at the club. With 20 games to his name thus far, this is the make or break year for him as a Crow.
BRISBANE – Picks 3, 17, 23, 24, 55, 71
DRAFT HAUL – Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, Alex Witherden, Cedric Cox, Jacob Allison, Corey Lyons
The pick of McCluggage bolsters this draft, but the sleeper is Jarrod Berry. The second of the Lions’ first-rounders, his crash and bash nature is going to come to the fore the older he gets, so I am willing to cut him a little slack, even after 85 games.
Witherden looked like a keeper until he fell out of favour in 2020, whilst the back end of their picks did what back end players in the draft usually do.
CARLTON – Picks 6, 27, 47, 59, 61, 65
DRAFT HAUL – Sam Petrevski-Seton, Zac Fisher, Harrison Macreadie, Cam Polson, Tom Williamson, Pat Kerr
Oh man, a top ten selection and he just wandered off to join West Coast. I’ve often wondered whether the Blues played SPS out of position, or SPS didn’t play the way the Blues were hoping? I guess we find out in 2022. Still plenty of upside to Zac Fisher, but he just does not kick goals for someone who spends a fair bit of time inside 50.
Tom Williamson remains something to work with, though I am sure Carlton fans would have liked something more from him to date. At pick 61, and after some injury woes, this has to be the year he steps up. Or I reckon you stick a fork in him.
Father-son picks bail the Pies out, here, with Josh Daicos the best of the two. Should probably serve as a bit of a reality hit in terms of how long it may take his little brother to start starring in games, though.
Cal Brown is the other to have found a place at the Pies, with 64 games under his belt.
Given the Pies didn’t have a first-round pick, they actually emerge from this period quite well.
ESSENDON – Picks 1, 22, 31, 42, 63,
DRAFT HAUL – Andrew McGrath, Jordan Ridley, Josh Begley, Kobe Mutch, Dylan Clarke
It’s pretty hard to go wrong when you have pick one. Even if a couple below leap over your pick in terms of development, you’re getting a very solid player, and that’s what the Bombers have in Andrew McGrath.
He was probably robbed of what looked to be his breakout season in 2021 due to injury, however, 2022 kind of feels like the year e has to make the next step. A lot of pressure coming in as a number one pick, huh?
The big winner is Jordan Ridley, who has matured into an excellent intercept defender and looks as though he will collect AA selections to go with his 2020 best and fairest award. The others haven’t done much (pardon the pun), but Clarke looked likely as a stopper for a while. You’d think 2022 would be his last shot at making it somewhere.
FREMANTLE – Picks 8, 38, 41, 66
DRAFT HAUL – Griffin Logue, Sean Darcy, Brennan Cox, Luke Ryan
ANALYSIS – not one wasted pick amongst their four. If Freo go onto bigger and better things in 2022, this may be the draft that people reflect on in terms of setting them up. Logue has had his injury concerns, but started to get a decent run of games in 2021, playing 16. Cox has been excellent as an intercept defender after trialling as a forward, and Luke Ryan has an All-Australian selection at half-back.
Sean Darcy rocketed into people’s contentions for AA in 2021 after a very solid year, and with some more conditioning, this monster could end up as the best big man in the league.
GEELONG – Picks 26, 40, 43, 60, 68, 69
DRAFT HAUL – Brandan Parfitt, Tom Stewart, Esava Ratugolea, Quinton Narkle, Timm House, Ryan Abbott
Without a first-rounder, the Cats drafted exceedingly well early on, picking up Parfitt, who is an excellent two-way midfielder, and Tom Stewart, who just secured his third All-Australian selection. High quality drafting from the Cats to pick those two up.
Esava Ratugolea remains a work in progress but has managed to retain a place on a powerful Geelong list, whilst Narkle’s selection at Pick 60 screams value.
GOLD COAST – Picks 4, 7, 9, 10, 67
DRAFT HAUL – Ben Ainsworth, Jack Scrimshaw, Will Brodie, Jack Bowes, Brad Scheer
Hmmmm, four picks in the top ten… you would hope to knock at least two of them out of the park. That has not been the case.
Ainsworth is a potential AA small forward, but his body and lack of defensive effort have hurt him. Scrimshaw flew to the coop and has played a role for Hawthorn without starring, whilst Will Brodie simply did not deliver and will try to reinvent himself elsewhere.
Jack Bowes is the winner here, but given it took the Suns until pick ten to secure a genuine winner, this draft effort, sadly, is a failure.
GWS – Picks 2, 5, 14, 20, 54, 58
DRAFT HAUL – Tim Taranto, Will Setterfield, Harry Perryman, Isaac Cumming, Lachlan Tiziani, Matt de Boer
A hit early, two solid hits in the middle, and one inspired pick up at the end. Overall, another excellent year at the draft table for the Giants, with Perryman and Cumming two of the more underrated emerging players in the game at the moment.
Taranto has his best and fairest award to point to in terms of his worth, whilst the faith in Will Setterfield appears to have been misplaced, with him seeming to meander through his time at Carlton since being traded there.
