Firstly, if he is the best player then pick him and don’t presume to know what the Bulldogs will do. Secondly, selecting him demands the Bulldogs pay the appropriate draft price for him.
Finally, any player stepping into fishbowl Adelaide after their miserable year will carry a weight of public expectation to be the one to transform the club. Maybe calling Ugle-Hagan just eases that pressure on the player they take, just a bit.
Against those arguments is the fact you are telegraphing to the player you do take that we don’t think you were the best in the country.
And you also deny them a little financial bonus for being pick one in the country.
2. What do Essendon do with their picks?
Three picks in the top 10 – six, seven and eight – gives the Bombers a juicy draft hand. Firstly they will consider whether to use all three in this draft or trade one or more picks, either to get lower in this draft (consider trying to tempt North Melbourne to move on pick two) or even get into the first round of next year.
If they keep the three picks, then what is the best approach? Does it change your strategy if you have a cluster of picks?
“I think Essendon with their list at the moment, they just call out the players in the order they rank them and they will get a blend of types in that anyway. There are not three clear midfielders or three clear key positions players in a row at those picks,” a recruiter told The Age.
3. Do you take the best talent or the best fit for your needs?
It might sound self evident that you take the most talented player. But it’s not. The Giants, for instance, have always had an abundance of inside midfielders because academies have thrown up access to elite players at a discounted rate who all happened to be inside midfielders.
Melbourne, as another example, now have a depth of tall players and inside midfielders and have been looking for more speed and run.
But do you do that at the pointy end of the draft? Or rather, at what point in the draft does elite talent become overtaken by positional need? There is no one definitive answer to this as it varies between list demographic, but typically the top five to seven players in any year are a cut above the other players and cannot be ignored, so after that point the ledger might swing a little more towards need over talent.
A respected list manager said: “It depends on your list but I think in your own mind you end up believing you have taken the best player because I think subconsciously your need influences your impression of the best player. And you spend so long watching tape of players that fit a positional need that you fall in love with them.”
4. What do Collingwood do?
Forgetting all the drama and rancour of the last month and whether they got commensurate value for the players they traded out, clearly a priority for Collingwood was to get into this draft. They have two first-round picks and their first-rounder next year is up for sale. They can comfortably trade that pick because they have father-son Nick Daicos coming through next year who will be a first-round pick and they have adequate points to cover selecting with later draft picks.
That future first round is a very valuable pick because this year’s draft has been rendered more speculative due to the absence of exposed form from so many players.
Collingwood will want to trade next year’s first to get high in this year’s draft.
It is doubtful it can get them into the top five where they would like to be to be able to claim one of the players that a consensus of recruiters would rate as the clear best available players.
5. So who are the best five?
Taking out the academy and father-son players, recruiters tend to agree that Logan McDonald, Riley Thilthorpe, Elijah Hollands, Denver Grainger-Barras and Will Phillips are a class above the other players in the draft (on exposed form).
6. Will the Roos use pick two on a player?
This is the second time North Melbourne have had pick two (the other was in 2002 for Daniel Wells). They’ve never had pick one.
North indicated during the trade period that pick two was on the table for the right deal to see what it would flush out.
The thought behind it was that nailing two picks in the top 10 could be more transformational than using just pick two, given the urgent need for young talent at Arden Street.
Increasingly now the noise out of North suggest they are more likely to hold the pick. Recruiters believe the Roos are every attracted to Hollands, an outside midfielder who is an elite ball user able to play in multiple spots on the field.
7. Do non-Victorian players have an advantage this year?
Depends which way a recruiter looks at it.
They do in the sense that non-Victorian footy was shortened but not cancelled, meaning players like McDonald (WA), Thilthorpe (SA), Grainger-Barras (WA) could be studied, even via tape, but Victorian kids could not.
