AFL Draft 2020: How Is Your Club Positioned?
The AFL Draft is a mirror upon which fans and clubs gaze at, only to see reflected back the very best and worst of themselves.
For some, the draft reveals a club’s best traits. It’s where their ambition shines through and where their rigour and meticulousness can best be demonstrated. However for others, the draft’s a place of high anxiety, filled with humiliation and missed opportunities. For them, it’s an occasion which only spotlights blemishes and shortcomings, illustrating just how far adrift they are from their peers.
This year’s edition has been labelled ‘highly compromised’ owing not just to the controversies surrounding NGA access and the vagaries of father-son arrangements, but because so many Victorian youngsters weren’t able to put themselves in the shop window owing to the state’s health crisis.
Nothing has been smooth sailing in 2020, and clearly, this year's draft will be no different. With that in mind, let’s bring it down a notch and take a tour across all 18 clubs, highlighting a tidbit of info along the way which may help to navigate what’ll be a head-scratching night.
For the first time in club history, the Crows will have the first pick in the draft… Or perhaps they won’t? The insanity of 2020 will storm right out of the gate with the Western Bulldogs expected to elbow their way in and snap up Jamarra Ugle-Hagan who's long been viewed as the most exceptional talent in this draft.
Whether the Crows bid on Ugle-Hagan or not, a number one pick will be paraded, and of the last 28 young men to have received that endorsement, no less than 22 have gone on to be crowned either an All-Australian, a club best and fairest winner or premiership player. In Luke Hodge’s case, he did all three, and even added a couple of Norm Smith medals for good measure.
For the third year in a row the Lions won’t be making a selection inside the top 20, which is a curious approach for a club well and truly in the premiership window. The Lions won’t be picking until section 25 which, funnily enough, has produced 3 premiership winners from its last 12 picks, with Richmond’s Noah Balta saluting most recently, and with Jack Redden and Josh Dunkley doing so in 2018 and 2016 respectively.
For the first time since 2011, Carlton won’t have a first round pick which is an uncomfortable fact for a club who’s occasionally struck gold with their premium selections, netting all of Patrick Cripps, Jacob Weitering, Charlie Curnow, Harry McKay and Sam Walsh last decade. The Blues will enter the draft with selection 31 this year, which will be their lowest pick since selection 45 in 2002. On that occasion they plucked a certain Kade Simpsonout of Emerald, with Simpson going to to play 342 games for the Navy Blues. Carlton would be ecstatic to receive even half that production from this pick.
Last decade, the Pies were the only club who invested a first round pick in a ruckman (Brodie Grundy) and who saw said ruckman develop into a multiple All-Australian and Best and Fairest winner. The Doggies are still hoping Tim Englishhas that kind of potential, while others recent examples of club’s using a first round pick on a big man include Melbourne taking Luke Jackson third overall last year, with Geelong taking Sam De Kooning 16 picks later.
The Bombers will will take some immense capital into the draft, armed with selections 6, 7 and 8 which will likely dip to 7, 8 and 9 owing to the Bulldog’s barging in to take Ugle-Hagan. Ironically, 7, 8 and 9 is precisely what Fremantle had last year when they selected Hayden Young, Caleb Serong and Liam Henry. While Serong waltzed to a Rising Star win, Young and Henry combined for just 8 games. The Bombers will instead be hoping to borrow from Hawthorn’s 2004 script where it took Jarryd Roughead, Lance Franklin and Jordan Lewiswith picks 2, 5 and 7 with the trio combing for 10 premierships and 902 games.
In Fremantle’s history they’ve made 220 picks on draft night with their selections going on to average a league-high 42 games of AFL football. While the Dockers have never tasted premiership glory, they can at least boast of drafting multiple Brownlow medal winners in Nat Ffye and Lachie Neale, Rising Star winners in Rhys Palmer and Caleb Serong while they’ve also picked 20 All-Australians, even if not all of those players earned that honour wearing purple.
The Cats won’t enter this year’s draft until section 51 which might have a familiar feel for the club as in 2015 they had to wait until pick 59 to start rolling the dice. Their late entrance that year was because of the Patrick Dangerfield acquisition, while it’s a similar story this year owing to the club trading for Jeremy Cameron and Shaun Higgins. If there’s one club comfortable making picks while the cleaners are vacuuming its Geelong. In 2015 they unearthed Sam Menegola with pick 66 with the Western Australian already notching up 86 games and earning a place on this year’s 40-man All-Australian squad. Last decade, Geelong used late picks to add Gryan Miers (57), Jake Kolodjashnij (41) and Tom Stewart(40) with all three, along with Menegola, recently running out for the Cats on Grand Final day.
