It was always going to be Gold Coast, wasn’t it?
The AFL introduced live pick trading to their 2018 AFL draft in the hope of creating a spectacle from an otherwise dour event in which AFL teams read out names of largely unknown 18-year-olds.
The dream was that they’d get a ‘draft day’ experience, a Hollywood film starring Kevin Costner, who takes an unexpected choice with the No.1 pick of the NFL draft and, having sent the league into a spin, fleeces his opposition with a number of canny trades to net him a wealth of talent.
Or they were hoping for the real-life situation from the NBA draft in June, where European phenom Luka Doncic slipped to pick three before Atlanta elected a future pick swap with Dallas to take undersized long-range shooter and early season college star Trae Young.
In the end the AFL got Sydney and West Coast making a mockery of the points system by swapping picks to manipulate their points position and an unexpected pick swap whereby Carlton traded next year’s first-rounder for Adelaide’s 19th pick and their 2019 first-rounder.
Two weeks after the draft Carlton released footage from their ‘war room’ where Stephen Silvangi, as commander-in-chief, flanked by list manager Michael Agresta and national recruiting manager Paul Brodie, waxed lyrical about young Sandringham talent Liam Stocker.
“His left foot kicks at Ballarat don’t show what the wind was like that day, it was horrific,” remarked Brodie.
The trio seemed desperate to convince those there in the room they weren’t crazy.
As the tension in the music built, one had to wonder: If the club was so desperate to push for Stocker, why was Pick 19 the best they could manage, including from the future swaps? Or why was Adelaide the only team they could manage to broker a deal with?
If you were betting against a team next year, would you pick the Crows or Port? What about Freo at Pick 17?
After the dust settled, Silvangi gave a fist pump. In his mind he delivered a coup.
When he fronted up to media he announced a new era for the Blues – they weren’t playing for draft picks in 2019.
Silvangi carries himself with confidence as a list builder.
He came with the success of building a powerhouse in Western Sydney, where he elected to reject chasing veterans and instead turned a bevy of picks into even more picks, giving himself a can’t-miss approach to the draft.
In the end the Giants were playing in preliminary finals and then going to the draft with top picks. But is SOS starting to believe his own myth? Does he think he can turn dirt into diamonds?
While the jury will be out until Stocker can prove himself to be what it was that SOS, Agresta and Brodie saw on that windy day in Ballarat, the pick swap became that more tedious when star Blue Sam Docherty reinjured his ACL this week.
While the universal response was one of disappointment for a star that was losing a second year of his prime to a knee injury, Crows fans secretly rejoiced – certainly their pick just went up a few spots? For SOS, even the best-laid plan can be destroyed by some rotten luck in the summer.
That’s the beauty of the draft and off-season – the questions never have immediate answers.
History would say the Blues are playing with fire. They’ve selected at first pick five of the last 14 drafts.
When four of those drafts go to Gold Coast and GWS you get the picture that Carlton are more likely to be picking first than last.
SOS is also betting against Adelaide, who disappointed in 2018, yet are only a year removed from a grand final.
I hope they enjoyed using the 19th pick on Stocker; there is every chance they might be picking there again in 2019.
A few other questions remain. How many calls will talkback radio get if Stocker doesn’t make an impact on the Thursday night opener against Richmond?
What happens to the pick swap if Patrick Cripps or Charlie Curnow were to miss an extended period?
And perhaps the most bizarre question doing the rounds: Should the Blues chase Brendan Goddard to fill Docherty’s absence?