Players do get drafted in the first-round, anyway, when they’ve been injured in their draft year. Hollands, who did an ACL this year, is expected to go high, for example. Recruiters know how good he could be without having seen him in 2020.
8. Will clubs use all their picks?
No. Some clubs believe there will only be 50 names called out on draft night as a combination of reduced list sizes and uncertainty around talent because of the COVID-19-affected year for the Victorian under-18 players.
Hence the AFL has (mercifully) cut the draft back to a one-night affair.
There is every chance many clubs won’t use all picks and leave one spot open on their list for a player to train with them in pre-season and then be taken in the supplemental selection period.
It is also likely that clubs will hold open a rookie place for the mid-season draft next year when those Victorian kids who didn’t get to play this year resume playing next year and clubs can have a good look at them. Clubs will then want to use that 2021 mid-year draft to get a jump on next year’s national draft.
9. Could there be a bidding frenzy?
There are plenty of prospects linked to clubs already through academies and father-son allowances.
Ugle-Hagan (Bulldogs), Braeden Campbell (Sydney), Errol Gulden (Sydney), Lachie Jones (Port Adelaide), Reef McInnes (Collingwood), Luke Edwards (Adelaide), Cody Brand (Essendon), Connor Downie (Hawthorn), Alex Davies (Gold Coast), Joel Jeffrey (Gold Coast) and Maurice Rioli jnr (Richmond) are some of the top names that will be called out.
Ugle-Hagan, Campbell and Jones will be called out very early. The Hawks, for instance, are very interested in Campbell and so he could go early while Jones is rated a top 10 pick. Gulden could be a late first-round pick.
Recruiters figure that McInnes and Downie are possible second-round picks, Brand and Rioli probable third-round picks.
On top of this, 17 of 2019’s 48 players in the under-17s All Star grand final squads were father-son or academy prospects.
Recruiters seem split on if there will be a bidding frenzy or not.
10. Does GWS’ draft bounty raise a familiar problem?
You would think GWS would be totally and completely excited about their draft bounty (picks 10, 13, 15, 20, 29, 52 and 88) that was boosted by Jeremy Cameron’s trade to Geelong.
In one sense they are, but they also know that over the years they pick top-end talent at the draft and then that talent proceeds to walk out the door a few years later. Jye Caldwell is the latest to do that, heading to Essendon.
Like North Melbourne, trading a suite of first-round picks to gain access to single-figure selections is one option being considered by the Giants.
“We’ve got great confidence in that early part of the draft – that top 15, top 20, they’ve generally announced themselves at 16 or 17-year-olds. Our team’s got a really good handle on those guys,” Giants footy boss Jason McCartney said last week.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.
The AFL’s draft combine time trial record has been shattered by a steeplechase champion who is emerging as a top smoky for December’s national draft.
Greater Western Victoria Rebels wingman Harry Sharp clocked a 2km time of 5min 28sec during testing in Melbourne on Saturday.
Sharp’s time eclipsed the record that first-year Collingwood midfielder Jay Rantall set at last year’s combine of 5min 50sec and was 24 seconds faster than any other Victorian prospect tested on Saturday.
Sharp has combined his football with athletics throughout his teenage years and won the 2000m Steeplechase event at the under-18 Australian All Schools Championships in Perth last year.
A Caulfield Grammar student, Sharp had been preparing to represent his country at the under-20 world championships in Kenya in July before COVID-19 hit.
“He’s an elite athlete but one that can play footy,” GWV Rebels talent manager Phil Partington said.
“He’s put a lot of work in to make sure he’s really strong over the footy now. And he kicks the ball very well as well. The other thing I like about him is he has an elite mindset. That comes from his running so he knows his body really well, his planning, his training regimes. He’s a perfect fit for the AFL.”
Rantall and Sharp were teammates at the Rebels last year and had exchanged messages after Sharp was invited to this year’s combine testing.
“Jay messaged Harry and said, ‘Well done on getting to the draft combine, I’m disappointed because my record will probably only last one year’,” Partington said.
