2016 AFL Draft Preview
With the exhaustive tumult of the trade/free-agency period now finally over, the eyes of the footy world move now to the hundreds of young footballers hoping to make a name for themselves in the biggest league of all.
This year’s pool is very even at the top – while Hugh McCluggage and Andrew McGrath are all but confirmed to go one-two on November 25th, the fates of Will Brodie, Ben Ainsworth, Jack Scrimshaw, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Tim Taranto and Tim English are nowhere near as determined. This list is without academy players Jack Bowes and Will Setterfield who will almost certainly ifeature in the first round.
This year’s draft is congested at the top but there’s plenty on offer. Brodie, Bowes and McCluggage are tough inside midfielders, Taranto, McGrath and Ainsworth classy flankers, balanced mids Scrimshaw, Setterfield and Petrevski-Seton and a talented ruckman in English.
There’s also Ollie Florent, an outside midfielder with precise disposal and a clean pair of heels, who could excite recruiters on draft day. Griffin Logue is the highest rated of the key defenders who could feature in the first round, while Josh Battle, Pat Kerr and Todd Marshall will appeal to clubs who are searching for another key forward.
A very interesting player in this year’s draft pool is exciting forward Jy Simpkin, who spent the majority of the year with a broken leg. At six foot, Simpkin can punch through the midfield but the question over him is how far his broken leg has pushed him down the order.
With only two Victorian clubs featured in the top ten, the fear of a mass exodus comes into question as well. With the departures of James Aish, Sam Docherty, Elliot Yeo, Billy Longer and Patrick Karnezis still fresh in mind (along with Jack Redden and Pearce Hanley’s recent departures) for the Lions, will they bet upon Ainsworth or Brodie or target a Queenslander instead?
Gold Coast in particular will have a very heavy influence on the draft, with four first round picks. With Bowes expected to be picked up with one of the four, Gold Coast too must keep in mind the possible departure of their young guns, as proven by the trades of Dion Prestia and Jaeger O’Meara this year.
There are a few father-sons in this year’s pool as well. Collingwood pair Gavin Brown and Josh Daicos have been bid on by the club, as has Ben Jarman, Sam Simpson and Jake Waterman by Adelaide, Geelong and West Coast respectively. While Jonty Scharenberg, Dylan Clarke, Hamish Brayshaw, Jamie Hampton, Joe Atley and Tyson Lever will not be exclusively linked to their brother’s club, they may feature on draft day as well.
Some notable lesser players in the draft include Hawthorn, who won’t pick until 88, Melbourne, who’s first pick will occur at 47. Richmond, St. Kilda, Collingwood and Geelong won’t pick until the second round.
It’s a hard first round to pick, and with late first round options in Shai Bolton, Will Hayward, Cedric Cox and Alex Witherden in the mix, we’re likely to see a very unpredictable draft after the top three have come and gone.
So how will it go? Bear with me here as the academy and father/son bidding systems are Ross Lyon zone-esque complex.
With pick one, Essendon will nab Hugh McCluggage, who’s been the general choice for the first pick for a long time. At 185cm, McCluggage has the size to fit in seamlessly with the Dons’ impressive midfield of Goddard, Watson, Heppell and Parish. McCluggage possesses beautiful ball-handling skills and clean hands at ground level and should make an impact on the AFL scene almost straight away,
GWS will pick whoever Essendon don’t at number two, and will be glad to snap up Sandringham’s Andrew McGrath. McGrath’s charge toward the top was left late, but the half-back’s superior kicking and ability to run the ball helped him catch the eye of the Giants. They’ll be especially happy to have an able support for the ageing Heath Shaw, who will provide McGrath a great apprenticeship off the backline.
Brisbane are next up, and have a perfect match with Ben Ainsworth, who should be heading north on draft night. The Morwell small forward is keen on the Lions, who would find a very good compliment to Josh Schache in the nimble Ainsworth. At 179cm, the Vic Country product is a very good mark for his size and is capable of playing through the midfield as well.
