In 2001, the football world witnessed the most prosperous draft in the league’s history, welcoming a plethora of young footballing stars that would go on to dominate the game for the next decade and a half, and some still to this day.
The “superdraft” was headlined by youngsters that became legends such as Chris Judd (Pick 3), Nick Dal Santo (Pick 13), Dane Swan (Pick 55), Aaron Sandilands (Rookie) and Matthew Boyd (Rookie). Since 2001, the AFL has witnessed two great dynasties. Both Geelong and Hawthorn built their future on draft night, 2001. Geelong welcomed multi-premiership heroes in Jimmy Bartel (Pick 8), James Kelly (Pick 17), Steve Johnson (Pick 24) and of course, Gary Ablett Jr (Pick 40). Whereas, the Hawks gave future premiership captains Luke Hodge (Pick 1) and Sam Mitchell (Pick 36) homes. They would also meet Norm Smith Medallist, Brian Lake (Pick 71) some years later.
Many fine judges have dubbed the 2018 crop as the “Superdraft: Mark II,” which along with the implementation of live trading and a new format means this year’s draft is one of the most anticipated of all time. Will the next generation of footy supporters speak about Walsh, Lukosius and Rankine in the same esteem we currently discuss the likes of Ablett, Judd and Swan? Or will they speak about some of the hidden gems we are yet to truly find?
The South Australian draft batch is mooted as the greatest of all time, with the one-in-a-generation Jack Lukosius, excitement machine Izak Rankine, SANFL premiership star Connor Rozee, the “bulletproof” Jackson Hately and their National Championship winning captain and AFL leader in the making Luke Valente, set to shape the first round of the draft. But the man set to atop them all is the highly touted and incoming Blue, Sam Walsh. Yet in draft’s gone by twins Max and Ben, could well have been the draft’s Kings. The same goes for the unbelievably dedicated Bailey Smith and Buddy Franklin’s heir, Nick Blakey.
The following phantom draft is not based on my opinions on which draftee should be selected where and when. Rather, it is a projection of the most likely outcome of the night based on far too much research and information gathering.
So here goes…
Pick 1 (Carlton) – Sam Walsh
Four weeks ago, the Carlton list management and recruitment team, headed up by club icon Stephen Silvagni, discussed and thrashed out all possibilities pertaining to their coveted Pick 1 selection. This included all possibilities, including a trade. However, the Blues decided that they will take Pick 1 to the draft and use it on gun Geelong Falcons midfielder Sam Walsh, as has long been expected. They’ve rejected all opportunities of a potential and much speculated trade with opposition clubs such as Gold Coast.
Pick 2 (Gold Coast) – Jack Lukosius
Many clubs rate Jack Lukosius as significantly the best player in this year’s draft pool. It is very easy to see why. He announced himself as the early Pick 1 favourite last year, after a breathtaking four-goal performance in Woodville-West Torrens (less controversial) SANFL League preliminary final loss. While Gold Coast were originally hoping for Carlton to select Lukosius so they are able to secure Sam Walsh, it would be hard for them to be disappointed with this perfect Tom Lynch replacement.
Pick 3 (Gold Coast) – Izak Rankine
Gold Coast have been very conscious of retention issues in formulating their draft strategy (how could they not be?) so pairing good friends and Henley High school mates Jack Lukosius and Izak Rankine seems like a logical decision. However, it was not necessarily a fait accompli as the Suns did seriously consider drafting North Adelaide product Connor Rozee instead of Rankine, as Lukosius and Rozee have been best mates since they were twelve years old.
Pick 4 (St Kilda) – Max King
Max King is rated by some as the finest prospect in this year’s draft however, has barely taken to the field in his draft year after his much-publicised ACL injury in April while playing school football for Haileybury College. However, to say that King is under St Kilda’s noses is an understatement. King not only barracks for the Saints, but lives five minutes away from their Moorabbin headquarters where he has completed part of his rehabilitation. Despite some speculation to the contrary, St Kilda will not be trading this pick and will take it to the draft.