The task for list managers and recruiters in 2020 is unlike any others compared to past years.
Some clubs are already stocked with top picks, others need to be precise in their search for gold nuggets.
Foxfooty.com.au and Champion Data assess the chasms at every club – and which draftee they could target at the 2020 AFL draft.
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Finals Week 1
Higgins should leave Roos
Draft picks (after home and away season): 1, 8, 20, 31, 44, 48, 60
The type of player they should target: Clearance-winning midfielder
Ideal player: Will Phillips
Father-Son/Academy prospects: James Borlase, Luke Edwards, Tariek Newchurch
With Brad Crouch’s departure becoming more likely, the Crows will need to find another ball-winning midfielder. That could come in the form of Giant Jackson Hately, but a clearance-winning onballer is a priority area at the draft for the club, which has drafted Chayce Jones and Ned McHenry in recent years. With Rory Sloane over 30 and needing support, Oakleigh Charger Phillips the obvious best choice. The tough inside midfielder is one of the top draft prospects and has impressed when given the opportunity, playing in the Chargers’ NAB League premiership last season. He averaged 22 disposals for the club last year where he showed an ability to hit the scoreboard. Despite standing at 180cm, he will bash and crash his way through the middle of the ground.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 18, 19, 40, 64
The type of player they should target: Creative half-back flank
Ideal player: Lachlan Jones
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Blake Coleman, Saxon Crozier, Carter Michael
The Lions have a pressing need a both ends with some support for Eric Hipwood – but that could well come during trade period. Down back, the Lions are well led by Harris Andrews, but with veterans Daniel Rich and Grant Birchall running out of time it is an area to target. With a number of lockdown defenders in the mould of Brandon Starcevich and Noah Answerth, a creative player that can set up the ground would be ideal. Port Adelaide Academy prospect Lachie Jones is among the crop of half-back flank types who would suit. He is likely to receive a first-round bid after impressive showings in the SANFL League competition, including taking a huge screamer of a mark. He uses the ball very well and is willing to take the game on with ball in hand.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 7, 27, 45
The type of player they should target: Midfielders to replace Marc Murphy and Ed Curnow
Ideal player: Tanner Bruhn
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Tom Gleeson, Mackenzie Hogg, Charlie McKay, Tom Silvagni
The Blues might be certain to steal Zac Williams from GWS and have pushed hard to win Brad Crouch’s heart, indicating the club is strong on bringing in more midfielders into Ikon Park. With Patrick Cripps being supported mostly by Marc Murphy and Ed Curnow, who won’t be playing forever. Matt Kennedy impressed at times, Will Setterfield could step in, while Sam Walsh is a star. But a player in the calibre of Bruhn would be hard to pass off if the Blues were close enough to snare the Geelong Falcons product. A number of injuries have stopped him in the past, with the Vic Country player missing a chunk of 2019. However, he was able to train at Geelong in the pre-season, with all reports giving raving reviews. The 18-year-old is a good ball user and can play in and outside, giving him flexibility as he grows into his body.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 12, 35, 39
The type of player they should target: Front-half players who can address scoring issues
Ideal player: Elijah Hollands
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Reef McInnes
Collingwood’s forward line has looked like a dogs breakfast at times in 2020, but Nathan Buckley seems to have pretty much found his finals formula, even if Jaidyn Stephenson’s form has been underwhelming this year. With Brody Mihocek and Mason Cox used inside 50, there’s no doubting a player like Elijah Hollands would help the club pepper the scoreboard. The 188cm midfielder is a creative forward-half player who can play as a marking option inside 50, knowing how to hit the scoreboard. He hasn’t played for the entire season after an ACL rupture in February, but he would be a player with plenty of interest inside the first 10 selections.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 6, 42, 61, 69, 70
The type of player they should target: Outside midfielders with the Dons lacking wingers on their list
Ideal player: Brayden Cook
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Cody Brand, Josh Eyre, Maurice Rioli jnr