Gold Coast’s situation at number four will be problematic. If a club were to bid on academy prospect Jack Bowes, their hand may be forced to use the first if their four first round picks on the midfielder. Bowes is a very talented player, but I don’t believe that Essendon, GWS or Brisbane will make a play for the inside beast. Gold Coast will use their pick four, and will have to make a tough choice between the tough Will Brodie and smooth utility Jack Scrimshaw. With Brodie’s manic attack on the footy, hard work ethic and imposing 189cm, 82kg frame, Gold Coast would be hard-pressed to leave the Vic Country stoppage expert for Carlton at pick five. I expect this pick to be a well debated one, but Gold Coast should go for Will Brodie.
I expect Carlton to play hardball here and bid on Jack Bowes from the Gold Coast Academy. Gold Coast have the next pick at six and will match Carlton’s bid. Cairns’ Bowes is a classy midfielder with superior decision making and experience as a leader, captaining Queensland at the u/18’s carnival this year. With Dion Prestia out the door along with Jaeger O’Meara, Bowes and Brodie will be the next young midfield stars for Gold Coast to rest their hopes upon.
Carlton will be pushed down a single spot due to Gold Coast matching their bid on Jack Bowes. With Brodie gone, they will have to chose whether to add another midfielder to the fold, which would give Carlton another midfield option apart from the likes of Cripps, Murphy and Gibbs, or to add a key position player to replenish their woefully depleted stocks at either end of the ground (as Jacob Weitering and Charlie Curnow are still developing). They’ll have eyed Josh Battle, but six would be too early to nab the tall forward. I believe they’ll go for Jack Scrimshaw, a premiership player at the Sandringham Dragons who has the height (193cm) to be a marking target but also the disposal to play through the midfield with fellow tall midfielder Patrick Cripps. Scrimshaw has been linked to Gold Coast, but Carlton would be happy if the Suns picked up Scrimshaw as Will Brodie would be on offer.
Off to Freo we go, who have the luxury to chose between two WA boys: hulking ruckman Tim English and lightening-quick midfielder Sam Petrevski-Seton. With Aaron Sandilands and Jonathan Griffin both over 30 and the out-of-favour Zac Clarke hitting 27 next year, English may be a safe bet, although Petrevski-Seton is a very very talented player, one who Gold Coast will be very happy to snaffle at eight. But 204cm prospects from down the road don’t come often, which will be why the Dockers will pick Tim English. This will give them long-term sustainability in the ruck, a feature which few clubs are lucky enough to experience.
Gold Coast again! Although here I think they’ll bid on GWS academy prospect Will Setterfield, a 190cm midfielder who is considered one of the better midfielders in the first round. To match the bid, GWS will move to eight sacrificing their 15th and 60th picks to match the amount of points pick eight requires. Petrevski-Seton is still there at nine….
…and now he’s gone. Sam Petrevski-Seton will have to go up to Gold Coast, joining Brodie and Bowes in the new brigade at Metricon. A great kick on both feet, the half-forward from Claremont will line up at half forward for the Suns where his pressure and tackling will be on show. An eventual move into the midfield is likely.
Sydney was crafty enough to move into the first round during the trade period and will look to add some outside class and tall defenders during the draft. The Swans will have a close look at another Sandringham Dragon, half-forward Tim Taranto. The 186cm prospect can also play through the midfield, although key defender Griffen Logue may be hard to pass up. You’d think neither would last until Sydney’s next pick at nineteen, but I expect the Swans to bite the bullet and pick Griffen Logue. The West Australian is surprisingly quick for a 194cm, 92kg key defender. He was a joint winner of the beep test and recorded a 9.58 time in the 3km time trial at the draft combine. The athletic tall will be a healthy addition to the Swans backline.
Gold Coast will be elated with their draft hand. They’ll add another midfielder here with Tim Taranto, another classy and tall player who will be the final piece to Gold Coast’s midfield overhaul. He has great hands overhead and will be a difficult match-up on half-forward alongside Petrevski-Seton.
