During the last weekend without AFL football until September, footy fans across the country are in full swing with their typical pre-season delusions and high hopes.
Many are trying to convince anyone who will listen – and themselves, actually, mostly themselves – that this is their year to make some progress on the back of their young guns. However, with the compromised drafts, finding these young guns became significantly more difficult.
A complete hypothetical redraft of the 2011 edition may be a bit pointless, as the GWS Giants went around the board first, bought all the properties and then put motels on them before anybody else had a turn.
Seriously though, the Giants had eleven of the first fourteen picks. How on earth did we let that happen? No wonder this is about to be the Giants’ league and we’ll just be playing in it.
Consider this to be more of a ranking of player’s median career outcome going by what we have seen so far. These players have had five years in the AFL system, and are tomorrow’s – and in some cases, today’s- superstars.
1. Lachie Neal
Drafted at: (bold) Pick 56 in the National Draft
Current club: (bold) Fremantle
While they say you can never trust a man with two first names, Lachie Neal is an absolute stud and has steadily developed into one of the best inside midfielders in the competition. He broke the record last year for most possessions in a season, is a grand final player, and a club best and fairest winner.
Of all the players from this draft, is there anybody more likely that Neale is to win a Brownlow? Probably not.
In the absence of Nat Fyfe, Neale excelled, having an outstanding individual 2016 and shows no signs of letting that slip this year.
2. Steven Coniglio
Drafted at: (bold) Pick 2 in the National Draft
Current club: (bold) GWS Giants
Recent ankle injury aside, Coniglio stepped up a notch or two in 2016, emerging as one of the better two way midfielders in the competition. He had career highs in contested, uncontested disposals, and was one of the shining lights, in the bright GWS midfield.
Now I think about it, judging by last season’s progression, if you were to tell me that Coniglio is going to be the best of the Giant’s pack of disgustingly good young players, I would not be too surprised.
3. Chad Wingard
Drafted at: (bold) Pick 6 in the National Draft
Current club: (bold) Port Adelaide
If you were somehow able to computer generate the rest of Chad Wingard’s career one hundred times, the two time All-Australian would probably end up as Port Adelaide’s best ever player at least 80 times.
He is that good. Chad is smoother than the bottom of James Brown’s shoes, is a great user of the ball, and an absolute livewire up front for the Power.
The next step for Wingard, is to play a more prominent role in the Port Adelaide midfield, so expect that to be a highlight of what may be a dull season for the Power.
4. Rory Laird
Drafted at: (bold) Pick 5 in the Rookie Draft
Current club: (bold) Adelaide
Originally seen as not good enough, Laird was overlooked by all clubs in the national draft. Adelaide threw a bone to the defender in the rookie draft and we know what happens next.
From there he has blossomed into a swashbuckling rebounder who reads the play like a bedtime story and can instantly turns defence into attack. Watching Laird play, it almost looks like the ball finds him, rather than the alternative.
5. Tom Mitchell
Drafted at: (bold) Pick 21 in the National Draft
Current club: (bold) Hawthorn
A father-son selection, Tom Mitchell has had a rollercoaster of a career to date. He had an absolute stellar debut season and has also faced being in and out of the star studded Sydney midfield.
The hard at it midfielder has found himself at Hawthorn for 2017 where he is primed to help fill the newly created void of midfielders with the surname ‘Mitchell’. Being one of the key cogs in Hawthorn’s re-tooling can push Tom into consideration to be higher up on this list.
6. Jonathan Patton
Drafted at: (bold) Pick 1 in the National Draft
Current club: (bold) GWS Giants
Patton undoubtedly is a very large man, and when he is on song he looks like somebody has painted an African gorilla in Charcoal and Orange, and taught it how to kick. However, inconsistency (and numerous nagging injuries) have held Patton back so far throughout his career.
In last year’s finals series, we saw both sides of Patton with a dominant performance against the Sydney Swans in qualifying final win, and hardly getting a sniff in the preliminary final. Still, it would take a very brave person to tip against Patton taking the steps to be a great key-forward in the game.
7. Sam Docherty
Drafted at: (Bold) Pick 12 in the National Draft
Current Club: (Bold) Carlton
After a promising 2015 debut season for the Blues, Docherty switched on the extra burners in season 2016, winning the club’s Best and Fairest in what became another ‘rebuilding’ season for the club. Docherty is an incredibly smart ball user who looks like the heir replacement to Kade Simpson as the side’s resident rebounding defender.
Docherty averaging over five rebound 50s a game last season, and consistently had a solid 2:1 kick to handball ratio. With another jump in 2017 hopefully to come the future is extremely bright.
8. Toby Greene
Drafted at: (Bold) Pick 11 in the National Draft
Current Club: GWS
Toby Greene has managed to pull a rabbit out of his hat and turn himself from bad boy in to All Australian, quite the achievement from someone who, by all intents and purposes, next in line for the title of ‘that irritating small forward’.
Greene could walk in to another club today and be a great midfielder, however with the bevy of midfield talent at the Giants, and the fact that he kicked 44 goals in a Best and Fairest winning season, it is fair to guess that Greene may be staying forward for the foreseeable future.
9. Taylor Adams
Drafted at: (Bold) Pick 13 in the National Draft
Current Club: (Bold) Collingwood
Taylor Adams has slowly become a key player in one of the sneaky-best midfields in the competition. After spending a lot of the early season last year rotating as a sweeper down back, during the latter season he was taking more center bounces than almost anybody in the black and white.
If he can keep his form, and almost more importantly keep on the park, then he has every potential to take the next step.
10. Brandon Ellis
Drafted at: (Bold) Pick 15 in the National Draft
Current Club: (Bold) Richmond
The Richmond workhorse didn’t really work at the level we were expecting him to last year. In a bit of a mirror to the Tigers season, Ellis stagnated, then went backwards in 2016, which has him drop from where he would have been on this list twelve month ago.
However, there were times in 2015 when he looked like he may actually be the best player in this draft, so if he can regain that form again he will be the Tigers best midfielder.
11. Bradley Hill
Drafted at: (Bold) Pick 33 in the National Draft
Current Club: (Bold) Fremantle
There may have been some other high-profile Hawthorn departures that have taken the headlines over the offseason, such as Matt Spangher and some Lewis Mitchell guy… However, a key for the Hawks this season will be how they recover from the loss of the metres gained machine in Hill, who joins his brother –assumedly so the boys don’t have to make their mother choose which son she loves more when they play in a grand final again- at Fremantle.
The lightning fast Hill played a mighty role on the wing during Hawthorn’s three-peat, and will look to take his form – and hopefully some premiership luck – over to Western Australia with him.
12. Aaron Hall
Drafted at: (Bold) Pick 7 in the Pre-Season Draft
Current Club: (Bold) Gold Coast
A mature age recruit, Hall was plucked from Tasmania by the Gold Coast Suns with their first pick of the pre-season draft. Hall’s career at the Suns has had ups and down, from early last year where he exploded as one of the most improved players, to getting dropped to the reserves (surprisingly in the middle of his run of hot form) for not being the best team player.
Hall has shown he has what it takes to be a really effective AFL footballer, and if he can also improve on getting more contested ball, he may have another few things left to show.
Jack Newnes, Sam Gibson, Elliot Yeo, Devon Smith, Mark ‘third man up’ Blicavs.