AFL draft analysis: Greater Western Sydney Giants

Maddy Friend Columnist

By , Maddy Friend is a Roar Expert

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    After losing their first-round pick as punishment for the club’s role in Lachie Whitfield missing a drug test earlier in the year, the Giants were eager to get back into the first round of the draft.

    They managed to do so by snaring Essendon’s pick 11 in exchange for Devon Smith and a swap of later picks. They then traded inside midfielder Matt Kennedy to Carlton in exchange for pick 28 and defender Nathan Wilson to Fremantle for a second-round pick.

    The latter was a disappointing result for the club, given Wilson has blossomed into one of the competition’s best running defenders in the past few seasons. Overall, though, GWS should be happy with the position they find themselves in leading into the draft.

    Draft picks: 11, 27, 28, 57

    Josh Kelly GWS Giants AFL 2017

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    What they need
    Losing Smith and Steve Johnson (retired) has left them short on smaller, crumbing forwards. Shane Mumford and Tom Downie’s retirements will also have them thinking about another developing ruckman, while they could also use another running half-back and third-tall forward.

    Who they might consider
    At pick 11, Jack Higgins would be a perfect fit. He’s a small forward who is one of the most dedicated and professional players in the draft and has a great footy IQ. He kicked 32 goals in 14 games this year and won the Morrish Medal as the best player in the TAC Cup this year.

    Darcy Fogarty could also be an option as a third tall forward, while Lochie O’Brien offers some pace off half-back, but pick 11 may be slightly too early for him. Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield would also be classy, polished selections.

    Picks 27 and 28 are interesting. Sam Hayes is the best ruckman in the pool, but whether or not he’ll be available around those selections will be one of the interesting factors of draft night. On talent he’s worth a top-20 pick, but clubs have shown a preference in recent times to either draft or trade for mature-aged ruckmen. If Hayes is there at these picks, he’d be a good pick up for the club.

    GWS Giants coach Leon Cameron

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Draft/trade strategy
    This is the first year since the club’s inception that they don’t have a top-10 pick. After four or five years of aggressive trading for high draft picks in return, GWS seem to be starting to settle into more of a normal rhythm as they solidify their list for the future.

    The club’s strategy in recent years has been to acquire high draft picks and then trade out these players a few years later. Since their inception in 2012, GWS have traded or delisted players who would be considered first choice at other clubs, including: Tom Bugg, Jack Hombsch, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Rhys Palmer, Wilson, Curtly Hampton, Smith, Dom Tyson, Jacob Townsend, Jonathan O’Rourke, Lachie Plowman, Caleb Marchbank, Paul Ahern, Jarod Pickett, James Stewart, Tom Boyd, Cam McCarthy, and Jack Steele.

    That’s a heck of a lot of talent out the door. Rather than stockpiling high picks to use on highly ranked youngsters, only to trade them a few years later to free up cap space or for another high pick, the club this year will take a more sedate approach.

    For the first time in a long time GWS also have no academy players eligible to be drafted this year. Based on their general approach to trading and drafting in recent years, having to draft their academy players has made GWS more reactive than proactive.

    GWS have chosen to select their academy players possibly without giving thought to their list balance as a whole, which has led to a glut of players in some positions, mainly in the midfield. Not having that option this year means that the club might be more inclined to select players based on need, rather than just trying to acquire more talent.

    Not having early picks or academy players means that GWS recruiters will, for really the first time, be forced to use their recruiting nous and prowess to select good players rather than having an obvious choice. This draft is an important one for the Giants as they look to both consolidate their list and bring in more young players. If they get this draft right, it may go a long way to helping them win their inaugural premiership.