The Lions and the case for a priority pick

Despite Saturday night’s win over Carlton, the Brisbane Lions currently sit on the bottom of the AFL ladder with two wins and a lowly percentage of 59.2. Regardless of what happens over the remainder of the season, I am now of the view that the Lions have a reasonable claim for a priority pick, based on what happened in 2013 trade week alone.

Exhibit A: The Polec trade – Port making off like bandits

While Lions fans once regularly questioned the decision to draft Jared Polec ahead of Dyson Heppell in 2010, that decision now looks more reasonable – so much so that every time Polec gets the footy, I want to cry. Jared Polec, with his dash and exquisite foot skills, is fast becoming a star of the competition, if he isn’t already. I once read that Norwood had to send Paul Puopolo to tag a 17 year old Polec in an SANFL preliminary final but unfortunately Polec never got a full pre-season in at the Lions, and at the end of last year declared that he wanted to go back to Adelaide. Partly due to Adelaide’s Kurt Tippet-related weakened position in the draft, Brisbane ended up with only picks 22, 34 and 48 (on-traded) for Polec, who was drafted at pick #5 in the 2010 draft.

While very few people in the AFL world care about the Lions (for good reason, given the clubs internal problems), quite frankly, if this happened to a powerful Melbourne or Adelaide club, they would be screaming bloody murder. To illustrate this idea more clearly, I have assembled a historical comparison of what pick #5 in 200x got for picks 22, 34 and 48 three years later (x+3). In general, it’s not pretty reading for the Lions. Imagine the curry coming out of Windy Hill if Michael Hurley left the Bombers after three years, in exchange for Josh Bootsma, Shane Kersten and Jordan Murdoch. Or if the Hawks got Scott Selwood, Dawson Simpson and Jarrad Bouman in exchange for Buddy Franklin in 2007. Or if Sydney lost Jarrad  McVeigh in 2005 for Muston, Spanger and Obst. Attention Pies fans: Pendelbury was also drafted at #5.

Sydney: Jarrad McVeigh (#5 pick 2002 draft). 3 years later – 2005 draft: #22 Beau Muston; #34 Matt Spangher; #48 Alan Obst.

Melbourne: Brock McLean (#5 pick 2003 draft). 3 years later – 2006 draft: #22 Albert Proud; #34 Chris Schmidt; #48 David Mackay.

Hawthorn: Lance Franklin (#5 pick 2004 draft). 3 years later – 2007 draft: #22 Scott Selwood; #34 Dawson Simpson; #48 Jarrad Bouman.

Collingwood: Scott Pendelbury (#5 pick 2005 draft). 3 years later – 2008 draft: #22 Jackson Trengove; #34 Liam Shiels; #48 Nicholas Heyne.

Port Adelaide: Travis Boak (#5 pick 2006 draft). 3 years later – 2009 draft: #22 Gerrick Weedon; #34 Max Gawn; #48 Jessie Creighton.

Western Bulldogs: Jarrad Grant (#5 pick 2007 draft). 3 years later – 2010 draft: #22 Mitch Wallis (F/S); #34 Patrick McCarthy; #48 Alex Browne.

Essendon: Michael Hurley (#5 pick 2008 draft). 3 years later – 2011 draft: #22 Josh Bootsma; #34 Shane Kersten; #48 Jordan Murdoch.

North Melbourne: Ben Cunnington (#5 pick 2009 draft). 3 years later – 2012 draft: #22 Dean Towers; #34 Jason Ashby; #48 Dean Kent.

It gets worse…

Unfortunately, this is just one example of how fleeced Brisbane got in 2013 Trade Week. Sam Docherty (pick #12 2011) went for pick #33: this is equivalent to the Hawks losing Cyril Riolo for Anthony Long in 2009. Incidentally, Docherty was one of Carlton’s best against his old club on Saturday night with 30 possessions and a goal (I was pleased for Docherty, after reading that his father sadly passed away late last year).

Billy Longer (#8 2011) went for picks 25 and 41: this is akin to the Bombers losing Dyson Heppell for Spencer White and Mason Wood in 2012, while Brisbane were also forced to accept unders for Elliot Yeo (possibly the best performed of the Go-Home Five at the Lions) and the brilliant but enigmatic Patrick Karnesis.

To be sure, Brisbane isn’t the only club that has lost players to the go-home factor over recent years without sufficient compensation (the Brad Ebert and Ben Jacobs trades are cases in point), but surely the scale and concentrated manner in which this occurred at the Lions in 2013 is unprecedented and requires the AFL’s attention. While the AFL’s new equalisation formula will hopefully ease the Lions plight, the hole in the Lions list caused by the carnage in 2013 trade week will linger for some time, particularly for a club that was already light-on for elite young talent.



  1. Tony Tea says

    No team has ever deserved a PP more than Melbourne in 2013.

  2. Andrew Weiss says

    Some great thoughts here but as a Lions supporter I would prefer something else other than a priority pick. I think the AFL should make some type of rule that all footballers that are drafted, if after two years that drafted player wants to leave the club and go back to the state that they originated from, then the club they leave gets compensated like they would if a player left via the free agency. That way if someone like Jared Polec or Sam Docherty (both first round picks) wanted to leave, the club that wants to pick them up must give at the least their first round pick as compensation.

    I wonder if this was the case whether Port or Carlton would have given up their first round pick for Polec and Docherty or St Kilda for Longer.

    If the drafted player has been at the club for four years and wants to go home then the club that takes him must give up at least their second round pick if the player was a first round pick, or a third round pick if the player was a second round pick and so on.

    It is far too easy for drafted to players to go home and clubs like Brisbane who are not in a strong AFL state are at a great disadvantage compared to the Victorian clubs.

    Even if the AFL gave Brisbane a priority pick there is a fair chance that the draftee could after two years just say I do not want to play in Brisbane anymore and head back home with Brisbane again getting hardly any compensation.

  3. I reckon the 2nd round draft picks should go in order of when you last won the flag

    1st round pick as normal
    2nd round for last year would have been: 1. Western Bulldogs, 2. Melbourne, 3. St Kilda, 4. Richmond,… 17. Sydney, 18 Hawthorn

    Fremantle, Gold Coast, GWS slot in when they joined.

  4. Neil Anderson says

    At last someone with the right idea to even up the competition!

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