A blast from drafts past

By Damian Watson

Well folks the 2009 AFL National Draft is fast approaching!

It’s that brief moment in summer where the sole sporting focus shifts to AFL Footy just one more time before we enter the New Year. It is a day where the best young talents wait anxiously to hear the recruiters announce their name. Since the draft’s inception back in 1986, many champions such as Drew Banfield, Nick Riewoldt, Alan Didak, Luke Hodge, Adam Cooney and Daniel Rich have shrugged off the hype and pressure surrounding an extremely high pick in the draft to become sensational exponents of our modern game. Others weren’t so fortunate and made an early exit from the game. Some AFL greats were never expected to become household names and lingered around the Pick 60, 70 and 80 mark before unexpectedly establishing great footy careers.

Poor Priority Picks

Here are a short selection of names that achieved a selection in the Top 5 Draft Picks, but were unsuccessful in building a solid AFL career:

Richard Lounder Pick 1 1987 Richmond – The big 118kg man mountain ventured to Punt Road in Season 89’ after he gained selection as the No.1 pick in the 1987 National Draft. In his debut match he booted four goals with his first four kicks of VFL football in a match against North Melbourne. The Tiger fans who had suffered throughout the majority of the 1980’s believed they had unearthed the next Royce hart or Michael Roach and big Lounder developed a cult following. This was short-lived as Lounder only played three more games in the Big League before disappearing from the scene hence earning the nickname ‘Flounder’.

Anthony Banik Pick 1 1989 Richmond – Another Tiger. Yet another failure. Don’t worry Richmond fans you will obtain success from the Draft in latter years. Anthony Banik recruited from Won Wron Woodside, would play 49 games for the yellow and black mainly in defence throughout the early 1990’s. Banik showed glimpses of his talent throughout the 1991 season picking up 20 odd possessions regularly in his 20 games for the season. After retiring in 1995 it was another case of ‘what might have been’ for Banik and the Richmond side after he was hampered by injuries in the latter period of his career.

Stephen Hooper Pick 1 1990 Geelong- This Western Australian was drafted at Pick 1 in 1990 by the Cats. Hooper entered what was an entertaining Geelong side who after achieving a spot in the 1989 Grand Final were still a prominent threat in the early 1990’s with the likes of Ablett, Bairstow and Couch. Although the Cats continued on their merry way Hooper was barely apart of it appearing in only 21 games for Geelong before making the trek back across the Nullaboor in 1993.

Ryan Fitzgerald Pick 4 1998 Sydney- Remember when this high-flying forward burst onto the scene for the Swans in 2000? When picked at No.4 for the Swans in the 1998 Draft, ‘Fitzy’ as he is currently known, kicked 5 goals on debut against the Saints at the newly opened, state of the art Docklands Stadium. Fitzgerald backed up his performance with a 6 goal effort over the following fortnight. After gradually drifting from the goal kicking scene the Swans cleared him back to his home town Adelaide. After once again showing fair potential, booting 8 goals in his first month at the Crows in 2002 he suffered a career ending ACL knee injury after only 18 games of AFL footy. However Fitzy never left the spotlight earning fame on Reality TV show Big Brother and later Before the Game.

Andrew McDougall Pick 5 2000 West Coast- The 2000 Draft would be touted as one of the best with the likes of Riewoldt, Koschitzke, Didak and Burgoyne entering the scene. A young Andrew McDougall was plucked at Pick 5 by the West Coast Eagles and showed promising signs early in his career. The key forward booted 44 goals in his first two seasons of footy before he was plagued by injuries and poor form. After struggling to break into the champion West Coast side the Western Bulldogs gave the tall forward a lifeline in 2007. He would close out that season with 5 games before announcing his retirement.

Brilliant Bargains

Chris Grant Pick 105 1988 Western Bulldogs- This may be one of the biggest bargains in AFL history. At the time the Bulldogs were struggling on the field and financially almost succumbing to a merger. After the club survived its fortunes began to change slightly. It would produce young champions such as Grant who would make an impact almost immediately. Grant starred in the Doggies 1992 Finals campaign and never looked back. He was in career best form back in 1997, helping the Doggies reach a Preliminary Final berth. After an agonizing loss to the Crows in that match further slat was rubbed into the wound as Grant polled the most votes in the Brownlow but was ineligible due to suspension. Grant continued to perform and eventually break the record for the most games played by a Bulldog in 2006.Grant eventually retired in 2007 after 341 games.

Ashley McIntosh Pick 112 1989 West Coast- This young defender debuted in 1991 for West Coast to signal the beginning for one of the strongest defenders in his era. McIntosh was fortunate to break into the Eagles line up at the start of their golden era. He would eventually play in two premierships and earning a reputation for his pace and strength. He was a handy high flyer as well, taking some gutsy marks throughout the course of his career. McIntosh eventually retired after the Eagles’ Elimination final loss to the Crows ending an illustrious career.

