Will Hamill didn’t look good after this ugly sling tackle from Alex Neal-Bullen.
Woulda, shoulda, coulda. To quote Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder, looking at a draft retrospectively is the most pointless exercise “since ‘Hhw to learn French’ was translated into French”.
Nonetheless, it’s always interesting to reflect on the AFL’s ultimate sliding doors moments. Why not, just for a second, fantasise about Patrick Dangerfield strutting to a centre bounce alongside Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs?
This year marks ten years since the 2007 AFL draft. According to the AFL Players Association the average career length is about six years, making this ten-year sample size ample. Additionally, it enables a fairer comparison when marking key position players, who typically take longer to develop, against midfielders and flankers.
For this exercise I have included players taken in the rookie and pre-season drafts but not those who were previously at an AFL club. Here’s the top five:
Dangerfield requires no justification – he’s a generational player who would just about be first picked in the playground in the current AFL landscape.
Rance (+16 spots) incidentally still gets to Richmond, where he has made a name as one of the great defenders, while teammate Cotchin (-2) falls to four behind Rioli (+9).
Walker, a preselection from New South Wales, is clearly the best key forward from this draft and is an appropriate choice at five.
Some may argue Rioli’s position, but his resume is incredible: four premierships, a Norm Smith Medal, three All-Australian selections and nearly 300 goals. Overrated or not, his ability to impact games is undeniable.
Kreuzer (-5) remains the best ruckman in what was a strong draft class for talls but slips slightly due to the quality of his peers. It was a close call between Kreuzer and Walker, but the Adelaide spearhead shaded the ruckman due to his leadership qualities, which were recognised last year when he won the AFLPA’s best captain award.
Next up is Taylor (+10), Ward (+11), Steven (+33) and Ebert (+3), who stays in South Australia, as was strongly tipped at the time. The three midfielders are all guns and it was hard to split them – you could almost throw a blanket over them.
Mumford (rookie draft) is the second ruck off the rank, surpassing Ben McEvoy and Stef Martin. Mumford has been a revelation at AFL level, instantly elevating Sydney and GWS to new levels.
Hooker (+42) is an All-Australian defender, while Wood (+30) oozes leadership in addition to his tremendous intercept marking. Thompson (+23) is likewise an All-Australian defender and has ably led North for many years, while Hanley (rookie draft) is an elite player at his best, racking up big metres gained tallies and using the ball with precision.
Rounding out the top 20 are Tarrant (-1), Martin (pre-season draft), McEvoy (-9), Henderson (-11) and Selwood (+2). Tarrant and Martin are both best and fairest winners at their respective clubs, while McEvoy helped Hawthorn to two flags. Henderson, while a quality player at both ends of the ground, hasn’t reached the heights of Tarrant, Thompson or Hooker as a key defender, hence his ranking.
Selwood completes this list, narrowly edging out Levi Greenwood. Like Tarrant and Martin, Selwood is a club champion who was a pivotal part of West Coast’s engine room before crossing over to Geelong.
Overall this list comprises two Brownlow medals, ten premierships and 15 All-Australian selections, illustrating the immense quality of the 2007 class. Further evidence of this crop’s value is the calibre of players who missed out on this list, including Chris Masten, Brendan Whitecross, Andy Otten, Jarrad Grant, David Myers, Rhys Palmer, Matthew Lobbe, Dennis Armfield, Chris Mayne and Greenwood.