Now that the AFL’s player exchange period has wrapped up for another year, attention is turning to the draft, which is scheduled as a one-day event on December 9.
Picking a phantom draft this far out from the real thing is hard enough at the best of times, and 2020 as we all know is not the best of times.
Most Victorian prospects have gone the entire year without playing any football, and given that usually at least half or more of the draft is made up of Victorians each year, that makes it very hard to pick.
On top of that we have to consider that clubs can still do pick swaps both in the lead-up to and live during the draft – and I’m expecting they may become active in this once list sizes are confirmed.
There are a number of clubs with multiple teen picks like GWS (10, 13, 15, 20), Collingwood (14, 16) or Melbourne (18, 19) who may be looking to package picks together and trade up the order.
But to do that they have to find a willing partner and given the lack of certainty beyond the top handful of prospects this year, I’m not sure many if clubs holding picks inside the top ten will be looking to trade out of it.
It’s a draft that has some promising key position prospects at the top, and a gaggle of inside midfielder types towards the middle.
That could prove interesting given how few clubs seems to be in need of genuine inside mids at the moment. Many such as Connor Blakely, Will Brodie or Aaron Vandenberg went on the trade table recently only to receive no real interest.
The talent pool isn’t helped either by the fact Gold Coast will be able to sign two top-30 prospects, Alex Davies and Joel Jeffrey, outside the draft though priority assistance concessions.
It’s all quite murky and with even the No.1 pick being a matter of some debate, I could easily go 0-25 on my selections this far out. But, I cannot resist a bit of speculation! So here, for posterity, is my very early 2020 phantom draft.
Pick 1 – Adelaide – Logan McDonald
196cm, 85kg, WA
The Crows have been linked time and time again to local prospect Riley Thilthorpe here, but while they have been known to favour the local boys at times, I don’t think that should come into it at pick 1.
McDonald has stood head and shoulders above the rest this year, a regular goalkicker in the WAFL and named in their team of the year as an 18-year-old. Seems too good to miss out on.
Pick 2 – Western Bulldogs (matching bid) – Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
194cm, 84kg, VIC
Should attract a bid here if not at No.1. Ugle-Hagan is widely considered the best player in the draft, a tall forward who has been regularly compared to Lance Franklin.
Pick 3 – North Melbourne – Elijah Hollands
188cm, 85kg, VIC
Would have missed the season due to an ACL injury even if there was a season to miss, but Hollands is still considered the best midfield prospect in the draft by most.
The top-end tall players would also be a great fit for North, but Hollands’ promise as a mid who goes forward probably just edges them out.
Pick 4 – Sydney – Denver Grainger-Barras
195cm, 78kg, WA
Especially after now losing Aliir Aliir the Swans should be targeting a key defender, and Grainger-Barras is a perfect fit. Has played the season in WAFL seniors, regularly clunking intercept marks.
Pick 5 – Hawthorn – Riley Thilthorpe
200cm, 99kg, SA
Thilthorpe could go as early as pick 1 but if not, he may slide to the Hawks here where he’s good value. A key forward-ruckman with elite endurance, he’d be a great long-term piece.
Pick 6 – Gold Coast – Will Phillips
180cm, 79kg, VIC
This is a tricky pick for Gold Coast who don’t necessarily need a mid like Phillips, but might find him too hard to pass up. He played alongside Rowell and Anderson last year.
They’ve been rumoured as a team wanting to trade up – I suspect to target Grainger-Barras as a key defender, though that’s purely my own conjecture.
If that doesn’t pan out, maybe they go early on another tall back prospect like Zach Reid or Heath Chapman. They might not be too much of a stretch this early.
Pick 7 – Sydney (matching bid) – Braeden Campbell
180cm, 73kg, NSW
The Bombers would love Will Phillips to slip through, either way, I suspect they’re a good chance to bid on Braeden Campbell at some point.
There’s no question Sydney will match. Campbell is a really well-rounded midfielder with speed and forward nous – a great prospect.
Pick 8 – Essendon – Tanner Bruhn
182cm, 73kg, VIC
A lightly built but classy midfielder, Bruhn maybe isn’t exactly what the Bombers need but with three selections in a row here it’s hard to see him getting past them.
Pick 9 – Essendon – Zach Reid
202cm, 82kg, VIC
As Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker’s careers wind down, the Bombers could use a young key defender. Reid is a great fit – more than tall enough, knows how to intercept, and is a quality kick.
