In the history of AFL drafts, none quite compare to the super draft of 2001.
The top three were Luke Hodge, Luke Ball and Chris Judd – a handy trio – but it doesn’t stop there. Jimmy Bartel, Dane Swan, Gary Ablett Junior and Sam Mitchell all became Brownlow Medal winners. Judd, Steve Johnson, Hodge, Bartel and Brian Lake all won Norm Smith Medals. They had 14 make All Australian teams at least once, a total of 18 players played 200-plus games and a host more played 150-plus.
Key names include Hodge, Ball, Judd, Brent Reilly, Nick Dal Santo, James Kelly, Steve Johnson, Campbell Brown, David Rodan, Sam Mitchell, Leigh Montagna, Jarrad Waite, Dane Swan, Brian Lake and of course Gary Ablett Junior, who is the last one left from the draft still playing in 2020. There were even a few gems plucked from the rookie draft such as Quinten Lynch, Matthew Boyd, Nathan Bock and Aaron Sandilands.
It was an exceptional draft class that more than likely will ever be rivalled any time soon.
Every year fans crave a repeat of the 2001 super draft, which of course back in 2001 you don’t understand just how good that draft class was. Fast forward ten years and you can work out the career most players are having, but fast forward 19 years and you can add up all the accolades that each player has accrued over their careers. Each draft always has some superstars and some busts but none have had the depth of quality players like 2001.
While it might be too early to call, the 2013 draft is shaping to be the best draft since 2001. These players are entering their seventh season and some genuine superstars of the competition have blossomed from this draft class.
Some top-tier talent has already emerged from the pack. Josh Kelly, Marcus Bontempelli, Patrick Cripps, Matt Crouch and Zach Merrett have already started building a portfolio of accolades.
Kelly has a best-and-fairest and an All Australian jacket, Bontempelli is now the Bulldogs’ skipper with three best-and-fairests under his belt and two All Australian jackets, Cripps has been the Blues’ skipper for a couple of years now and just like Bont he has three best-and-fairests and is a two-time All Australian, Matt Crouch has a best-and-fairest with one All Australian jacket and broke the record for most disposals in a season in 2017 and Merrett has two best-and-fairests and made one All Australian side. All of these players are just entering their prime, turning 25 in 2020 and should get another 100-plus good games before they retire.
It is foolish to compare these guys to all-time greats like Hodge, Judd, Mitchell, Swan, Bartel and Ablett but they all have the potential to grow in their careers and be spoken about in the same conversation as these all-time greats. The foundation has been laid for someone like Bontempelli or Cripps to retire with six All Australians like Judd. Just for some comparison, Gary Ablett Junior has eight All Australian honours, which is currently a tie for the most ever. He didn’t make his first until 2007, meaning when he turned 25 he had two All Australian jackets just like Cripps and Bontempelli.
The elite talent is visible from 2013 but there are plenty of others that are on the verge of being elite. Jack Billings broke out last season in the midfield. Dom Sheed has really cemented himself as a gun after his 2018 heroics.
Christian Salem is improving every year and has become an integral part of the Dees. Rory Lobb is arguably the best contested grab in the comp. Tom Barrass has emerged from nowhere to be one of the better fullbacks in the competition. Charlie Cameron was taken in the pre-season draft and since then he’s proven to be one of the best one-on-one small forwards in the competition and has been a key part of Brisbane’s revival.
Neville Jetta was also taken in the pre-season draft and is one of the most reliable small defenders, who rarely loses one-on-one contests. Ben Brown has challenged for the Coleman Medal the past few years and James Sicily has shown superstar potential in patches – he just needs to find some consistency in his performance.
All of these players are in the second tier from the 2013 draft yet all have strong chances of becoming elite All Australian players. Floating around the 90-120-game mark and with plenty of football left in the body, that leaves time on their side to retire after 200-plus games.
The depth from 2013 has already proven a great strength with plenty more players having hit the 100-game mark. I’ve already mentioned 14 players above that have shown a lot in their six complete AFL seasons yet there are so many more that have locked themselves into their teams’ best 22.
Players like Luke McDonald, Zac Jones, Luke Dunstan, Jarman Impey, Darcy Gardner, Daniel McStay, Lewis Taylor, Trent Dumont, George Hewett, Jake Kolodjashnij, James Harmes, Patrick Ambrose, Sam Gray, Jake Kelly, Darcy Byrne-Jones and Tom Langdon have already chalked up 90-plus games and have shown plenty in those games. Some of those players are coming off career-best seasons in 2019 and look to continue their improvement. You just never know where these guys might end up when it’s all said and done.
A few more blokes from 2013 that have shown great ability but just haven’t chalked up as many games are Orazio Fantasia, Alex Pearce, Sam Lloyd, Aliir Aliir, Toby Nankervis, Blake Acres and James Aish. All have put together some quality games but playing consistent football is required for them to get to the upper echelon of this player pool.
It’s worth mentioning Tom Boyd went pick one in 2013. His career at Greater Western Sydney wasn’t what you’d want from a pick one but he’ll forever have a great place in any Bulldogs supporter’s heart. He managed 61 games and battled mental illness and unfortunately has already retired. Boyd will forever be remembered for his role in the 2016 grand final victory. It was the best game of his career and he was possibly stiff to miss out on the Norm Smith that day.
No draft class will end up with as many superstars as 2001 but out of all the drafts since that day, 2013 just might be the best. The groundwork has been laid and there is plenty to like about the 2013 draft class. Most turn 25 this season, so it leaves plenty of football and who knows what this group of players could achieve? In ten years we might be calling the 2013 draft a super draft.