If there’s one spot Essendon drastically needs to improve, it’s the wing. With virtually not wingers on their list according to Champion Data, Adrian Dodoro and his team are likely to look for a number of outside types this year. A real bolter in recent months is South Australian Brayden Cook, who has had a number of outstanding efforts for South Adelaide. He has booted multiple bags this season, but likely has a future in somewhat of a similar role to Richmond’s Kamdyn McIntosh on the outside. He covers the ground well and could well bolt into first round thoughts by the time the draft rolls around later in the year.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 10, 29, 98
The type of player they should target: Front-half player who can evolve the club’s offensive work
Ideal player: Archie Perkins
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Maurice Rioli jnr, Brandon Walker, Chris Walker, Joel Western
Fremantle’s draft class in recent years has been mighty impressive with Adam Cerra, Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong among the stars of the future, with the trio all stepping up and likely winning Brownlow votes throughout the year. There is still work to be done inside 50 alongside Matt Taberner and other talls, with another small or medium forward likely to help the club hit the scoreboard after a defence first approach in 2020. Victorian Archie Perkins hasn’t had an opportunity to press his case, but the early glimpses have been good. The medium forward marks well overhead and can push through the midfield, applying pressure and winning the contested ball. He has power and explosiveness in the forward half and is a dangerous opponent for opposition sides.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 11, 15, 16, 34
The type of player they should target: Key position players at either end of ground
There is no shortage of tall targets for Geelong, headlined by Western Bulldogs next-generation Academy member Ugle-Hagan. The left footed tall has been likened to Lance Franklin and glides around the forward line with ease. McDonald has been the best performing draft prospect in 2020 with the West Australian able to dominating in the WAFL League competition. At one stage, he was leading the competition for goals, pushing his case as a genuine top-five prospect. His contested marking is impressive and his pinpoint accuracy has caught the eye with the 18-year-old hardly putting a foot wrong this season. Thilthorpe is a pure utility given his ability to play as a tall and up in the midfield if required. With senior football experience at West Adelaide, he is a player who could be ready to roll when a number of older Cats talls hang up the boots. Grainger-Barrass could well be the first tall drafted given his strong intercept work for Swan Districts in the WAFL, with the 18-year-old defeating McDonald in a recent battle. His bottom-age work was superb in last year’s Under 18 championships.
GOLD COAST SUNS
Draft picks (after home and away season): 5, 24, 36, 72
The type of player they should target: A good ball user through the midfield
Ideal player: Finlay Macrae
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Alex Davies, Joel Jeffrey, Brodie Lake
The Suns have certainly selected well in recent years with a number of starring outings from their 2018 and 2019 draft picks this season helping the club rise up the ladder. But there is still more work to do. While Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson might be their midfielders for the future, along with Academy selection Alex Davies, there is room for class in the middle. The Suns have been in the bottom two of the AFL for six of the last 10 years in terms of kicking efficiency, ranked 18th in 2020. It’s why Victorian Finlay Macrae should be in their thoughts with an early pick. The 18-year-old averaged 16.9 disposals in the NAB League last season, showing his poise and class. The brother of Western Bulldogs gun Jack knows where to run to win the ball and has a strong footy IQ.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 28, 46, 66
The type of player they should target: Outside midfielder strength to complement inside power
Ideal player: Bailey Laurie
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Josh Green
GWS will be big players over the off-season with a number of players already requesting moves away from the club. But the Giants have plenty of depth and still have players to keep the club in the mix for finals in 2021. To support Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper and Tom Green, they may look to target an outside player in the attacking half. Vic Metro’s Bailey Laurie could be close to a first round prospect, given his skills and poise in the attacking half. The 178cm prospect is far from the finished player but makes things happen, possessing good agility and stamps his authority on the game. In seven appearances last year in the NAB League, he averaged 15.3 disposals and booted six goals.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 4, 21, 41, 43, 59, 67
