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Draft Busts and Other Tales

This time of year can make or break a recruiter. One wrong call can have their name associated with whom they DIDN’T draft, as much as who they did. Sometimes they get it very right, and others they get it very wrong. Sometimes, even when they’re proven to be right over the long haul, they’re considered wrong in the short term.

The 2004 draft will live in infamy for Richmond fans. Armed with picks 1 and 4, the Tigers were certain this was to be the draft to turn around their flagging fortunes. They grabbed Brett Deledio at #1 overall; a move that has to be considered a success. Deledio was a star for the Tigers at a time when the team was simply not performing. Whilst the Tigers team whimpered, Deledio had moments where he roared. He played 243 games for the Tigers, averaging above 24 disposals per game in 6 seasons. He would add 2 Jack Dyer Medals to his name in his time at Richmond. When all is said and done, despite his move to Greater Western Sydney in 2017, and missing out on the Tigers premiership glory, he’ll be remembered as a Richmond hero.

Pick 4, however, did not pan out as well.

Tiger fans were not too displeased when Richard Tambling’s name was called as the 4th overall pick in 2004. He was very highly rated, and most mock drafts had him as a top five pick. Unfortunately, the man picked immediately after Tambling was named Lance Franklin. There’s no need for a comprehensive history lesson here. We all know what Franklin has accomplished, and continues to accomplish. He has been the best forward in the league for the past 10 years, whilst Tambling played 124 games over 8 years in the competition. He peaked in 2009, averaging 21.5 touches per game, however his drop off in 2010 was significant.

Richmond was awarded an end of first round compensation pick when Tambling moved to Adelaide in 2010 and also received pick 51… but imagine Buddy in yellow and black! The Tiger resurgence may have occurred a few years earlier.

But it wasn’t all bad news for the Tigers. In 2009, they picked up a youngster named Dustin Martin with pick 3. Melbourne had picks 1 and 2 in that year's draft. They opted for elite runner, Tom Scully and a young man who would be a future Demon captain, Jack Trengove. Neither of these players remain at the club, whilst Martin elevated his game to become THE superstar in the competition in 2017.

Trengove now has another shot at Port Adelaide in 2018. It's fair to say it will be his final shot and the football world is pulling for him to be successful. After all his injury worries, he deserves a clean run at it. If Melbourne had their time over again, imagine Dusty wearing the red and the blue? "Go number 4..."

Speaking of having your time over again, Hawthorn would like to have another crack at the 2006 draft. Holding the #6 pick, the Hawks opted for tall forward, Mitch Thorp, despite having drafted both Franklin and Roughead a couple of years before. This allowed the Cats to pounce on Joel Selwood.

Looking back, the amount of times Selwood dragged his team back into games against the Hawks seemingly on will-power alone, or made crucial plays to carry them to victory during the Kennett-Curse years was ridiculous. Perhaps somewhere in the back of the Selwood mind was a need to punish the Hawks for overlooking him in 2006. Selwood is now a three time All-Australian Captain, and one of the most influential players of the last decade.

Third in line behind Hawthorn’s established key forwards, Thorp was up against it from the outset. He’d manage only 2 games in his entire AFL career, unable to break into the Hawthorn team. He was chosen in part because of concerns around Selwood’s knee. If those concerns had been proven correct, Selwood would’ve been long retired from AFL footy. I guess a few medicos got that one wrong. Geelong are thankful for their scepticism.

Garry Lyon was a Jimmy Toumpas fan right away. He publicly lauded the talent of the young Demon mid when he was drafted 4th overall in 2012. In an admittedly weak draft, Toumpas was a pick in hope, but hope only lasts so long when success doesn’t follow. It then turns to disappointment, and that’s what embodied Toumpas’ time at Melbourne. His 15 disposals per game in 9 games in 2015 were just not enough to sustain the hope. He is now a Port Adelaide player. Unless his form improves dramatically, this will be his last season in the league.

Then of course, is the one who got it right, yet was still viewed as wrong at the time.

Luke Hodge went #1 overall in 2001, but it was the #3 pick, Chris Judd, that set the footballing world alight in his first few years in the competition. Hawthorn considered Judd, but opted for Hodge in part due to concerns about Judd’s ailing shoulders. He’d already had surgery as a junior and there was a worry his body would not stand up to the rigors of AFL football. Judd did more than stand up; he brushed aside the competition with scintillating dashes, and powerful, explosive breaks from pack situations, winning the first of his two Brownlow Medals in his third season.

But Hodge was no bust at Hawthorn. He was a slow burn. Hobbled in his first season with Osteitis Pubis, Hodge gained fitness as his career progressed, and compiled an outstanding resume of his own. It was a little too late to save then-Hawks recruiting manager, John Turnbull. Former Hawks coach, Peter Schwab believes that the Hodge pick was the catalyst for Turnbull’s departure two years after the decision was made. Whilst Judd burst from the blocks, Hodge took a while to find his legs. By the time Hodge was making All-Australian teams, Turnbull was long gone.

Whilst Judd’s numbers in his first three years cast a dark shadow over those of Hodge, it is the number of games played that makes him look even better. Whilst Hodge worked through injuries, Judd was durable from the outset. You would never have picked that it would be Hodge with the longer career at this stage.

Judd vs Hodge Games Played 2002-2004

Chris Judd vs Luke Hodge Avg disposals per game 2002-04

Turnbull now works part time for the Fremantle Dockers, but will be best remembered for choosing Hodge over Judd. It was short term pain and long term gain. Judd would lead the Eagles to one flag. Hodge would lead the Hawks to three, and be part of a fourth. Hindsight is a lot kinder to John Turnbull than Peter Schwab believes the Hawthorn hierarchy was.

There are many other draft day blunders. Essendon used pick 2 in 2006 to snare Scott Gumbleton. They could not foresee the litany of hamstring injuries that would hobble him over his 35 game career. St Kilda squandered pick 9 on Caydn Beetham in 1999. He'd go on to play 37 games for the Saints. And the Western Bulldogs used pick 4 in 2002 to acquire Tim Walsh. You only need one finger to count his total amount of senior games.

The experts sometimes get it wrong. Let's hope your team isn't the one lamenting what could've been when they revisit the 2017 AFL Draft.


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