The trade period is now officially in the rear-view mirror and the next big event on the calendar is the 2019 AFL Draft.
The big night may be more than a month away, but it’s not too early to start wondering who will go where. Here’s my early go at a top 30 2019 Phantom Draft.
Pick 1 – Gold Coast Suns – Matt Rowell
Rowell stamped a legacy on the under-18 competition this year, responding to a 2018 grand final loss where he was best on ground with a 2019 grand final win where he was, again, best on ground.
It’s the midfielder’s ability to make things happen on the football field and rise to the occasion that has made him a future AFL star, possible club captain, and undoubtedly the No.1 pick.
Rowell averaged more than 30 disposals and eight tackles per game in the NAB League this year, and was top ten at the draft combine in the Yoyo test.
Pick 2 – Gold Coast Suns – Noah Anderson
The other serious contender to be the first player picked in the draft, Anderson may ultimately prove to have a higher scope than Rowell given his bigger frame and ability to go forward. A clear-cut top two selection.
Anderson showed his forward ability with an average of two goals per game in the NAB League this year, while also averaging 28 disposals.
Pick 3 – Melbourne Demons – Hayden Young
For all the talk of evenness in the draft beyond the first two picks, Young is the obvious first choice for Melbourne here.
He is probably the best kick in the draft or close to, No.1 at the draft combine for agility, and a great size at 188cm.
Pick 4 – Adelaide Crows – Sam Flanders
Flanders has risen up the board quickly in the last few weeks due to outstanding form in the NAB League finals, and a prominent performance in the draft combine.
A creative half-forward, Flanders boasted the third-best running vertical jump, and was top ten both for agility and in the Yoyo test.
Pick 5 – GWS Giants – Tom Green (matching bid from Sydney)
As Josh P Kennedy’s star fades the Swans will have their eye on a big-bodied mid to succeed him, and GWS academy prospect Tom Green would be a perfect fit – they should make a bid if he’s still on the board.
Expect GWS to match the bid when it comes, but also expect them to try to upgrade this selection to one that comes before the bid if they can.
Pick 6 – Sydney Swans – Lachie Ash
Sydney have taken a few shots at recruiting a half back in recent years with none of them really landing just yet. Ash, well known for his speed out of defence, could be their perfect option.
Pick 7 – Fremantle Dockers – Caleb Serong
Hard to ignore if he lasts this long in the draft, Serong was one of the standout players of the national championships as an inside mid who is also dangerous around half-forward.
Pick 8 – Melbourne Demons – Cody Weightman
A high-flying small forward who was in the top ten for both standing and running vertical jump, Weightman averaged 1.3 goals per game in the NAB League this year.
This would be the earliest we’ve seen a specialist small forward picked in some time, but the Dees appear to have a specific target at this pick, and he could be it.
Pick 9 – Hawthorn Hawks – Finn Maginness (Matching bid from Carlton)
Maginness’ stocks have risen sharply following a prominent display at the draft combine where he showed off elite speed and endurance, running a 5:51 2km time trial.
This suggested there’s an almost unheralded athletic edge to his game, where he has primarily to this point been seen as a big-bodied midfielder.
While he needs to work on making use of those traits on the football field, it suggests he has massive scope at the next level, and could come into calculations for an early bid.
The Blues are always looking for more midfield support for Patrick Cripps, and may roll the dice here. Hawthorn could face an agonising decision to match if it costs them their pick 11.
Pick 10 – Carlton Blues – Brodie Kemp
Kemp’s season ended early due to an ACL injury, but before that he showed serious star potential as a tall utility who can play anywhere on the ground, but might have his greatest impact as a midfielder.
Pick 11 – Fremantle Dockers – Dylan Stephens
Although Fremantle were able to gain Blake Acres and James Aish as replacement wingers for the loss of Brad Hill and Ed Langdon, it still makes sense for them to take a blue-chip hard-running midfielder in Stephens here.
Pick 12 – Fremantle Dockers – Liam Henry (matching bid from Port Adelaide)
One of the most outstanding small forwards in the pool, Henry is tied to Fremantle via their Next Generation Academy but will attract a bid around this area of the draft.
The Dockers will be praying it comes after their second pick.
Pick 13 – Port Adelaide Power – Will Gould
It’s a difficult choice for Port to make here as by dropping two spots down the order in their Dougal Howard trade with St Kilda, they may risk missing out on getting one of best second-tier prospects after Anderson and Rowell.
There isn’t really a player here who clearly addresses a Port Adelaide need, but local boy Will Gould could appeal. At 191cm he could play third tall, or as a big halfback, thanks to his booming kick.
