The five worst recruiting decisions of the last decade

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Israel Folau of the Giants chased by Justin Westhoff and Daniel Motlop of Port during the AFL NAB Challenge match between Port Adelaide Power and the Greater Western Sydney Giants at Willaston Oval, Willaston. Slattery Images

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In an era where footballers are so heavily scrutinised in the general public, several recruiting decisions have derailed clubs. Here’s a look at five of the worst from the past decade.

Players who arrive at a club via trade, draft and rookie listings can be identified as recruits but due to the large number of draft busts, this article will only be looking at players recruited by awful trade decisions.

Sometimes trades are one sided because a team gives up too much for an average player. Others are simply bad recruiting decisions because players bring bad habits to their new clubs. Every coach says they can fix a player’s bad habits but history suggests otherwise.

Here’s a look at five of the worst recruiting decisions from the past decade.

5. Jordan McMahon

In 2007, Jordan McMahon was traded from the Western Bulldogs to Richmond in exchange for pick 19. It was a trade with the approval of coach Terry Wallace and one of his most questionable decisions which led to his sacking.

The Bulldogs used pick 19 on Callan Ward who is quickly becoming one of the league’s best midfielders.

Although McMahon played 34 games in three seasons before being delisted, his impact on the AFL has been ridiculous considering how little he did on the field. In round 18 against Melbourne in 2009, McMahon kicked a goal after the siren to win the game.

Melbourne did not win another game for the season and were entitled to the priority draft pick used for Tom Scully. A three year investigation into tanking ensued.

Looking back on it, most people wish McMahon had just missed that kick!

4. Andrew Lovett

During the 2009 trade period, Lovett was traded from Essendon to St Kilda in exchange for pick 16. It was an offseason from hell for the club after Lovett was embroiled in a rape allegation, of which his new St Kilda teammates were present.

Lovett never once put on the St Kilda jersey after being immediately sacked by the club once rape charges were laid against him. Further drawing unneeded attention to his new club, a lengthy trial required St Kilda players to be cycled through the witness box.

Meanwhile, Essendon were grinning after a complicated trade saw Jake Carlisle land at Essendon in exchange for parting with Lovett.

3. Israel Folau

Let’s not kid ourselves – the guy was awful at football. He was recruited as a marketing tool and in the hope that his athletic abilities could make him a regular in the team.

Despite being paid $1.5m per year, roughly 30 times more than the kids who were drafted, he still couldn’t do his job.

Breaching his contract and leaving the game after just two years (one in the AFL), Folau may have helped gather attention in Western Sydney towards AFL, but recruiters around the country now know that intangible skills greatly outweigh physical athleticism in the game of Australian football.

He may have passed all his interviews and fooled recruiters to believe his commitment but in the end, Folou was a disaster.

2. Jason Akermanis

The AFL’s human headline, Akermanis never hid from the cameras and thrived when a microphone was placed in front of him. A gifted athlete, it took the very best of Leigh Matthews to tame the child-like man.

But in the end, Matthews and everyone in Brisbane had enough of his arrogant ways.

Every bit of his talent was exhausted by Brisbane until it reached the point where his on-field brilliance could no longer justify his culture killing demeanour.

Although playing reasonable football which still made him one of the top ten players at the club, the Lions were prepared to lose him for nothing until the Western Bulldogs and Rodney Eade showed interest.

Akermanis then found his way to Witten Oval in exchange for pick 34 at the end of 2006.

Believing they could change him, everything from media bans to interventions were tried but ultimately, it ended in hatred much like his departure from Brisbane.

Selling out his teammates, accusing opposition players of using drugs, disrespecting his coaches and homophobic comments were just a few Akermanis headlines. By the end of his career, he had few friends in the league beyond journalists.

1. Brendan Fevola

It’s not often a team passionately wants to get rid of their leading goal kicker for the past seven seasons but in 2009, Carlton decided enough was enough.

Fevola had always been one of the rowdier players around the league who was often baited by The Footy Show who took full advantage of his lack of professionalism.

The cameras loved him and in 2009 when The Footy Show asked him to host their Street Talk segment at the Brownlow medal, fans were greeted with what remains as probably the funniest interview segment ever.

Fevola’s booze filled night which was fully caught on cameras eventually cost him his job at Carlton who had previously suppressed such Fevola activity.

Unfortunately for Carlton, Fevola’s excellent form on the field had warranted him a three-year contract extension which he signed in 2008 and kept him contracted until the end of 2011.

When the decision to trade him was finally confirmed, he had two more years remaining on his contract which was worth $700,000 per year.

At the time, he was one of the top five highest paid key forwards in league and finding a club to take over that contract was extremely difficult.

Eventually though, Michael Voss put his hand up to take the troubled forward off Carlton’s hands and the Blues hierarchy were delighted.

Brendan Fevola and pick 27 were traded to the Brisbane Lions in exchange for Lachlan Henderson and pick 12 with Carlton agreeing to pay a meagre $100,000 per year for the remaining two of Fevola’s contracted years.

The Lions gave up a promising key position player in Henderson and to free up salary cap space, champion full forward Daniel Bradshaw did not have his contract renewed. Bradshaw subsequently played for Sydney the following season.

Away from the AFL spotlight in a smaller market, it was hoped Fevola would fade out of the national headlines with fewer AFL reporters in Brisbane than Melbourne.

How wrong they were.

Fevola had one mildly successful season with the Lions in 2010, kicking 47 goals in 17 matches but that was his last. Away from the structured nature of an AFL club, the lack of babysitting during the AFL offseason saw Fevola return to his alcohol and gambling fuelled adventures.

At one point he was omitted to a rehabilitation clinic to tackle issues of depression only to be found exiting a nightclub at 7am while he was supposed to be rehabilitating.

Finally by February of 2011, the Brisbane Lions accepted that Fevola was unrepairable and severed ties with the troubled forward who finished his AFL career with 204 games and 623 goals.

Players can do all the stupid things in the world but the buck stops with the people who bring them into the club.

Stay tuned for next week when we look at the five best recruiting decisions from the past decade.

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