In past years, at least up until the 2010 AFL Draft and the entry of the Gold Coast in the competition, the selection by teams of players at the draft was more about locating a player or players who topped up or filled a gap in the line ups, and looked liked the leaders of the future. Occasionally, clubs looked to one player as a saviour or marquee player, but the smart clubs seemed to look for role players or sheer talent.
As any one team rarely had more than 1 or 2 picks amongst the elite playing group available, say the top 12-15 available players, no one side could dominate selections.
The draft then wasn’t, or shouldn’t have been seen, as the establishment of the basis for an entire side or dynasty, as teams were only looking at a handful of selections overall, and only a small number in the elite category. Melbourne look to have taken that dynasty and eggs-in-one-basket path in 2009, with possibly disastrous results.
(The Hawthorn experience in 2004 when they gained Roughhead, Franklin and Lewis, fortuitously, in the top 7 picks, stands out as an exception to the dynasty play.)
The arrival of the newer teams has changed the draft completely, as these teams are now selecting the basis for a side of the future in one draft.
Great Western Sydney had the top 5 selections in last year’s draft. That’s your goal to goal line of the future, over a quarter of your run-on side, or your centre square line-up and key forward.
Add to that their first three selections tomorrow, and if they choose wisely, they will have nearly half their best side of the future coming from two drafts, if they can keep them together, let alone choose wisely.
This is a dramatic change in the way teams are selected for the future. A review of the drafts of the last decade show what impact careful selection could have on the two expansion sides, in particular GWS and also what pitfalls to avoid.
Below you’ll find the top 5 selections of recent drafts. It is worth considering what some clubs would have looked like had they had the top five in their sides a few years on. I’d welcome contributions from readers as to what year they’d choose for their top 3 or 5 picks, although you’ll see soon below that I think one year takes the cake for first 3.
Clearly of course, the difference is that the players would have come into established sides, not expansion new ones, so the comparison isn’t exact.
However, by looking at what the top 5 selections were, and comparing that to Gold Coast and GWS having selection 1, 2 and 3 in 2010 and 2012 respectively, and GWS’s unprecedented first 5 selections in 2011, we can get an idea of what these two clubs could look like in a few years’ time.
It is of course worth noting that draft selections don’t guarantee team or individual success. Famously, only three No. 1 Draft picks since inception over 25 years ago have won premierships* and by my reckoning, only Adam Cooney in recent memory has won the highest individual accolade. No. 1 picks seem more likely to win the Rising Star award.
I have started with the wonder draft, the draft by which all other drafts have been measured: 2001.
The 2001 draft delivered the most famous 1, 2 and 3 of Hodge, Ball and Judd in that order, with Polak to Freo and Xavier Clarke rounding out the top 5.
Elsewhere in that great year for talent, Ashley Sampi, David Hale and Jimmy Bartel were in the top 10, with Dal Santo at 13, Ladson at 16, James Kelly and Stevie J to the Cats at 17 and 24 respectively, LRT to the Swans at 29, Campbell Brown and Sam Mitchell at 32 and 36 to the Hawks, Montagne at 37, Brad Miller 55, Medhurst to Freo one later and Dane Swan sneaking in very late at pick 58.
After that, the top 5 selections, notable others and ‘how they hell did we miss him’ per year are:
1 – Goddard, 2 – Wells, 3 – Jarrad Brennan, 4 – Tim Walsh to the Bulldogs, 5 – Jarrod McVeigh.
Mackie was at 7, Lonergan at 23, Daniel Merrett 30, Kade Simpson at 45 and 2012 Premiership hero Nick Malceski was a late selection at 64.
1 – Cooney, 2 – Andrew Walker, 3 – Colin Sylvia, 4 – Farren Ray, 5 – Brock McLean.
Late selections were Heath Shaw at 48, Sam Fisher 55, Michael Rischitelli at 61 and Shane Tuck at 73.
1 – Deledio, 2 – Roughead, 3 – Griffen, 4 – Tambling (insert grimace or smile here), 5 – Franklin.
Jordan Lewis went 7, Monfreis at 14, Adelaide got van Berlo at 24 and the Eagles Rosa at 29 and LeCras at 37. Travis Cloke was at 39 and the Cats snared Matt Egan at 62.
1 – Murphy, 2 – Dale Thomas, 3 – Xavier Ellis, 4 – Josh K Kennedy to the Blues, 5 – Pendelbury.
Mitch Clark was 9, Nathan Jones 12, Hurn 13, Birchall 14 and Travis Varcoe 15. Bernie Vince was late at 32 and Matt Stokes under the radar at 61.
1 – Gibbs, 2 – Gumbleton, 3 – Hansen to North, 4 – Leuenberger, 5 – Travis Boak.
Famously, Joel Selwood went at 7, with James Frawley and Jack Reiwoldt at 12 and 13. Chris Dawes was 28, Houli at 42 and the Pies got Goldsack at 63.
1 – Kruezer, 2 – Cotchin, 2 – Masten to the Eagles, 4 – Morton to (and now gone from) the Dees, 5 – Jarrod Grant to the Dogs.
The Dees and Dogs could instead of their picks 4 and 5 looked at Dangerfield who went at 10, Rioli at 12, Harry Talor at 17, or Rance to the Tigers at 18. The Blues took a reasonable punt on Armfield at 56, 2012 Premiership player Craig Bird was 59, and Taylor Walker was the last man selected at 75.
1 – Watts, 2 – Nic Nat, 3 – Stephen Hill, 4 – Hamish Hartlett, 5 – Hurley to the Bombers.
Rising Star Daniel Rich was at 7, TAC Grand Final Star of that year Steele Sidebottom waited til pick 11 and Hayden Ballantyne was at 21. Zaharakis, a Dons B&F winner, was 23 and Daniel Hannebery, another Rising Star, a massive overlook at 30. Taylor Hunt was 49.
1 – Scully, 2 – Trengove, 3 – Martin, 4 – Freo takes Morabito and the Kangas get Cunnington at 5.
Daniel Talia at 13 and Lewis Jetta at 14 are a good pair, with Mitch Duncan at 28 and Sam Reid to the Swans at 38. Ben Stratton at the Hawks looks a steal for pick 46, before being immediately put into the shade with the taking of Matt Suckling at 70.
Gold Coast has the first three and takes Swallow, Bennell and Day. Already, Bennell is showing signs of being a great choice and Swallow is a long term get. Gaff goes to the Eagles at 4 and Polec at 5 to the Lions.
Who could they have had instead though? Isaac Smith was 19, Jeremy Howe 33 and Alex Fasolo strangely late at 45. The Cats took the punt on JPod at 58, but Puopolo at 66, Jeff Garlett at 85, Jarrod Blair at 91 seem well overlooked. The other late pick that didn’t matter or seemed a risk worth taking late at the time was the big Canadian Pyke at 101.
The GWS have the first 5 and take Patton, Coniglio (a star in the making), Tyson, Hoskin-Elliott and Buntine.
So, will tomorrow’s group, assumed to be led by Lachie Whitfield and then maybe O’Rourke or one of the talented SA group, match these other years.
Would you want your first 5 selections in 2011 to be the equivalent of the group of 2005, or your top 3 to be like the 2004 group.
Or, will we have a repeat of the 2001 star draft.
Answer *: Hodge, Drew Bamfield and Des Headland the only number 1 picks to own a premiership medal.