Let’s shoehorn the Oakleigh Chargers into this section on the Gold Coast Suns shall we? Last year the Suns used picks 1 and 2 on Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson who both played for Oakleigh, while Ugle-Hagan also played on that 2019 TAC Cup Grand Final winning outfit. In recent years, the league has fallen head over heels for Oakleigh talent with no less than 20 players gobbled up over the last 3 drafts. In contrast, the Geelong Falcons, long viewed as the AFL’s ‘footy factory’ have had 11 players drafted in the same time period.
The Giants will once again take a massive haul into the draft armed with 4 first-round picks. Their first will be selection 10 which interestingly is a pick which has been made 36 times, but that's seen just two players (Blake Caracella and Nathan Brown) go on to become premiership winners. Patrick Dangerfield is the only #10 pick to have amassed at least 250 games. He’s one of just 6 to have blossomed into an All-Australian.
Welcome back to the party Hawthorn. The Hawks haven’t had a top-ten pick in 14 years often exchanging their best picks for players that can immediately help them win premierships. For now though, the Hawks flag window isn’t exactly wide open which is why the club is recommitting to the draft. In Josh Elliot’s latest mock draft, he has Hawthorn taking South Australian Giant, Riley Thilthorpe, with selection 5 overall. If the Hawks do land Thilthorpe, it’ll be the third-straight occasion Hawthorn have used a first-round pick on a Crow-eater, to go along with Ryan Burton in 2015 and Will Day in 2019.
Last season, the Demons had a rising star nomination for the first time since 2016 with both Luke Jackson and Kysaiah Pickett earning back-to-back gongs for the club. For the 4th time in 7 drafts Melbourne will have multiple first round picks to add to a squad, which, according to Stats Insider’s Player Ratings, already has four players positioned in the top-25.
The Roos haven’t had a rising star winner in more than twenty years, while this year's draft will be the first time since 2002 that the club will enjoy multiple first-round picks. It’s been a rough couple of decades for the Shinboners, however with new coach David Noble at the helm, this draft presents them with the opportunity to steer a great club out of the mud.
The Power have bought in seven top-25 picks in through the door over the last couple of drafts which is a staggering infusion of top-end talent to a team who were just six points short of making this year’s Grand Final. This year, Port’s first pick won’t arrive until selection 35 which is a pick that's actually been the league’s least fruitful top-50 selection. It’s one that’s produced just a single Best and Fairest Winner (Chris Bond) while it's never manufactured an All-Australian.
For the 16th time in 17 drafts the Tigers will be making a first round selection. Jack Riewoldt, Trent Cotchin, Alex Rance, Dustin Martin, Nick Vlaustin and Daniel Rioli are all testament to a champion club’s absolute seriousness when it comes to the draft, and why it's so important to nail your premium picks. The Tigers are so obsessed with young, elite draft talent they’ve even got their claws into other’s teams, poaching Dion Prestia and Tom Lynch from the Suns. They’ll enter this year’s draft at pick 17 which is a selection that’s produced no less than 5 premiership players.
The Saints have been incredibly busy in recent years, often using the off-season to super-charge a squad that's now on the cusp of serious contention. Unfortunately, the club’s intense approach to the trade period over the last couple of years has meant their highly-regarded recruiting team hasn’t been left with much to play around with and will have just one top-60 section in 2020. Unlike last year however, they will have a first round pick, which is an area they've struck gold upon in recent years nailing their last four in Jade Gresham, Nick Coffield, Hunter Clark and Max King all of whom will have a massive say on just how far the Saints can climb over the next few years.
Last decade, the Swans drafted just three All-Australians with Tom Mitchell of course attaining greatness far away from the Harbour City. Luke Parker and Dane Rampe were Sydney’s other draft specialties in an otherwise barren run which helps explain why the Swans have missed back-to-back Final’s campaigns for the first time in 25 years. This year the Bloods will have five top-50 picks which constitutes the league's biggest allotment along with the Giants.
The Eagles won’t have a pick in the first three rounds of the draft which will mark the third straight year the 4-time champions have gone without a first-round selection. They’ll enter at pick 62 which is a number that’ll make Bulldog's fans feel all warm and fuzzy as this was where Zaine Cordy was drafted in 2014 and who’d go on to kick the club’s first Grand Final goal in 55 years.
Speaking of the Bulldogs, last decade the club drafted a combined 7 All-Australians and 6 Best and Fairest winners with the likes of Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Caleb Daniel among some of the jewels the Doggies have unearthed on draft night in recent years. This year they’ll land the highly-touted Jamarra Ugle-Hagan who’ll likely become the first indigenous player since Des Hedland in 1999 to be picked #1 overall.
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