The AFL’s grand “socialisation” plan for the competition has never worked better with this season being the most even and unpredictable in memory. The national draft is clearly doing its job. But what about those hard-working, dedicated club recruiters who shape the pecking order each year? COLIN DALE reviews the top 20 draft choices who began their careers this year to find out if the recruiters scored hits or misses:
IT’S LIKE something out of a Hollywood awards ceremony. Televised and streamed live, with bright lights and countdowns and the “winner” becomes an instant star. Yet, for all the razzmatazz of the AFL’s national draft held annually in late November, it is super serious business for all involved, shaping the futures of all 18 clubs and the young men chosen. The system ends up ranking all these highly-talented sportsmen from 1 to 77 with those chosen in the first round expected to become future stars of their clubs.
So how is the star class of 2017 faring? Now with a season almost gone, how well have the clubs chosen the top 20? While some say it is unfair to rate teenagers so starkly in the first place, it’s probably equally as unfair to judge these young players in their very first season. But at Sportshounds, we are going to do it anyway.
Armed with games played, disposal stats, rising star nominations and our totally undefined and unscientific “future-gun rating” *, we are putting the top 20 under the microscope. And, with a bit of “Harry Hindsight”, we’ve come up with our own top 20 recruiters list.
The AFL 2016 national draft top 20
1 Andrew McGrath (Essendon). Gold star goes to the Bomber recruiters who punted extremely well with the coveted no 1 pick. The Canadian-born half-back has been a regular since round one, racking up the most disposals (347 in 18 games) of any of the draftees. Round 4 Rising Star nominee. The equal-shortest (178 cm) number 1 draft pick (along with Marc Murphy in 2005), he has displayed incredible coolness in taking on the league’s best and often triumphing. Kept Eddie Betts goalless last weekend. Says it all. Future-gun rating: Certain.
2 Tim Taranto (GWS). Played 12 out of 14 games until tearing his ankle which has required surgery and has probably finished an extremely promising debut season. The round 8 Rising Star nominee looks a clearance specialist and averaged over 15 disposals per game. The Giants have backed his future by signing him up to 2020 and so have we, giving him a certain future gun-rating.
3 Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane). Last year’s TAC Cup’s Morrish Medal winner** certainly has backed the Lions’ faith in him by playing virtually every game (16) since a delayed start to the season due to an ankle injury. He has been one of the many young Lions who have enabled the club to show lots of promise at times this year. The round 14 Rising Star nominee looks a winner for the recruiters – and with us – with a certain future-gun rating.
4 Ben Ainsworth (Gold Coast). The highest of the Suns’ four top-10 picks, he has shown plenty in his 11 games. Seems to love a goal and relish pressure situations. He could develop into a star but, at this stage, gets our medium future-gun rating.
5 Will Settlerfield (GWS). Angle injury in the NEAFL has disrupted his season. Played just two games in rounds 18 and 19. Future-gun rating: unknown.
6 Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carlton). The classy indigenous midfielder has played 18 games for the Blues and a consistent season has justified the hype around him at Princes Park. The round seven Rising Star nominee has won plenty of admirers at Carlton, who have already extended the West Australian’s contract by three years. We share their confidence: high future-gun rating.
7 Jack Scrimshaw (Gold Coast). The tall defender debuted in round 18 and has played four games. Future-gun rating: not sure.
8 Griffin Logue (Fremantle). Has been a regular in Freo’s defence since round 14. Played 12 games in all. Good intercept mark. Future-gun rating: medium.
9 Will Broadie (Gold Coast). Played just two games mid-season with nine disposals in each. Future-gun rating: not sure.
10 Jack Bowes (Gold Coast). The Cairns lad has played 11 games with the Suns. Solid in early rounds before he spent mid-season back the NEAFL, before returning in round 16. Averaging 12 disposals a game, he has a future-gun rating of medium.
11 Oliver Florent (Sydney). The midfield forward has played nine games averaging 10 disposals. The Swans have signed him on for two extra years. Medium future-gun rating.
12 Jy Simpkin (North Melbourne). North have shown a lot of faith in the small forward by extending his contract after only three games. Shoulder surgery meant he missed the middle part of the season. Eleven games, averaging 10 disposals with a total of seven goals. Future gun rating: maybe.
13 Daniel Venables (West Coast Eagles). Yet to play a senior game. Signed on for two years. Future-gun rating: not sure.
14 Harry Perryman (GWS). The small midfielder has been solid in his eight games since his debut in round nine. Signed on until 2020. Looks a medium future-gun.
15 Jordan Gallucci (Adelaide). Kicked a goal and had 11 disposals in his only game against the Lions in round nine. Future-gun rating: not sure.
16 Todd Marshall (Port Adelaide). Tall forward is yet to play a senior game. Future-gun rating: not sure.
17 Jarrod Berry (Brisbane). Another young Lion who has shown loads of promise in his 16 games this year. Impressed all with his ability to win the contested footy. Brisbane have already signed him for two more years. Looks to be a high future-gun.