Pick 10 – Essendon – Finlay Macrae
184cm, 74kg, VIC
Macrae is a midfield accumulator with good disposal – like his brother Jack at the Bulldogs. Maybe not the big body Essendon are looking for, but a blue-chip midfield prospect nonetheless.
Pick 11 – Port Adelaide (matching bid) – Lachie Jones
185cm, 88kg, SA
The Crows could stoke some South Australian rivalry by making a bid on Port’s NGA prospect Lachie Jones here – Port will match, but I’m sure Adelaide would be happy for them not too.
Jones is a talented half back flanker who has played at senior level in the SANFL all season long and continued to impress.
Pick 12 – Adelaide – Archie Perkins
186cm, 77kg, VIC
Having taken a tall with pick 1 a midfielder makes sense for the Crows here, and Perkins might be the best left on the board. He’s a well-balanced prospect who can also play as a forward.
Pick 13 – GWS – Oliver Henry
188cm, 76kg, VIC
Henry is an exciting and athletic medium forward who uses the ball well. He is a damaging albeit low-possession player who could add something different to GWS’ forward mix.
Pick 14 – North Melbourne – Heath Chapman
193cm, 81kg, WA
Although they picked up Aidan Corr as a free agent, North would love to take a tall backman for the future. Chapman fits the bill, he has great intercepting ability and elite endurance.
Pick 15 – Fremantle – Jack Carroll
188cm, 79kg, WA
A young key forward is probably Fremantle’s biggest need but hard to find at this stage of the draft. Local midfielder Carroll, who is a nice size for a midfielder but also very quick, could be a good fit.
Pick 16 – GWS – Nik Cox
199cm, 92kg, VIC
Cox is an athletic key position player who has played at both ends of the ground, making his future role at AFL level unclear. A high-potential option for the Giants.
Pick 17 – Collingwood – Brayden Cook
189cm, 82kg, SA
The Pies might be hoping for a tall at one of their selections and one might be available. If not, tall wingman/half-forward Cook might be someone they consider.
Pick 18 – Collingwood (matching bid) – Reef McInnes
192cm, 84kg, VIC
Having picks 14, 16 then 65, Collingwood are in an interesting position with NGA prospect McInnes. They’d like to get both picks in before a bid and then probably go into 2021 deficit for him, but there are no guarantees.
I have the Giants bidding on him here but it could be a close call. McInnes is a tall, athletic player who has been used all over the ground but will probably be developed as a midfielder.
Pick 19 – GWS – Tom Powell
184cm, 74kg, SA
The Giants are a hard team to pick for, especially having two picks already. With four early picks they probably look to add to their midfield at some point, and Powell – who racks up possessions like it’s going out of style – might be one they look at.
Pick 20 – Richmond – Eddie Ford
189cm, 83kg, VIC
An already unpredictable draft is becoming even more so by the time we get to this point. Having taken some big inside mids recently, perhaps Richmond go in a different direction here and pick an athletic medium forward.
Pick 21 – Melbourne – Bailey Laurie
178cm, 76kg, VIC
The Dees didn’t wind up adding speed during the trade period so perhaps they do it here at the draft with small midfielder Bailey Laurie.
Pick 22 – Sydney (matching bid) – Errol Gulden
171cm, 71kg, NSW
Gulden has played through both the midfield and as a forward, at his height, you’d expect he does the latter at AFL level. The Dees may place a bid here, certainly the Swans will match.
Pick 23 – Melbourne – Nathan O’Driscoll
187cm, 78kg, WA
Another inside midfielder is hardly what Melbourne needs, and many see O’Driscoll as that. That said, he’s also played as a halfback or on the wing, so they might recruit him for those positions.
Pick 24 – GWS – Henry Walsh
203cm, 87kg, VIC
Do GWS need a young ruckman? Having just recruited Braydon Preuss they seem to have a fix for now, and they do have some young prospects in Matt Flynn and Kieren Briggs on the list.
That said neither Flynn or Briggs has played a game, making them each something of an unknown. With so many picks to spend, perhaps the Giants could reach a little for Henry Walsh, brother of Carlton’s Sam.
Pick 25 – St Kilda – Jake Bowey
St Kilda’s interest in James Frawley suggests a key defender is something they’d like to have, unfortunately, there may not be in a great position here unless one of them slides unexpectedly.
Bowey is instead an undersized midfielder, but one who possesses speed and is a great user of the ball – traits clubs are always looking to add. His father Brett played 85 games for the club.