James Hird Pick 79 1990 Essendon- Brownlow Medallist, Norm Smith Medallist, Two time Premiership Player, Multiple Best and Fairest Winner, Three Time Anzac Medallist, Australian captain, Essendon Team of the Century member, not bad for Pick 79. This Bomber champion would play 253 games suffering many injury and controversial setbacks along the way. This former Essendon captain would be ranked as arguably the Bomber to play the game. After making an emotional exit from the game in 2007 (his last Melbourne game drew a crowd of over 88 000 in an insignificant match) he would become a well respected Ambassador of AFL Football.

Dane Swan Pick 58 2001 Collingwood- Who knew in 2001 that this rough and tumble midfielder would become one of the stars of the competition by the end of the decade. Swan was a slow burner and didn’t quite become regular of the Collingwood team until 2006 playing 21 games and polling 11 Brownlow votes. The year 2009 saw Swan labeled as one of the best midfielders in the competition, gathering almost 40 disposals as a regular occurrence. In the Round 10 match against Port Adelaide under lights, Swan gathered a record breaking 48 disposals. Swan who is recognized mammoth amount of tattoos on his right arm is geared up for a huge 2010.

Matthew Stokes Pick 61 2005 Geelong- This small Cat would eventually play a pivotal role in the Cat’s drought breaking Premiership of 2007 and would develop a reputation as one of the best crumbers in the competition. After crossing to Geelong from SANFL club Woodville-West Torrens Stokes developed into a small forward in his debut year of 2006. Stokes’ breakthrough year was 2007 where he booted a handy 32 goals as well as three in the epic Preliminary Final against the Pies. He was rewarded the following week with a Premiership Medallion. However the following two year would prove agonizing for Stokes. In the 2008 Grand Final he played poorly squandering easy opportunities along with his teammates to lose to the physical Hawks. He was controversially left out of the 2009 Grand Final team against the Saints as a result of groin soreness. As a result he missed his chance for a second Premiership medallion. He will come back fit and firing in 2010.

If there are any other players you would recommend for these categories, feel free to comment.

About Damian Watson

Hey,my name is Damian Watson and I am 14 years old. My ambition is to become an AFL broadcaster/journalist in the future. I am a keen blues supporter and I live in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I play and write for the Knox Falcons U/16's.


  1. Steve Healy says

    Great piece Damo. I can’t wait till the draft tomorrow.

    Biggest mistake: 2001 national Draft, Luke Molan at pick 9 for the Dees, he didn’t do a thing and didn’t play a game in 4 seasons at the club. He had a run of bag injuries though.

  2. Great stuff Damo, i like your enthusiasm on the draft. I’m looking forward to it tomorrow night, as the Roos have a variety of players to pick with pick 5, but im hoping to secure Ben Cunnington.

    From the 2000 draft, Dylan Smith was taken at pick 6 but only played 11 games. Corey Jones was taken at pick 60, and has played 155 games so far while Leigh Harding was taken in the rookie draft but has played 129 matches. From the 2001 draft, Ash Watson was taken at pick 14 but only played 7 games. To 2002, and Michael Firrito has played 127 games since being taken in the rookie draft. In 2003, David Trotter was taken with pick 9 but only played 7 games. 2004, David Pratt was taken with pick 74, and has evolved into a key player in the side, playing 95 games. And Scott McMahon had a brilliant season this year after being taken at 38 in the rookie draft. Matt Riggio was taken with pick number 28 in 2005 but never showed any promise, playing 10 games while Andrew Swallow was taken with pick 43 and won the best and fairest this year. 2006 was a great year in the draft for the Roos. Todd Goldstein, Lindsay Thomas, Ben Warren and Aaron Edwards were taken with picks 37, 53, 69, 82 respectively and are key players in the side today. From the rookie draft, Leigh Adams and Matt Campbell are promising players.

    For you nay-sayers, Lachie Hansen will be a star, just give him time. He will prove why he was taken with pick 3.

  3. Steve Healy says

    Hansen needs to improve his kicking and needs to get the ball in his hands more often.

    Same thing with Jack Watts. He’ll be a champion when he retires

  4. John Butler says

    Nice work Damian

    As a good Carlton man, you may want to look away.

    Poor investments
    ’89 Pick 7: Steven Edgar- the great country could-a-been
    ’90 Pick 2: James Cook- promised at times, but ultimately frustrated both us and the Doggies
    ’97 pick 7: Kris Massie- cleared him to the Crows just in time for him to start playing better footy (Andrew Eccles anyone?)
    ’98 pick 6: Murray Vance- Murray Rance would have been much better
    ’00 pick 4: Luke Livinston- a bit stiff, had to play mainly as an undersized key defender- dark days indeed

  5. nawww yay for my Damo!! :)
    look at his researching footy brain go!
    Swan at pick 58, now thats a bargin!! :)

  6. Didn’t West Coast get (Norm Smith medallist) Dean Kemp at about pick 117 and Brett Heady at 92? I think the rest of the footy world wised up a bit after that.

  7. I have to say, out of this years draftees, Ben Cunnington and Anthony Morabito look the most likely players to take out the NAB Rising Star award next year.

  8. Chris Munro says

    Hey Damo.

    Could see you were even more enthusiastic about the draft than me. (A feat I thought impossible except for draftees and club representatives.) heres the URL for Garry Lyons Gold Coast Draft song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv9n2xR7fBI

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