HAWTHORN – PIcks 74, 76
DRAFT HAUL – Harry Morrison, Mitch Lewis
Ah yes, remember this period, Hawks fans? You’re paying for it at the moment.
Hawthorn all but removed themselves from the draft in pursuit of topping up for another tilt at a flag. Lewis remains a chance to become a forward line staple, and is the best of the Hawks’ young attacking talls, whilst Morrison has been a borderline best-22 player for a few years, now.
Given how late their picks were, with 92 games between them, they actually drafted two pretty decent kids.
MELBOURNE – Picks 46, 64
DRAFT HAUL – Mitch Hannan, Dion Johnstone,
The Dees also all-but-exited the draft for this season, with the now-departed (to the Dogs… not dead) Mitch Hannan the only player that made any impact.
Hard to assess Melbourne based on their limited involvement, but if we use Hawthorn as the closest team to them in terms of what they had to work with, the Dees fared worse.
Simpkin re-signed with the Roos last season and looks set to become one of the keys to their midfield as they rise up the ladder… and they will. Can play inside or outside and is cherry ripe to have a big season.
Larkey is the other one – taken with the fifth-last pick in the draft, he is a bargain, and has displayed that he is capable of being the number one man in the forward fifty. His performance against the Blues may have cost Jacob Weitering an All-Australian selection.
The other two… well, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. That’s about as nice as we can be.
PORT ADELAIDE – Picks 16, 18, 32, 33
DRAFT HAUL – Todd Marshall, Sam Powell-Pepper, Joe Atley, Willem Drew
Such an interesting draft for the Power, picking up three maybes, and one definite no.
Atley is the “no” so we’ll move onto the other two.
Marshall and SPP could be the difference between Port being a top four side and a premiership team. The gap between their best and worst is way too large, meaning the Power cannot rely on them to produce often enough. I still believe in Marshall, but he needs to solidify that belief in 2022.
Drew is the pick of the bunch. A heart and soul player, his work ethic and combative nature make him a mongrel favourite.
RICHMOND – Picks 29, 53, 72
DRAFT HAUL – Shai Bolton, Jack Graham, Ryan Garthwaite
Bloody Richmond… no first-rounder and they manage to grab a potential matchwinner in Bolton way down at pick 29. That is a great get.
They then add a kick in the pants to the gutshot they already gave the competition, picking one of their future leaders by selecting Jack Graham with pick 53.
Whilst Ryan Garthwaite did not pan out as intended, he played 14 games despite being the sixth-last player picked. A very nice drafting effort for the Tigers without a top pick.
ST KILDA – Picks 25, 39, 56
DRAFT HAUL – Ben Long, Josh Battle, Ed Phillips
No first-rounder for St Kilda meant they were going to have to be shrewd with their picks, and they were, to a point, anyway.
Josh Battle is an excellent pick up toward the end of the second round, playing as a wingman, forward, and defender over his 40 games. Ben Long is a throwback player, willing to physically punish opponents, which has landed him in hot water a couple of times. Had his name bandied about during trade period, which indicates the Saints may have seen enough and will happily give him an opportunity to look elsewhere once out of contract after 2022.
SYDNEY – Picks 11, 21, 45, 48
DRAFT HAUL – Ollie Florent, Will Hayward, Jack Maibaum, Darcy Cameron
Maibaum is the outlier, here, failing to make an impact, whilst the duo of Florent and Hayward will play vital roles as the Swans continue to establish themselves as team on the rise, and a contender.
A bit of personal bias, here – I believe Florent has the capacity to be the best wingman in the game, but the gap between his best and worst remains too vast currently. 14 of his 23 games in 2021 saw him fail to hit the 20-disposal mark. That has to be rectified.
Hayward – I have said it before; there is a touch of Stevie J about him. Johnson was enigmatic before he become consistently brilliant. This is the place we now find Hayward. He needs to take that step.
That injury to Venables cost West Coast one of their brightest young prospects. He retires a premiership player, but you cannot help but wonder how good he could have been.
The same type of “could have been…” discussion revolves around Willie Rioli. He could be something, but time out of the game may have impacted him and his confidence. 2022 will be really interesting for him.
Great pick up of Waterman with the last pick in the draft. With 51 games under his belt, he is a keeper. And Rotham has been on the improve as well, slotting in as a semi-regular in a stacked Eagles defence.
Overall, when you factor in the Venables/Rioli issues, a pretty good drafting year for West Coast.
WESTERN BULLDOGS – Picks 19, 28, 49, 70
DRAFT HAUL – Tim English, Patrick Lipinski, Lewis Young, Fergus Greene
In 12 months, this could look horrible. I say that with Tim English out of contract after 2022, and the combination of Lipinski and Young just having resettled at other clubs.
English really hasn’t made the leaps we thought he may have. Other young rucks have come in and gone past him (Sean Darcy leaps to mind) so it will be interesting to see whether English can finally establish himself as a major player in the ruck world in 2022.
And for those who like it nice and concise, here are the rankings in order