The type of player they should target: Midfielders, midfielders, midfielders
Ideal player: Zane Trew
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Connor Downie
Hawthorn might have Brownlow Medal winner Tom Mitchell at their disposal. But if there’s one area the club needs to draft hard, it’s in the midfield. The Hawks were ranked 18th for contested possessions, 17th for groundballs and 16th for clearances in 2020, indicating there is work to do in the middle of the ground. Alastair Clarkson’s side has hardly had a first-round pick in recent memory, with the signs already very promising from Will Day. Trew is one of the players who has pushed his case with WAFL performances with the inside midfielder impressing for Swan Districts. He is a big ball winner – grabbing over 20 touches on numerous occasions – winning the ball in the stoppages and dishing it out at speed. At 187cm and 78kg, Trew is far from the finished product given he battled injuries in the last two years. His decision making at the contest is good and he can get stuck in and lay strong tackles.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 23, 47, 62, 63
The type of player they should target: Medium/small forwards to help the club hit the scoreboard
Ideal player: Ollie Henry
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Deakyn Smith
Max Gawn certainly wasn’t joking at the start of the season when he predicted teammate Bayley Fritsch to take out the Coleman Medal, backing the medium forward for glory. And while Fritsch didn’t jump that high – booting 22 goals to be the club’s equal leading goalkicker – there is scope for Melbourne inside 50. One such player is Henry, who is the brother of Geelong’s Jack. The medium forward has plenty of tricks and is certainly in the first round mix. As a 188cm prospect, he marks well as an option close to goal, but applies pressure when the ball hits the ground. Henry is far from the finished product and with strong glimpses in the last two years, there might just be a plethora of clubs looking to touch base with the Vic Country prospect on Zoom in 2020.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 2, 9, 25, 57, 65
The type of player they should target: Classy ball user through the midfield
Ideal player: Braeden Campbell
Father-Son/Academy prospects: N/A
North Melbourne will have a major off-season list revamp with already 11 players cut and a number of others likely to test the trade and free agency waters. With two selections currently inside the top 10, the Roos will have plenty of options to address their needs which are right around the ground. However, classy ball users going forward is certainly an area that would help with Ben Cunnington, Luke Davies-Uniacke and Jy Simpkin in the middle of the ground. Sydney Swans Academy prospect Braeden Campbell fits the bill with the left footer able to hit pinpoint passes up the ground and can break the lines. The 18-year-old was named as best on ground in the Under 17 All Stars game on Grand Final day last year, with the midfielder able to hit the scoreboard and mark well around the ground.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 26, 30, 37, 50, 55
The type of player they should target: Classy ball user through the midfield and across half back
Ideal player: Jack Carroll
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Lachlan Jones, Taj Schofield
The Power are in a perfect position after ending the year as the minor premiers. Their strong drafting in recent years has culminated in an All-Australian nomination for Zak Butters, with the 20-year-old among the trio of future stars plucked by the club in 2018. Lachie Jones will join the club as an Academy selection at the end of the year, with the Power having banked plenty of points. If they were to end up with a top pick, Carroll could be one such player to look at with the East Fremantle midfielder/defender rising up the draft boards in recent months. Given he doesn’t turn 18 until December, there is strong scope for his developing heading into 2021. Carroll has moved into the midfield this year after playing mostly on the outside in the past, having a number of performances over 20 disposals. His agility in traffic is good and his composure means he could well be suited to a career in the defensive half of the ground going forward, but the signs this season have been very good.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 17, 32, 53, 71
The type of player they should target: An out and out ruck prospect
Ideal player: Max Heath
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Ethan Baxter, Maurice Rioli jnr