Pick 5 (Port Adelaide) – Connor Rozee
Connor Rozee will not be selected beyond this point with Port Adelaide committing to drafting the potential Jared Polec replacement at Pick 5, and it is understood Rozee has been told as much by the Port Adelaide hierarchy, including coach Ken Hinkley. While, the Power would have loved to have one of Jack Lukosius and Izak Rankine in teal, Rozee is a pretty good compromise as he looks a star in the making who can play as either a half forward, half back or midfielder.
Pick 6 (Sydney) – Nick Blakey
The Sydney Swans academy prospect will join the Swans to form what is set to be a mouthwatering tandem with fellow key forward Lance Franklin, and later, the perfect replacement. Sydney will match any bid for the key forward who can play as a 195cm midfielder regardless of where it comes in the first eight picks. St Kilda and Port Adelaide are also considering placing a bid, but Gold Coast seem the most likely bidder.
Pick 7 (Gold Coast) – Bailey Smith
Bailey Smith is rated as the second-best pure midfielder in this year’s illustrious draft crop behind the incumbent Pick 1, Sam Walsh. Smith is reluctant to move away from Victoria where he believes he is settled with his family and girlfriend. However, Gold Coast believe the potential “go-home” factor risk is minimised by the fact they have three selections inside the top-10. On merit, Smith is the best player available at this pick.
Pick 8 (Bulldogs) – Ben King
While, Ben’s preference would be to reunite with twin brother Max at an AFL club, he does wish to stay in Victoria and the Western Bulldogs have emerged as the most likely destination. Like his twin brother Max, Ben has the ability to play at both ends of the ground and measures over two metres tall. However, the Bulldogs’ dream scenario is that Gold Coast pass on Bailey Smith so they are able to secure their primary target.
Pick 9 (Adelaide) – Jye Caldwell
Barring a successful bid to jump their arch rivals in Port Adelaide to claim one of the ‘big three’ South Australian talents, Adelaide’s pick is very much dependent on what happens above them. The Crows will have to wait to see which member of the dully dubbed “fine nine” slips through to their pick, with midfielder Jye Caldwell the most likely scenario unless he is somewhat surprisingly picked up by Gold Coast at Pick 6. Caldwell has had an injury hampered year but has impressed so much in his 16th and 17th years to claim a top 10 selection.
Pick 10 (GWS) – Chayce Jones
Only one Tasmanian has been selected in the National Draft in the past two seasons, yet in a year where Tassie footy could be plunged into crisis, it will be a relief for many to see two Tasmanian names called out in the top-15. Chayce Jones is set to be the highest Tassie draft pick since Kade Kolodjashnij went at pick 5 in 2013. If Giants, pass on Jones other players of interest include Jackson Hatley and Riley Collier-Dawkins.
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Pick 11 (Port Adelaide) – Jackson Hately
Port Adelaide are hoping to add a second local prospect to their assault on the first round. If GWS foil their plans and select the “bulletproof” South Australian midfielder Jackson Hately with their second pick, the Power’s contingency plan is Tasmanian midfielder, Chayce Jones.
Pick 12 (North Melbourne) – Tarryn Thomas
North Melbourne will match the bid for the Tasmanian prospect which will come shortly after the top 10, with Port Adelaide the earliest potential bidder. This is despite North Melbourne’s devious attempts to talk down Thomas’ value to other clubs… and media outlets.
Pick 13 (GWS) – Riley Collier-Dawkins
Collier-Dawkins is in the frame for Pick 10, however unlike Chayce Jones and Jackson Hately the ‘modern’ tall midfielder is not at risk of being taken by Port Adelaide’s selection wedged between GWS’ two first-round picks. So, expect his name to be called out here.
Pick 14 (Geelong) – Jordan Clark
The best Western Australian draftee in the pool is set to have his name called out in the top-15 selections on draft night. While Geelong are not necessarily obvious suitors for the half-back, he may be too good to refuse if he is still available at Pick 14.
Pick 15 (Collingwood) – Isaac Quaynor
The well-rounded defender who has the ability to play on smalls and talls will be the third bid placed on the top-15, at which point the Magpies will match, seeing Quaynor join the club he barracks for.
