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2018 AFL draft: Talking through all the big topics

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10th December, 2018
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Now that there’s been time for the dust to settle, The Roar’s resident draft nuts Maddy Friend and Josh Elliott have put their heads together to talk through all of the big topics from the 2018 AFL Draft.

Carlton’s big night

Josh Elliott: Let’s start with Carlton. Not only did they have the first pick of the night, but they made the biggest splash when it came to live trading, giving up the 2019 first-rounder for Adelaide’s in order to swoop on Liam Stocker.

Talking about Sam Walsh at pick one first though, I’d say any of this year’s top four could have reasonably been the No.1 pick, and they would all probably be around the mark to be pick 1 in most previous drafts.

Walsh plays the game in a way that isn’t going to go out of style any time soon and he seems like the player most likely to have a big effect on the club’s off-field culture as well, and is probably the one of the four who is going to make the biggest impact in 2019.

I feel for him a little though because the media has collectively billed him as a Judd-Ablett hybrid when realistically I’d say he’s more like a Marc Murphy or a Steele Sidebottom – which is hardly a poor result for the Blues if he turns out like one of them.

I can understand the arguments for picking him, but I reckon at least one of those next three picks is going to absolutely dominate the league at some point and people will point fingers at the Blues over it. But we don’t know which one.

Maddy Friend: Carlton made the right choice in picking Walsh – he’ll be a 200+ game player, and a probable future captain.

The Stocker deal was fascinating – it certainly added some intrigue to draft night! I’m not surprised the Blues felt the need to add another midfielder, given that was the clearly identified priority for them; however, I’m a little surprised it was Stocker.

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That’s no slight on him – I think he’s a good player, and while he’s solid rather than spectacular, he’ll likely play quite a bit next year. I’m surprised because I felt that Collier-Dawkins or O’Halloran might have been a better fit to complement their list.

J: I was definitely surprised Stocker was the player they picked. He’s very much ready to go, which is good, but I reckon a bit vanilla. When the bid came in, I assumed it was going to be to take Riley Collier-Dawkins.

The Blues apparently had Stocker at No.6 on their board which is interesting to say the least. I’d love to know who out of the top seven they had below him.

M: When the details of the trade first came through, I was, like most people, shocked at what the Blues had given up, but on further reflection, it seems like it might work out well for both clubs.

Obviously it all depends on ladder positions next year – if Carlton have another terrible year, Adelaide make out like bandits; but if Carlton do better than expected, and Adelaide don’t make top four, then I’d say it works out fairly even.

Even if Carlton finish bottom and forfeit pick 1, they still get, at worst, pick 18, and there’s plenty of opportunity to trade back into the first round, or swap picks on draft night.

I think we’ll see more and more of this happening – clubs might look like they’re in a less than ideal position heading into draft night, but then are able to get who they want through live trading.

The biggest issues for mine is the pressure on Stocker – if Carlton have a bad year, and, say, finish bottom but lose pick 1 to Adelaide, then Carlton fans will come hard with the ‘what if’ of Stocker v 2019’s No.1.

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I expect Carlton to improve next year, just by virtue of the fact they’ve finally cut most of the deadwood from their list, if for no other reason. Getting Mitch McGovern in this year will certainly help, as will more midfield support for Paddy Cripps and Marc Murphy.

J: I was pretty confident the Blues would improve in 2019 just 24 hours ago, but the news that Sam Docherty has just done his second ACL injury really hurts them.

Still, Marc Murphy will hopefully play a full season, and Walsh and Stocker will both make an instant impact. Six wins is a reasonable possibility.

I’m expecting a super competitive AFL season in 2019 though. There’s probably only three teams right now I’d rule out of finals. A six-win season for Carlton could still mean a bottom-two finish – on the other side of the coin, the Crows have a lot of competition also trying to move up the ladder.

It’s a roll of the dice by both clubs and too early to tell if it’s going to be a good or bad one, but I really hope this works out to be a win-win for both clubs.

It was really exciting to see the trade done live on Thursday night, and if either side gets burnt too badly it might scare other teams away from doing these kind of deals in the future, which would be a shame.

Sam Walsh Liam Stocker

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Did Gold Coast get it right?

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J: Gold Coast were up with the next two picks and then they had another one shortly after at pick 6. From a position like that you’re guaranteed to come out of the draft with great talent, but we all know talent isn’t their problem – retention is. Given that – did they pick the right players?

M: ‘Right’ is hard to judge at this point – they’ve had so many early selections over the last few years, all of whom were good players and should have solid AFL careers, but Gold Coast has had a habit of not developing them to their full potential.

I think they did pick the types of players they needed to – a key forward to replace Lynch in Jack Lukosius; an X-factor forward in Izak Rankine; a tall swingman in Ben King, and a rebounding defender in Jez McLennan.

