A night at the draft, not exactly the opera

So much attention has been placed on draft days and nights over the years. Sometimes I’ve watched the drama unfold on TV, occasionally I’ve relied on web streams of radio broadcasts of the event having risen too early on a Saturday Morning outside of the football season. There was even the time where I’ve tried to pick the coverage up on the Caboolture-Nambour train after a day’s play at The Gabba, only for the internet coverage to fail once past Caboolture itself.

For 2012, I was fortunate enough to have received in my inbox an invitation to join an audience full of the Queensland football community to see how the whole thing runs. This was too good an opportunity to pass up, particularly with me being on leave from work for a fortnight (don’t be too worried folks, I always take a fornight’s leave at this time of the year!). At the very least it would be an excuse to get out of the house for the night, although with the number of trips I’ve taken recently to Brisbane and Geelong I doubt that excuse would wash with some.

The first challenge naturally was getting to the Gold Coast Convention Centre, which would have been easier if I had not decided to stay the night in Brisbane. After a little research, and catching a break when 3 other kids were heading to the same event boarded the train at Park Road station, it was a little reassuring that if I stuffed up then at least 3 others were in the same boat as me. Thankfully the timing of the train’s arrival at Nerang (ironically enough the station of choice when looking to head to Carrara) was perfect for the connecting bus that stopped outside the venue. There were a few schoolies that boarded at Pacific Fair, headed to the final destination of Surfer’s Paradise, but nobody was game enough at that stage to get off at the next stop which happened to be Jupiter’s Casino.

Reportedly there were 1500 invites to the community handed out, and the queue to enter at close to 5:30 snaked to at least 200 deep. Getting to the front for me was impossible, thanks to looking for a toilet which took 5 minutes of wandering like a lost child after Auskick waiting for their parent to collect them. After I found the loo, my spot was ably taken by Ross Lyon, but given the circumstances and the crowd it would have been a little rude. Once upstairs, the line consisted of many Gold Coast suns supporters, a few from other clubs, a large Jimmy Toumpas fan club, and me in the local club shirt and slacks……OK, most of my clothing required attention in the laundry!

Without dwelling on who picked whom and the merits or otherwise, the event itself was a little underwhelming. The annoying “warm-up on ground announcer” made an obligatory appearance, complete with talent ID officer who only ever makes an appearance at this time of year. The only reason I’m sure that Michael Ablett was given a guernsey on the warm-up stage I guess was because of the name, though I’m sure the crowd would have been a little more psyched if the bald namesake who plies his trade on the Coast was in the house. Right on 6PM came the Fox Footy draft coverage, which to me seemed a little over the top with ex-players who struggle to properly analyse football being thrown in with Shifter Sheehan being another to make the obligatory yearly outing trying to talk up the prospects of someone who is less of a guarantee to make it than a disgruntled fan would have been to criticise a selection when someone else was available.

After the usual overview of the rules of the draft, and a not so usual thank you to Rod Austin who was leaving the league administration after a number of years service, it was a return to the normal reading out of picks as opposed to the countdown. Each of the top 10 as has become the norm were handed their jumper for the first time, but only the first and tenth pick were interviewed on stage, plus Mr Sheedy who would be making his last draft appearance, and Anthony Daniher who gave the usual “he’s better than I ever was” answer to a couple of questions once his son was 100% confirmed as a Bomber. It rather seemed that Mr Demetriou had a dinner date on the Coast that night, for he looked impatient for each presentation to take place.

What was more alarming to me was the absence of Lions coach Mr Voss, leaving faithful assistant Mr Harvey to handle the presentation to Pick 8. For what reason Vossy was not present I am not certain, but I haven’t read or heard anything since so I guess he was letting the remainder of the Lions contingent to handle the nights’ proceedings. Despite having an allowance for up to 8 to be present in their draft party, most of the clubs that I saw from my vantage point had 7 seated both at the front and rear tables. Whilst the view of the Suns, Giants, Hawks and Demons tables were obscured, I did notice that only 1 table (North Melbourne) had a female presence, whilst Port Adelaide’s financial position couldn’t have improved that much given there were a pair of vacant seats in their area. The men on the front tables were generally recruiting staff, but I did notice the Premiership coach from 2012 taking a front row seat, unlike Mr C.Scott who probably saw nothing being stuck behind Mr Balme.

People were heading for the exit door as the last “live” selections were taking place, and despite assurances from Mr Demetriou that anyone could stay to catch the remainder of the Fox coverage after the last of the rookie upgrades were confirmed, most of the audience were taking similar action. Some were disappointed that the “Sports Ears” that they had been given to listen to Fox’s coverage had to be returned, but in reality it was a waste of time getting them anyway for those that actually wanted to hear picks from the 2nd round onwards. I’m sure many fans would have loved hearing the opening interviews for Doggie Draftees Stringer and Macrae (and the obligatory Brad Johnson smile as they took a seat next to the games record holder), but I’m sure there has been criticism in some circles by purists who actually wanted to follow proceedings rather than listen to predictable answers to predictable questions.

The whole draft process took 90 minutes to complete, which was half an hour quicker than I had anticipated and about half an hour slower than when the draft was held on Saturday Mornings in the early part of the century. With the bulk of the crowd already vacating the area looking for food options not overrun by partying school leavers, it wasn’t long before I located the Subway across the street and the commencement of the long journey to the Queensland capital.

So would the experience be worth attending if given the chance to? If you have never seen the draft live before or have an excessive obsession with football, then certainly a single viewing is recommended. But to return for a 2nd viewing would need some convincing, either through financial inducement, an invitation from a club or a press pass (hint hint!!!!). As for the clubs, it’s a quick assessment of their list, perhaps make a few deletions where necessary and then look forward to the draft I refer to as the “Noodle” Draft, for 2 minutes is all that it generally takes for the Pre-Season draft to complete, as well as filling their “Supplementary” lists (formerly known as Rookie Lists). Those drafts have been done online, and the success of that concept may well shape how future drafts are organised. Until then, there are another 2 drafts that will be held at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, the first of which will occur in 12 months time.

About Mick Jeffrey

39 Year Old, 16 year Bulldogs. over 280 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 26 time Marathon finisher, three time Ultra Marathon finisher and three time Comrades Marathon competitor (though not finisher yet).

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