Given Richmond could well win premiership number three inside a four season period, Damien Hardwick’s side doesn’t exactly have too many pressing needs. However, with Ivan Soldo’s 12-month injury and Toby Nankervis having a few niggles in recent times, Richmond’s ruck departments is far from the best in the competition. Nankervis was linked with a move interstate, but Soldo’s injury may have changed that, while youngster Callum Coleman-Jones has been linked with Adelaide and GWS in the past. If the Tigers want another pure ruck to develop on their list, Victorian Max Heath is likely to be at the top of their thoughts. Clubs won’t have too much on the 17-year-old, given he had just one NAB League appearance after playing school football last year. But the pre-season performances were very promising with the 202cm tall one of the best rucks in the draft poll.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 14, 58, 73
The type of player they should target: Inside midfielder to help Jack Steele
Ideal player: Alex Davies
Father-Son/Academy prospects: N/A
Jack Steele has had to do it alone throughout the season with the former Giant rewarded with All-Australian squad of 40 selection. The Saints had a huge off-season in 2019, bringing in a number of mature players and drafting more midfielders. But a player like Gold Coast Academy prospect Alex Davies would be a mouth-watering selection for James Gallagher and his team, with the 191cm prospect one of the better big-bodied onballers in the draft pool. His contested work is very impressive and possesses a big right foot boot. He could see senior footy action in 2021, with the 18-year-old not scared of contact.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 3, 22, 54, 56
The type of player they should target: Big bodied midfielder to take pressure off veteran Kennedy
Ideal player: Nathan O’Driscoll
Father-Son/Academy prospects: Braeden Campbell, Errol Gulden, Marco Rossmann
The Swans appear likely to have a number of first round selections given Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden’s strong feats over the last 24 hours. The pair could receive bids inside the top 25, meaning the Swans will need to bank late selections in order to match the pair. They will be likely to take an early pick, with Western Australia midfielder Nathan O’Driscoll a player who would help the club down the track. With the Swans drafting a number of hybrid players, the 18-year-old is a bigger frame that is made for the centre of the ground. He has a long kick and bashes his way through the contest, laying 6.7 tackles and collecting 16 disposals in the Under 18 Championships last year. His work at WAFL level this year has impressed a number of AFL recruiters.
WEST COAST EAGLES
Draft picks (after home and away season): 33, 51, 52
The type of player they should target: Creative rebounding defender
Ideal player: Brandon Walker
Father-Son/Academy prospects: N/A
In defensive 50, the Eagles have two strong intercept markers with Tom Barrass and Jeremy McGovern holding down key position posts. Shannon Hurn continues to star for the Eagles and isn’t slowing down, but the club could do with a creative classy users out of defensive 50. One such player they could put time into is Brandon Walker. The half back is a smooth mover and is linked to Fremantle as part of their next-generation Academy. He has pinpoint kicking skills and is able to break the lines with ease. Walker has been a consistent player for East Fremantle throughout 2020, averaging around 20 touches and five marks per game. His speed makes him catch the eye and he has the ability to leap high and intercept when required.
Draft picks (after home and away season): 13, 38, 49
The type of player they should target: Another small forward to help their groundball numbers inside 50
The Western Bulldogs are one of the luckiest teams in the competition, given tall Jamarra Ugle-Hagan will join the club as an Academy selection. On talent alone he could be in the conversation for Pick 1, but rival recruiters couldn’t see a team giving up the marketing tool of the first pick to the Bulldogs. Nevertheless, the Dogs will need to match a bid inside the top five, which is sure to be match. However, their forward half game still needs some work in terms of the smaller types. Cody Weightman was drafted last year, but given the Dogs have been linked to multi small forwards this year it indicates they want more in that position. Sydney Swans Academy prospect Errol Gulden will likely begin his career as a small forward, with the left-footer standing at 171cm. He is a smart midfielder, but given his size he is likely to split his time in the attacking half. Gulden is not afraid to fight to win the ball back and has class with ball in hand. His recent form in New South Wales has been stunning.