What we need to wait and see though is how those players settle, and whether Gold Coast can get the best out of them.

It was smart to pair Lukosius and Rankine, both South Australians; hopefully that helps them settle in a bit better. McLennan apparently has family on the Gold Coast, so was happy to go there, which is a win for the club.

King is the one I’m not sure about, long-term – he may get up there and thrive, but the look on his face on draft night when he realised he’d be heading north while his twin brother Max was drafted to the Saints didn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

By all reports, the environment under new coach Stuart Dew is much more professional and collegiate than previously, so hopefully that gives the club every chance to retain these players. Only time will tell.

J: The temptation here is to look at the Suns as having chosen between picking players who are the best and player who will stay, when I think in reality all of the players in the mix at their selection have at least some chance of being either. Still, at this very early stage, I don’t feel they’ve nailed it.

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It’d be unfair to criticise their selections without offering an alternative strategy, so here’s mine: there was reportedly an offer on the table to get pick 4 from St Kilda for pick 6 and one of their second round picks, I would’ve taken that and used it to pick Connor Rozee over Ben King, then use the remaining second rounder on Luke Valente.

That would have allowed them to bring in most of the core of this year’s U18 championship-winning team and give them a unique chance to continue playing together at AFL level.

Obviously they still managed to bring in three SA boys, but Valente, the captain, is the centrepiece here – he ties them all together.

If they wanted to really double down on that strategy they could even have looked at sinking some of next year’s currency into live trading deals to bring in Jez McLennan, who they obviously targetted strongly, or even Jackson Hately.

Is it compromising on talent? Yes, but talent’s the one thing they can afford to compromise on. Is it guaranteed to succeed? Not even close, but I reckon it would’ve been a better strategy than what they’ve ultimately played out.

Jack Lukosius Izak Rankine Ben King

(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Showdown at the draft: Who did better out of the Power and Crows?

J: Speaking of that South Australian talent – both the clubs in that state had a major role to play in the draft that year, Adelaide and Port Adelaide entering the draft with three first-round picks each.

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M: I thought they both did very well – both acquired some excellent players, but also addressed needs.

After stocking up in the trade period last year, I’m glad Port made an investment in the draft this year – they needed to adress some of the depth issues in their list.

Rozee looks like a quality midfielder who can maybe go some way to replacing Chad Wingard; Zak Butters is a crafty small forward (which was one of the biggest areas of concern on their list), and Xavier Duursma is an agile, versatile defender who I think complements their list well. Boyd Woodcock and Riley Grundy also give them more depth.

J: I feel like Port Adelaide really nailed those early picks, taking players who fill the biggest needs on their list. All three of Rozee, Butters and Duursma offer class, a bit of speed and some X-factor, which they need more than ever after losing Wingard and Jared Polec over the offseason.

M: The Crows did very well with Chayce Jones and Ned McHenry in the first round, and I think Will Hamil was an astute selection at 30.

Their biggest filip, however, was the pick swap with Carlton. It was a smart move – having a swag of top 30 picks put them in a good position to do a swap without compromising this year’s haul.

They’ll be hoping Carlton stay mired in the bottom half of the ladder next year, but you’d think that, at worst, they’ll end up with a top 10 pick.

J: If you’re looking at it just in terms of the names who got brought in through this draft, I reckon Port Adelaide have come away with a bigger stack of talent, but the Crows have the potential to win out just because of how well they’ve set themselves up for next year.

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Not only does the Carlton trade leave them with the possibility of getting a very early pick next year, but it’s worth noting that they also managed to pick up Carlton’s 2019 second-round selection via GWS in exchange for moving down just a handful of spots in the second round.

Jones and McHenry both fit into their list really well, I reckon McHenry will play Round 1 for them next year and Jones won’t be too far behind. I like that both they and Port resisted the urge to pick local boy Jackson Hately when they had the chance – he wasn’t the best fit for either, in my opinion.

Ned McHenry Chayce Jones

(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Sydney’s live trading shenanigans
J: While the AFL obviously took some notes from other competitions like the NFL when it came to introducing the new live trading rules, there isn’t really another sport in the world that has something like our academy and father-son bidding system and I’m not sure the league fully considered how these two aspects of the draft might work in concert.

It’s no surprise that Sydney were the first team to really exploit the combination of these two systems – temporarily hiding their presence in the second round by trading out of it, only to enter back in after matching GWS’ bid for Nick Blakey for a clutch of relatively insignificant picks – shifting next year’s second-round pick to a third-rounder for the privilege.

