AFL draft analysis: Brisbane Lions

Maddy Friend Columnist

By , Maddy Friend is a Roar Expert

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    Brisbane has the luxury of the coveted number one draft pick for 2018, but with some key players missing from next year’s side, how they approach the draft will be critical to the ongoing rebuild of their list.

    Outlook
    Draft picks: 1, 15, 18, 40, 44, 52, 93
    Out: Tom Rockliff, Josh Schache
    In: Luke Hodge, Charlie Cameron

    The ins speak for themselves. Charlie Cameron will add talent and pace to a forward line crying out for some class and may release Allen Christensen to play in the midfield, while Luke Hodge’s experience will be invaluable for the Lions’ young backline. Even if he plays only 13 or so games for the year, his presence on and off the field will accelerate the team’s development.

    The fact that the Lions managed to lure Hodge to the club is testament to the good work Chris Fagan has done since beginning as coach at the start of the season, and the list the Lions have managed to assemble over the past few years is a huge coup for a club that has struggled for relevance over the past few seasons.

    Losing Tom Rockliff will be difficult in the short term for the club’s young midfield, but in the long term it will give the club’s younger players a chance to develop. With Dayne Beams and Dayne Zorko in great form this year, Rockliff’s loss should be mitigated somewhat.

    It’s probably too early to tell how Schache’s loss will affect the team given his limited exposure over the past few years. Clearly losing a key position player is always difficult, but it was a strange situation, and the club did well to facilitate a trade at the last minute with few suitors originally coming forward. His departure means Eric Hipwood will be the sole focus up forward, and he looks to be a future star.

    The Lions also did a pick swap with Richmond, changing their picks 20 and 25 for pick 15. This was a good move for both parties, with Richmond getting more points to cover taking Patrick Naish as a father-son selection while Brisbane managed to shoot up the draft order, which worked out well considering the club traded pick 12 for Cameron.

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    What they need
    Schache’s loss might see the Lions look for a key forward with one of their picks, while their list overall still has holes that need addressing. They clearly need more midfield depth, while some class at half back and among the small forwards would also be on the list.

    Who they might consider
    The luxury of pick 1 should not be understated. Any of Cam Rayner, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Adam Cerra or Paddy Dow would be worthy selections. Rayner would begin as a half-forward but will push into the midfield in time and is the draft’s game-changer. He has X-factor and the potential to be an extremely special player.

    Davies-Uniacke is a pure no-fuss midfielder who would be an ideal like-for-like replacement for Rockliff. Cerra would also add class and polish, while Dow is the complete package with pace, toughness and skill.

    At pick 15 Charlie Constable would be a good choice. He’s not a flashy player but is more in the mould of Jarrod Berry, who the Lions picked up last year. He’s a solid citizen and will slot straight into the team.

    Hunter Clark is likely to be gone, but his pace and precision kicking would be a great addition, while Lochie O’Brien is another midfielder/half-back with pace who could be considered.

    If Jack Higgins is available, he’d also be a great choice as a small forward. He is one of the most professional players in the draft – much has been written about his willingness to go the extra mile in his training – and would be the perfect crumbing forward, a player the Lions currently lack.

    The same players are likely to be available at pick 18 but, depending on who they select earlier, the Lions may also choose to go for a more speculative pick here – Sam Hayes could fit if they decide they’d like to develop a ruckman, while Ed Richards would be a great choice as a classy half-back/midfielder. Jarrod Brander would also be a good fit as a key position prospect.

    Draft and trade strategy
    This will be another year of rebuilding for the Lions, and they’ve done well to keep three picks in the top 20 after losing pick 12 in the Cameron trade.

    Given the state of its list, the club looks likely to continue down this route for a few more years and will be looking to continue the recent drafting success they’ve had, with last year’s crop looking particularly promising.

    The Lions need to maximise their first three picks and will also hope to land a few good players at picks 40 and 44 – they may look to take a few mature-aged players to complement their young list.

    Picks 15 and 18 will be interesting, as they will need to wait to see if anyone they like falls to them, particularly if Richmond is forced to match a bid for Patrick Naish at pick 17, and they may be forced to reach for someone if they think the Bulldogs or Richmond could pounce at 16 or 17.

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