18 Sam Powell-Pepper (Port Adelaide). Burst out of the blocks with the round one Rising Star nomination and has hardly looked back, playing in 19 games – the most of any draftees. The no.1 contested possession player out of all rising stars, Port have already signed him on a two-year contract extension. Although his form has waned recently, he’s future-gun rating is certain.
19 Timothy English (Western Bulldogs). The 205cm ruckman has played just two games for one kick and 11 hitouts. His car was written off on the way to his debut. The super tall’s career can only get better. Future-gun rating: medium.
20 Isaac Cumming (GWS). Yet to play a senior game. Future-gun rating: not sure.
Best of the rest
23 Alex Witherden (Brisbane) Burst onto scene in round 14 with 20 disposals and has averaged an excellent 24 in his seven games since then. No 1 Rising Star rated player for disposals. Looks a ready-made star midfielder, and being compared to former no.1 draft Brendan Goddard. Round 17 Rising Star nomination for 29 disposals against Richmond. Future-gun rating: High.
21 Will Hayward (Sydney). Quick forward who has been a weapon in Sydney’s come-back this year. Fifteen games and 19 goals. High future-gun rating.
26 Brandan Parfitt (Geelong). The Darwin forward got off to an excellent start to the season winning the round three Rising Star nomination. Showing great displays of pressure, he had caused the most turnovers for the Cats after Joel Selwood, until then. A round 6 hamstring tear derailed his season for 10 weeks, but the club has shown faith in him by extending his contract already. We agree: high-future gun rating.
38 Sean Darcy (Fremantle). The seriously big ruckman (201cm) has impressed in his seven games since debuting in round 14 in Aaron Sandilands absence. Averaging 33 hit-outs and nearly 12 disposals, Freo have signed him up for two extra years. A good move as we believe his future-gun rating is high.
49 Lewis Young (Western Bulldogs). The 198cm former basketballer has certainly impressed in his five games since debuting in round 17 and is already ranked no 2 among rising stars in marking. The Bulldogs have already given the big fella a year’s extension on his contract. With our future gun-rating of high, he deserves it.
66 Luke Ryan (Fremantle). The half back has been a regular since making his debut in round 11, except for a week’s club-imposed ban for drinking after the WA derby game. Received the Rising Star nomination in round 20 for a superb display against the Gold Coast, hauling down nine intercept marks. With a high future-gun rating, he looks an extremely good pick at 66.
61 Tom Williamson (Carlton). A solid 11-game performance in Carlton’s defence has earned him a two-year extension at Princes Park. Looks a long-term prospect with a medium future-gun rating.
24 Cedric Cox (Brisbane). Showing promise playing in the last five games for the Lions after two games earlier in the year. Future-gun rating: Maybe.
27 Zac Fisher (Carlton). The midfielder/forward has been a regular for the Blues since round four, playing 15 games, averaging 11 disposals. Future-gun rating: Maybe.
Sportshounds top 20 draft – (with 21 rounds of hindsight)
1 Andrew McGrath (Essendon) – AFL draft pick 1
2 Tim Taranto (GWS) – AFL draft pick 2
3 Sam Powell-Pepper (Port Adelaide) – AFL draft pick 18
4 Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane) – AFL draft pick 3
5 Alex Witherden (Brisbane) – AFL draft pick 23
6 Will Hayward (Sydney). – AFL draft pick 21
7 Luke Ryan (Fremantle). – AFL draft pick 66
8 Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carlton) – AFL draft pick 6
9 Jarrod Berry (Brisbane) – AFL draft pick 17
10 Brandan Parfitt (Geelong) – AFL draft pick 26
11 Lewis Young (Western Bulldogs) – AFL draft pick 49
12 Sean Darcy (Fremantle) – AFL draft pick 38
13 Ben Ainsworth (Gold Coast) – AFL draft pick 4
14 Tom Williamson (Carlton) – AFL draft pick 61
15 Timothy English (Western Bulldogs) – AFL draft pick 19
16 Jack Bowes (Gold Coast) – AFL draft pick 10
17 Oliver Florent (Sydney) – AFL draft pick 11
18 Griffin Logue (Fremantle) – AFL draft pick 8
19 Jy Simpkin (North Melbourne) – AFL draft pick 12
20 Zac Fisher (Carlton) – AFL draft pick 27
Author: Colin Dale
Melbourne-born sports nut, Colin “Bomber” Dale began his career in journalism with The Herald as copy boy in 1980. Stints with the Sunday Press and The Sun followed along with a year with NTV Channel 8 in Darwin. Chasing his dream to work in Fleet Street and follow all sports and drink beer around the world, Bomber landed on his feet in the UK, founding a tour company specialising in festivals such as the Oktoberfest in Munich, Rugby Internationals and Royal Ascot. Prost!