Pick 16 (Adelaide) – Zak Butters
Zak Butters has no shortage of admirers from this point onwards in the draft, with Fremantle particularly desperate to recruit the midfielder with their first pick. Butters would also come into consideration at Port Adelaide with their next pick if he slipped through. However, the Crows have identified their man and are set to pounce.
Pick 17 (Fremantle) – Ned McHenry
This time last year it would be been hard to imagine a Western Australian team passing on Ian Hill at Pick 17, but that could well be the case for the Dockers here. While Hill has to come under consideration, we may well see the Falcon Files become the Fremantle Files in 2019.
Pick 18 (Port Adelaide) – Ian Hill
Port Adelaide are in dire need of small forwards following the departures of Chad Wingard, Lindsay Thomas and Jake Neade, as well as Robbie Gray hitting the wrong side of 30. Hence, their strong interest in one of the most prodigious talents of the draft pool in Ian Hill. GWS are also interested in “Bobby” with their next pick.
Pick 19 (Adelaide) – Sam Sturt
Sam Sturt has catapulted into top-20 calculations being widely considered to be this year’s draft bolter after an impressive end to his year in the TAC Cup. The half-forward has been given a late invitation to Thursday night’s draft suggesting top-20 interest.
Pick 20 (Richmond) – Liam Stocker
Liam Stocker joined names such as Clayton Oliver, Hugh McCluggage and Jack Higgins in recent years winning this year’s Morrish Medal for the best player of the TAC Cup. Richmond will ensure that he does not slide outside the top-20.
Pick 21 (Bulldogs) – Rhylee West
The son of the only player in the AFL era to win seven club best and fairest awards, Rhylee will join Scott’s former club, as the Bulldogs will match a bid on the Thursday night or very early on the Friday.
Pick 22 (Brisbane) – Xavier Duursma
Midfielder Xavier Duursma may join the club in which his uncle Jamie Duursma was an inaugural member of the Brisbane Bears. Others options the Lions are considering are Luke Valente and Curtis Taylor.
Pick 23 (GWS) – Luke Valente
Rated as a top-10 selection by Champion Data, and with good reason. Valente was the MVP of the greatest South Australian National Championship side in history, starring as captain. He could be selected at Brisbane’s first pick but looms large for the Giants. He looms as the steal of the draft and champion in the making.
Pick 24 (West Coast) – Curtis Taylor
Small forward Curtis Taylor could be selected at Brisbane’s first pick, however, if not, will be available for West Coast here. Taylor has been built up as a potential replacement for the now-retired premiership hero Mark LeCras.
Pick 25 (North Melbourne) – Bailey Scott
Bailey Scott will not be a first-round selection, however it is understood that the Crows are likely to bid on the North Melbourne father-son prospect with the opening pick of day two of the draft.
News just to hand has caused a bit of a reshuffle. New order below as of 6pm on Draft Eve
PHANTOM DRAFT UPDATED
1. Sam Walsh (Carlton)
2. Jack Lukosius (Gold Coast)
3. Izak Rankine (Gold Coast)
4. Max King (St Kilda)
5. Connor Rozee (Port Adelaide)
6. Jye Caldwell (Gold Coast)
7. Bailey Smith (Bulldogs)
8. Nick Blakey (Sydney)
9. Ben King (Adelaide)
10. Chayce Jones (GWS)
11. Jackson Hatley (Port Adelaide)
12. Riley Collier-Dawkins (GWS)
13. Tarryn Thomas (North Melbourne)
14. Jordan Clark (Geelong)
15. Isaac Quaynor (Collingwood)
16. Zak Butters (Adelaide)
17. Ned McHenry (Fremantle)
18. Ian Hill (Port Adelaide)
19. Liam Stocker (Adelaide)
20. Rhylee West (Bulldogs)
21. Sam Sturt (Richmond)
22. Xavier Duursma (Brisbane)
23. Luke Valente (GWS)
24. Curtis Taylor (West Coast)
25. Bailey Scott (North Melbourne)
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