Western Bulldogs still a Jong way away
Lin Jong made his welcome debut for the Western Bulldogs over the weekend, taken at pick nine in last year’s rookie draft.
His tale was inspirational, however it has also put to light the staggering flaws in the Bulldogs drafting over the years.
Time after time, these rookie picks have been outshining those we have traded for and taken in the national draft.
Dale Morris, Matthew Boyd, Jarrod Harbrow and Luke Dahlhaus were all rookies.
Jong looks a chance to join them, posing the question of why can’t we locate these gems in the draft?
Why are we trading and signing recycled and disgruntled players? Something clearly needs to change.
While there has been countless discussion about Melbourne’s and Richmond’s drafting over the past decade as being incompetent and hopeless, it saddens me as a Western Bulldogs supporter to say that we have been not far behind.
An analysis of our draft picks from 2003 onwards, reveals that our drafting has been careless, lazy and simply embarrassing.
Since 2003, the Western Bulldogs have drafted a total of 39 players in the national draft, excluding rookies and rookie upgrades. Only 22 of these players remain in the Bulldogs fold, with only seven remaining from those drafted between the years 2003 – 2007.
None of the five picks taken in the 2006 draft remain at the club. Andrejs Everitt is the only one who remains on an AFL list.
These players would now be between the ages of 23-25, a crucial age in AFL, the 2006 national draft like many before and after it can now be considered a blatant write-off.
High profile picks such as Farren Ray (Pick 4, 2003), Andrejs Everitt (Pick 11, 2006) Jarrad Grant (Pick 5, 2007) and even Christian Howard (Pick 15, 2009) have been genuine disasters.
The drafting of these players was highly questioned, considering when you assess the key needs in those years. It was no secret that the Western Bulldogs were only one key forward away from making the 2009 grand final.
We really have to question the path taken. Priorities were clearly ignored.
Players which were drafted ahead of others in these drafts are a scary revelation, considering the blatant need for big men.
This has left us with the dysfunctional forward line we are witnessing today. In 2004 Farren Ray (Pick 4) was taken ahead of Beau Waters (Pick 11) and Brett Stanton (Pick 13).
In 2005 Shaun Higgins (Pick 11) was picked before Grant Birchall (Pick 14) and Max Bailey (Pick 18), Dylan Addison (Pick 27) was chosen ahead of Geelong ruckman Trent West (Pick 31).
The need for a key forward was becoming no more evident after the West Coast hiding given to us in the finals series of 2006.
So for this reason, the drafting of Andrejs Everitt (Pick 11) ahead of Jack Riewoldt (Pick 13), Chris Dawes (Pick 28), Kurt Tippet (Pick 32) and even Robbie Gray (Pick 55) and Justin Westhoff (Pick 71) cannot be forgiven.
Thoughtlessly this famous AFL name was chosen ahead of the plethora of legitimate key forwards offered up in the 2006 draft.
Choosing the lanky Jarrod Grant at Pick 5 in 2007 ahead of the big bodies of Ben McEvoy (Pick 9) and Robbie Tarrant (Pick 15) was more of the same, another opportunity being simply thrown away.
The year 2008 was far more promising for the Dogs with Ayce Cordy picked up as a father son and Jordan Roughead being snapped up at pick 31.
Sadly after a good year alongside Barry Hall, Liam Jones the 32nd pick, has definitely tapered but is still around.
Unfortunately this drafting of taller players was extremely short-lived with Christian Howard (Pick 15) being drafted ahead of Jack Gunston (Pick 29), Sam Reid (Pick 38) and Nathan Vardy (Pick 42) at the 2009 national draft.
Another opportunity seemingly lost.
While every club has had their drafting disasters, we are yet to see anything from these high value picks. Jarrod Grant has lost all game sense, Shaun Higgins is a walking corpse, plagued with injuries, and Liam Jones cannot take the key forward spot.
Farren Ray and Andrejs Everitt are long gone and Christian Howard and Dylan Addison are only serviceable AFL players at best. What a sad sight to see, these players are definitely on the last chance express.
The trading of draft picks and recruitment of much maligned AFL players has been another tale of woe for the Western Bulldogs over these years.
Apart from Barry Hall and Ben Hudson, the recruitment of stop gap players such as Andrew McDougall, Scott Welsh and more recently Nathan Djekurra and Patrick Vespremi for draft picks has been highly disappointing.
I am still wondering why on earth we recruited Justin Sherman? We conceded a compensation first round pick for this disgruntled and clearly uncommitted ex-Brisbane Lion.
I can only hope our future draft picks are used correctly, in drafting some youth, not some washed up AFL journeyman.
Thank the high heavens for the rookie picks mentioned earlier who managed to save some grace for what would have been further disaster for our club. Identifying talent in the VFL and other leagues is something the Dogs have done well, with Matthew Boyd, Dale Morris coming on as rookies.
More recently Liam Picken has become a sensational tagger, Luke Dalhaus looks a star, and Tom Campbell and Lin Jong have definitely shown something this year.
While it is certainly a positive when unearthing these gem rookies, they cannot be relied on to rebuild a list: this is what the AFL National Draft is for.
This is what the Western Bulldogs need to start getting right.
More recently, the drafting of father-son picks of Ayce Cordy, Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis have offered some future for the club, all looking to be solid AFL players.
Clay Smith looks a solid sort and backman Michael Talia could one day replace Brian Lake. Now with this decent core, we can only hope the Western Bulldogs go all out for a key forward in the draft.
We need a legitimate power forward, no longer will mid-sized forward gap fillers suffice, the Doggies need a big man.
While locating a key forward in the draft would be an ideal scenario for the club, we can still look to other teams for a genuine big man. We must forget recruiting another mid-sized forward and look for genuine height.
While Travis Cloke seems a pipe dream, we can certainly have a look at the likes of a Scott Gumbleton, Lachlan Hansen, Troy Chaplin or even a Zac Clarke to put up there. We are in dire need of a marking big man, as our 2012 goals-scored statistics are simply horrifying.
The 2012 AFL Draft looms a vital one for rebuilding this proud club, it was only 2010 when the ‘Dogs were in a preliminary final.
With the compensation pick for Callan Ward from GWS and another top 10 pick from a disappointing finish, the Doggies have a chance to draft two legitimate star players.
The Western Bulldogs must look to the upcoming draft and carefully assess the vast array of players, recruit a forward and make sure that our future is secure.
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