North Melbourne enter the draft here, and would be disappointed that Griffen Logue didn’t reach them. They will bid on another GWS academy player, classy and clever midfielder Harry Perryman. To get their man, GWS will have to give up 1014 points, which means losing picks 37, 39 and 59. This leaves the Giants with picks 52, 57 and 58, having given up 15, 37, 39, 59 and 60 in order to draft Setterfield and Perryman. The latter has great kicking skills in either foot and shows admirable composure with ball in hand.
The Kangaroos will have a few players in mind at thirteen, with midfielders Daniel Venables and Oliver Florent available while key forward Todd Marshall would be tempting. However, as Jarrad Waite, Ben Brown and Majak Daw are all settled as key forwards, Marshall will be passed over. Instead, the Roos will grab Oliver Florent, who can provide outside run and carry from the wing through half-forward. With the selection of Florent, that’ll make six Sandringham Dragons selected in the first round. Extraordinary.
The Eagles won’t have much trouble at fourteen and should snaffle Todd Marshall, the best key forward in the draft. The behemoth from Deniliquin is a raw prospect but at 198cm he has the height to dominate in the forward 50 – once he adds to his 87kg frame. Marshall is a great fit for the Eagles, who will have a ready-made replacement for the 29 year-old Josh Kennedy.
Adelaide will take their time at fifteen. Daniel Venables would be a very good pick up and would go a long way to reinforcing the Crows’ midfield, but South Australian forward Will Hayward is also a possibility, having bolted into the first round in his last month of football. But what should determine Adelaide’s decision will be the midfield prowess of Daniel Venables. Hayward would struggle to break into one of the best forward set-ups in the league while with Jarrad Lyons’ departure, Venables has a ready-made spot. He’s an interesting height (186cm) for a tough inside midfielder but has enough pace and skill to damage on the outside as well.
While Adelaide can’t fit Will Hayward in, their cross-town rivals certainly can. Port Adelaide have an able replacement for Jay Schulz with Hayward, who exploded in the under 18’s SANFL finals with nine in the Preliminary Final and four in the Grand Final. At 186cm, Hayward has good hands and a handy sense around the goals. Alongside Charlie Dixon, Justin Westhoff, Angus Monfries, Chad Wingard and Robbie Gray, the North Adelaide prospect shouldn’t have too much of a hard time.
The Lions lost a fair bit of dare and dash off half-back when Pearce Hanley moved down the M1 to the Suns. A ready-made replacement will be available here, and they’ll be very happy to nab Jarrod Berry from Vic Country. Berry is a pure athlete, having set the fastest time in the 3km time trial as well as being the joint winner of the beep test along with Griffen Logue. At 191cm, Berry plays off the back flank and can run all day, while showing good leadership skills as well. An eventual move to the midfield is likely.
The Power are back again but with little prospects in South Australia, they’ll have to look elsewhere here. Jy Simpkin might entice the Power, but with Will Hayward’s selection at sixteen they may not have space for the exciting small forward. They wouldn’t mind some extra run and may settle on Geelong Falcon Alex Witherden, who, like Simpkin, spent the season injured with a broken leg. Witherden provides run off half-back and has good foot skills and precise decision making. With Port’s poor backline stocks, Witherden will add some much needed class.
The Doggies will snap up Jy Simpkin in about two seconds. The small forward may go much higher up the order but with no footy played in 2016 he’ll be a gamble. Simpkin has great pace, goal sense and will be the perfect compliment to the Dogs’ brigade of ground-level specialists. At 181cm Simpkin has the potential to play through the midfield but will settle in a forward pocket in his early career.
The last pick of the first round goes to the Sydney Swans, who will presumably look for an outside midfielder capable of driving inside fifty. Eastern Ranger Jordan Gallucci provides that and some. Along with his outside quickness, Gallucci moves through contests very well and shows great skill in the clinches. Also the co-captain of Vic Metro, Gallucci would add some zip to Sydney’s very deep midfield.
So that’s all for round one! Perhaps unlucky to miss out were West Australian trio Shai Bolton, Sam Powell-Pepper and Josh Rotham, who should be nabbed fairly early in round two. Josh Battle will also go early, as will Cedric Cox and Pat Kerr.
To say I’ll have picked a few wrong will be an understatement by the end of the night, but we’ll see what happens.