The five worst recruiting decisions of the last decade

Alfred Chan Columnist

By Alfred Chan, Alfred Chan is a Roar Expert

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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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    The Crowd Says (84)

    • February 28th 2013 @ 4:34am
      AndyMack said | February 28th 2013 @ 4:34am | ! Report

      Hi Alfred

      Good list. Although Mcmahon is debatable and Folau is a tough call….

      The thing that got me with Fev is not how he then fell into a heap after signing with the Lions, but what it did to the Lions. To be offering up people such as Rischitelli, Henderson and Bradshaw, all of whom were very well respected at the club (bradshaw is a legend at the club, and Rischa was a real fav of the fans and members and staff) showed what the club thought of its players. A club that had shown loyalty and commitment to its players (never an easy thing to do in an afl outpost) all of a sudden discounted that for a possible 70+ goalkicker with a checkered history. Lost a lot of fans and credibility with that one move.

      I’m sure ur readers will come up with some worthy contenders for this title, but surely Fev takes the cake…


      • Roar Guru

        February 28th 2013 @ 5:53pm
        Andy_Roo said | February 28th 2013 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

        The recruiting of Fevola to Brisbane will forever tarnish Michael Voss’ coaching career. Recruiting Fevola was a bad mistake but offering Bradshaw and Rischitelli as trades was a worse one. It doesn’t matter how good a coach Voss is or might be, he will never be forgiven.

    • February 28th 2013 @ 6:56am
      Tiger said | February 28th 2013 @ 6:56am | ! Report

      Are you serious? We could have had Callan Ward!!! Some of Terry Wallace’s recruiting decisions are severly questionable when we look back at it. It’s dumbfounding to think why he uses the name, ‘The List Manager’ on Twitter. Jordan McMahon was pretty much the exact same player as Richard Tambling turned out to be, only Wallace knew that before he traded for McMahon! Terry sure did have a knack for paying a premium for overrated flankers.

      • February 28th 2013 @ 10:08am
        Macca said | February 28th 2013 @ 10:08am | ! Report

        NO Tiger you could have had the compensation for Callan Ward – but yeah Wallace’s 5 year plan set you back 10.

    • Roar Guru

      February 28th 2013 @ 8:29am
      langou said | February 28th 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      Not sure if it makes the time period but Freo traded the number one pick to Hawthorn for Trent Croad and then gave Croad back to the Hawks two years later

      • February 28th 2013 @ 8:55am
        AndyMack said | February 28th 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        Freo def take the cake on poor recruiting. A few tigers fans might disagree, but Freo have been terrible…

        • March 3rd 2013 @ 10:08pm
          Martin said | March 3rd 2013 @ 10:08pm | ! Report

          Also Peter Bell should never have left Fremantle for North Melbourne.

      • February 28th 2013 @ 11:00am
        Lroy said | February 28th 2013 @ 11:00am | ! Report

        Didnt the Dockers trade Andrew Mcloud to the Crows or something? Guy ended up being a legend, premiership and brownlow medalist… actually.. if you look at the top ten worst trades of all time.. 8 of them would involve the Frockers… lol..

        • February 28th 2013 @ 11:06am
          Macca said | February 28th 2013 @ 11:06am | ! Report

          Yeah wasn’t there a Trent Croad for Luke Hodge the back again for nothing deal

          • Columnist

            February 28th 2013 @ 11:23am
            Alfred Chan said | February 28th 2013 @ 11:23am | ! Report

            Yep. Hawthorn selected Trent Croad with the third overall selection in the 1997 draft. He kicked 80 goals over 84 games during his first three seasons and eas earmarked as an emerging superstar and an excellent contested mark.
            In 2001, Luke McPharlin and Trent Croad were traded from Hawthorn to Fremantle for picks 1 (Luke Hodge), 20 (Daniel Elstone) and 36 (Sam Mitchell).
            Croad had one decent season kicking 42 goals before struggling the next with just 18.
            After his two years in Fremantle, he requested a trade back to Hawthorn citing homesickness and was traded back to Hawthorn for pick 10 (Ryley Dunn). Dunn played just 8 games over five seasons.
            Back at Hawthorn, Croad was moved to CHF where he became and All-Australian and critical cog in Hawthorn’s 2008 premiership team. McPharlin also went on to become an All-Australian key defender in 2012.

            It wasn’t included because the initial trade fell just outside of the last decade. Essentially, Fremantle traded Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell for Luke McPharlin and Ryley Dunn. It will be one of the greatest grifts in the history of AFL.

            • Columnist

              February 28th 2013 @ 11:30am
              Alfred Chan said | February 28th 2013 @ 11:30am | ! Report

              Croad was moved to CHB*

      • February 28th 2013 @ 2:30pm
        Matt F said | February 28th 2013 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

        Yeah that was in 2001 so a little outside the time frame. Let’s not forget Freo’s other glorious decision, well one of many, to trade a young Andrew Mcleod for Chris Groom, though that’s definitely outside the timeframe

    • February 28th 2013 @ 8:51am
      Australian Rules said | February 28th 2013 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Not sure how this one got missed…

      Richmond using pick 4 to “snare” Richard Tambling…while the Hawks obligingly picked up Buddy at 5.

      dear oh dear

      • February 28th 2013 @ 2:22pm
        The Fridge said | February 28th 2013 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

        I agree whole-heartedly with Australian Rules! Richard Tambling is the man whom these articles are perennially based on (for good reason). Poor old Jordy McMahon… I think that’s rough. Pick 19 compared to a pick 4 – No argument… Tambling’s a double-header bad recruit – If the Crows had a $1 for everytime they said “what were we thinking?”, they may’ve recouped losses against his contract 10-fold by now.

      • June 7th 2013 @ 2:49pm
        Yarraville Tiger said | June 7th 2013 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

        Richmond got played by Hawthorn in that draft. We wanted Roughead and Hawthorn were meant to take Buddy at 2.
        Hawthorn reversed the order knowing that we didn’t want Buddy due to discipline issues and in turn got both the players they wanted and left us with nothing but Tambling.

    • February 28th 2013 @ 9:02am
      bilo said | February 28th 2013 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      I know it’s an obvious one but…Richmond picking Richard Tambling instead of Buddy Franklin in the 2004 draft.

    • February 28th 2013 @ 9:27am
      piesman2011 said | February 28th 2013 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      The article was about bad trades not bad draft selections.

      • February 28th 2013 @ 11:08pm
        Australian Rules said | February 28th 2013 @ 11:08pm | ! Report

        ah yes, but folau…

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