Pick 14 – Western Bulldogs – Fisher McAsey
The Dogs made significant effort to address their key position shortcomings in the trade period by adding Alex Keath and Josh Bruce, but could also have an opportunity to add to those stocks in the draft.
McAsey is the best genuine key position player in the draft, a tall defender who has also shown the ability to go forward.
Pick 15 – Geelong Cats – Luke Jackson
After missing out in their pursuit of Todd Goldstein, Geelong decided not to chase after another ruck option in the AFL trade period (though they did sign a pinch-hitter in Josh Jenkins).
They could target a ruck here in the draft instead. Jackson is the clear best option in the mix this year. While a little undersized for a ruck, he can play like an extra midfielder.
Pick 16 – Gold Coast Suns – Trent Bianco
A small midfielder or halfback, Bianco is light-bodied but has a real ability to rack up touches and use the ball well. He was top five in the NAB League for average kicks this year.
Pick 17 – Brisbane Lions – Jeremy Sharp
A two-time under-18 All Australian, Sharp hasn’t always been a big ball-winner but has shown an ability to move the ball out of defence or along the wing.
He showed off an impressive athletic profile at the draft combine, putting in a 6:12 2km time trial and finishing top 10 in both the 20m sprint and the Yoyo test.
Pick 18 – Geelong Cats – Josh Worrell
Although still intending to have a crack at the flag next year, Geelong can use their bevy of picks in 2019 to get an early start on rebuilding, and going tall makes sense for that.
Worrell’s season ended early because of a shoulder reconstruction, but the key defender has shown enough to be a top 20 pick. He could also play forward.
Pick 19 – Port Adelaide – Dylan Williams
With Chad Wingard 12 months gone from the club and Robbie Gray nearing retirement, Port Adelaide would love some more goalkicking power inside forward 50.
Williams provides that. He struggled through a back injury at times this year but still kicked 16 goals from the seven NAB League games he did manage to play in 2019.
Pick 20 – Richmond Tigers – Deven Robertson
One who could easily go a lot earlier, Robertson was the 2019 Larke Medallist as the best player at the under-18 championships, and captained Western Australia to the title.
An inside midfielder, there are some concerns about Robertson’s kicking, which is why he could slide. The Tigers would do well to snap him up as they have other sliders Jack Higgins and Riley Collier-Dawkins in the last two years.
Pick 21 – Gold Coast Suns – Cameron Taheny
Though he’s not had the dominant year he would have linked, Taheny played senior footy at SANFL this year and showed an ability to kick goals at that level.
Could be a good addition to the Suns’ forward line, and one who might have immediate impact in 2019.
Pick 22 – Brisbane Lions – Miles Bergman
Bergman has a lot of promise but hasn’t really managed to put together all of his best traits just yet. When he does he could be a really damaging player.
Pick 23 – Adelaide Crows – Sam De Koning
The Crows are obviously planning for the future, and getting a two-metre key defender option onto the books in Sam De Koning would be a good start to that.
Pick 24 – Geelong Cats – Trent Rivers
Rivers is a tall midfielder who tested in the top five for agility at the draft combine. He has also shown an ability to play at halfback.
Pick 25 – Sydney Swans – Cooper Stephens
We had Sydney bid on a big inside midfielder earlier without success, but they could pick up a great one here in Stephens. He missed most of the year with a broken leg but had shown great promise before then.
Top two in the Yoyo test at the draft combine showed that his ball-winning ability is backed up by great endurance.
Pick 26 – North Melbourne Kangaroos – Will Day
The Roos could use some fresh faces coming out of the backline and if Day is still on the board at this point, the classy defender makes a lot of sense for North Melbourne.
Pick 27 – North Melbourne Kangaoors – Brock Smith
Smith captained Gippsland Power in the NAB League this year, showing good defensive ability but also cracking the top ten for average rebound 50s.
Pick 28 – Port Adelaide Power – Jackson Mead (matching bid from Adelaide)
Port’s father-son prospect will attract a bid somewhere in the 20s, though the Power wouldn’t mind if he slid just a little bit further than this.
Pick 29 – Adelaide Crows – Elijah Taylor
Although the Crows picked up a number of small forward options this time last year, a more medium-sized choice like Talyor could still appeal. Top two for agility at the draft combine.
Pick 30 – Hawthorn Hawks – Harrison Jones
Jones, a tall forward, hasn’t dominated on the field just yet, but his strong draft combine performance – finishing top 10 in the 20m sprint, running vertical jump and Yoyo test – suggests he’s worth taking a chance on.