M: Kinnear Beatson has always been a shrewd operator, so it doesn’t surprise me to see Sydney pull off a move like this. I don’t know if it’s necessarily in the spirit of the draft – although live pick trading was brought in to help clubs be more creative – but if there’s a loophole there, clubs are entitled to exploit it.

I think the AFL will look to change the rules around this next year, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

J: I’m all for the Swans doing what they can to exploit loopholes in the draft as every club should be doing, but I feel like this really illustrated that trying to find a way to successfully integrate father-son and academy players into the draft is still very much a work in progress.

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The current system is infinitely more complex than the old one but a few years in, I’m not really convinced that it has been an improvement. It’s hard to come up with a perfect system, but if we’re going accept life with an imperfect one, why not at least make it simple?

The other option would be a bit more drastic and say now that every club is set up to get the occasional quality player through their academy, why not just take them out of the draft entirely and assume that time and luck will probably balance things out?

Not sure I’d full-on advocate for a move like that just yet – but it’s attractively simple.

Another Giant draft

J: GWS copped some harsh critiques on a trade period that saw them lose a significant number of quality players, but the upside from that was that they came away with a really strong hand at the draft – and, hopefully, have fixed up their salary cap enough that they can at least slow down if not entirely end their cycle of losing players.

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M: I was surprised they took three inside midfielders, but this was obviously an area they wanted to address.

Jye Caldwell was a no-brainer – they’ve got a habit of picking injured draft sliders, giving them time to develop, and watching them come good (Aiden Bonar was the same last year), and are fans of good character, which all three players bring.

It gives them more depth given their midfield losses this year. I think Ian Hill was probably their most astute selection – with time to develop, in a good system, he could be one of the best players from this year’s crop. Hill alongside Toby Greene is a scary proposition!

J: It was a little bit of a surprise to see them bring in three midfielders with their early picks, but when you consider the players they lost, it’s probably the most pressing need on a list that doesn’t really have many of them.

Xavier O’Halloran is probably my favourite pick of theirs, he’s one who has stood out to me this year and I’m not surprised he ultimately went earlier than expected – in fact, he was the only player taken on the first night of the draft who wasn’t actually invited to the event itself.

Their live trade to move up to the pick for Ian Hill was definitely a clever one. On the surface you would look at it and say they gave up a lot, but you’ve got consider that if they don’t, Adelaide probably use that pick to bid on Kieren Briggs.

Because the Giants did the swap, the bid for Briggs didn’t come until much later, which balances out what otherwise looks like a fairly lop-sided trade, and GWS come away with five really high-quality prospects out of this draft.

Jye Caldwell

Jye Caldwell. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

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Hawthorn’s Mosquito no-match decision

J: This was one of the more interesting talking points of the second day of the draft, as Hawthorn elected not to match a bid on Irving Mosquito, meaning he was drafted to Essendon instead.

M: I was a bit surprised Hawthorn decided not to match, but the bid came much earlier than most expected.

They had probably been thinking it would come somewhere in the 50s, which might have allowed them to still get Jacob Koschitzke along with Mosquito.

I was surprised they took Mathew Walker instead, rather than going into deficit for Mosquito, and then trying to get Kozitschke with a later pick.

J: If I can put my tinfoil hat on here for a moment, I reckon there’s more going on in this one that we’re aware of, and the full story might someday come out.

After all, even if this bid was a little earlier than expected for the Hawks, it should’ve been easy enough to match it and still draft Koschitzke if they wanted to.

Any pick between 38 (where the bid was made) and 50 would’ve been an adequate amount of points to match with so they could’ve spun a 2019 future pick into a pick good enough to match this year, or pay with the pick they already had and then try to trade another in for Koschitzke.

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That being the case I reckon the Hawks instead made a conscious decision not to recruit Mosquito, rather than simply feeling like the price was too high. Mosquito was an Essendon fan growing up – so maybe he asked them nicely to let him go if the ‘Dons made a bid. That’s my theory!

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Other teams that caught the eye

M: I think the Western Bulldogs did very well, which has gone under the radar a bit.

Bailey Smith will be a gun, and Rhylee West is just the kind of player they like (even if he is very much the same type of mid they already have many of).

Picking up two mature-agers in Ben Cavarra – the good news story of the draft, I was so happy when his name was called – and Will Hayes helps their young list, and adds to their depth.

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J: Fremantle are probably the one that really stands out for me – in picking Sam Sturt and Luke Valente with their first two picks, they took two players who I’m a particular fan of.

Sturt is a bit of a roll of the dice given his relatively low amount of exposed form, but he seems to have every trait you’d want in an AFL footballer.

Valente on the other hand is maybe a bit of a vanilla footballer, but a great character and future leader. I see him a bit like Andrew Swallow – a high compliment from a North Melbourne fan. He could be Fremantle’s next captain.

