Greater Western Sydney coach Kevin Sheedy says the new AFL club could damage the careers of their young draftees if they thrust them into senior football too early.
But the four-time Essendon premiership coach said he had the makings of a “champion team” when they eventually reached their peak, and he wanted to be with them for the long haul.
The Giants picked up 12 youngsters at Thursday night’s draft, as well as AFL-experienced players James McDonald and Setanta O’hAilpin.
But while the young players were the cream of the nation’s budding talent, with GWS having 11 of the first 14 picks, Sheedy predicted only about four would be ready to make their AFL debuts by the start of the 2012 season.
Not helping was the fact the draftees will have a shorter pre-season than most players in the competition, who are already training.
“It’s great to play a person when they’re ready, not because they’ve been drafted in the last draft yesterday,” Sheedy told reporters at the Giants’ Blacktown base on Friday.
“If we play a person too early it could do a lot of harm to their confidence and their career.”
No.1 pick Jonathon Patton looked ready to step straight into senior football, with the 100kg, 197cm teenager already boasting a physique powerful enough to put most mature-bodied AFL players to shame.
West Australian midfielder Stephen Coniglio, who has been playing senior WAFL football since the age of 16, including starring in Swan Districts’ 2010 premiership side, is another.
The youngsters will initially be backed by a band of AFL-experienced players, several of whom have been pulled out of retirement, such as ex-Brisbane star Luke Power and former Melbourne captain McDonald.
But Sheedy said the club would only hit their playing peak in five years time, by which time they should be a powerhouse, if they can hold their list together.
The older tier of players will be long gone, but Sheedy, less than a month shy of his 64th birthday, hoped to still be around.
“I think I’m here for a long time, not always as coach, but definitely in footy,” he said.
“Footy’s been my life, it’s been my education.
“… So whether it’s coaching all the time or going out recruiting, we’ll build a great club.”
Sheedy dismissed concerns he was already past his coaching peak, comparing himself to Leigh Matthews, who after a three-year coaching hiatus, took over Brisbane and led them to three flags.
“I’d love to be able to get into that position or at least get this club into that position,” Sheedy said.