On top of that, Brett Bewley is probably the one of that group of mature-agers taken later in the draft that I’m most interested to see get a crack at AFL level next year.

I’ll toot my own club’s horn a little also and say that trading a future third-round pick to sneak in and get Curtis Taylor in the 40s was probably one of the better value plays of the draft, compared to pre-draft expectations.

Riley Collier-Dawkins too getting out to where he did could be a big win for Richmond. The Roar’s resident Tigers fan Cam Rose said Collier-Dawkins “might be the youngest person I’ve ever seen” on Twitter and he’s not wrong, but when RCD grows up he could be close to unstoppable.

Bailey Smith

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Are Next Generation Academies compromising the draft too much?

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M: This is probably a bit sceptical, but I personally think the Next Generation Academies were brought in to placate the non-Sydney/Queensland clubs who didn’t have access to Academy players.

I really don’t see the point – they’re meant to provide pathways to players who haven’t played before, but how often does that actually happen in reality?

Most of the players eligible under this rule would have, I think, found their way into the AFL system regardless of NGA opportunities.

J: I agree entirely, reading between the lines on the NGAs it does feel like they were brought in for exactly that reason.

That said, I do feel like there’s potentially some positive benefits to come from them. They’re very fledgling at the moment but in a few years time we will have players coming through who’ve genuinely risen up through that system and hopefully benefit from it.

It’s not uncommon to see indigenous players struggle to deal with the step up to complete professionalism and if they’re getting more of an investment from clubs pre-draft then that might help make the transition a bit easier.

‘Multicultural’ players I’m definitely much more sceptical – I’d probably prefer to see eligibility extended only to players who were themselves born in an eligible country, not just those who have at least one parent who was.

Tarryn Thomas

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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The new draft format – fun or flop?

M: Live trading was good – keep it coming! The two-day format is terrible – have it all on one day, or if it has to be two days (because TV rules) do it on a Friday and Saturday so people can actually watch it.

The mandatory five-minutes for each pick was terrible – watching Carlton lock in their selection for pick 1 in the first five seconds and then be made to sit there awkwardly for five minutes was excruciating. Give clubs five minutes if they need it, but otherwise move things along.

J: Honestly it all went much, much better than I expected, especially given the talk that there had been something of a tech meltdown in the rehearsal the night before.

I thought live trading worked really well for the most part, and obviously it tossed up a few good talking points for us which is what the AFL is looking for.

Agree entirely on the two-day format – the whole event could easily have been put into a single day, even if not, surely Friday and Saturday makes more sense than Thursday and Friday, at a time when there’s relatively little else on the sporting calendar.

Maybe it’s just from the perspective of someone working around the event but I didn’t feel the draft dragged on as much as I was worried it would – if you were just watching on the couch at home, I can see how it would have felt different.

Enforcing five minutes between picks on the first night was definitely a bit cringeworthy. Most clubs took their time between picks on Day 2 anyway, and I’m sure would’ve done so on Day 1.

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I reckon Fox Footy made a really good move getting Sarah Olle on player interviews in between picks too, it was much better than listening to the likes of Jason Dunstall and Brad Johnson repeat endless tired cliches as we’ve done in previous years.

M: Should newly-drafted players also be able to be traded? I know clubs are in favour as it gives them even more flexibility.

I don’t know that it’s great for the wellbeing of draftees, being horse-traded around like that, so I’d want to know more about exactly how it would work before supporting it.

But as live pick trading keeps developing, expect player trading to be discussed more frequently.

J: I don’t know, probably not in my opinion. It was already awkward enough having to watch the players who were invited to the draft but not taken on the first night wait around until the end of the day.

Imagine watching a kid who has been drafted to a club in his home state have to sit there for hours and wonder if he’ll be traded interstate during the draft. It’d be a bit much for me.

Gillon McLachlan

(AAP Image/James Ross)

Do we really still need a rookie draft?

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M: There’s really no point now, given there are no longer any restrictions on rookies playing from Round 1.

It was previously held the day after the draft to give clubs time to go through their list and decide where the gaps were.

If that’s no longer the case, then there’s really no point having a separate draft.

Make it all one draft, with players taken from round six onwards (so anything after about pick 70-75) receiving only one-year deals on less money.

J: Something like half the rookie draft this year was clubs taking their own delisted players back which is just a bit of a joke in something called the ‘rookie’ draft.

Personally, I reckon it’s time to change it over to be called something like a supplemental list, with the option to sign players for even just half of a season.

That could segue nicely into having a mid-year draft where teams can cut and add to their supplemental list.

Perhaps even a genuine rookie list could then be retained where there’s a rule that the players listed on it must have never been on an AFL list previously.

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