Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is the best prospect in the 2020 AFL draft.
Even without playing in season 2020, his athletic abilities combined with the skills and game understanding showcased through his junior career make him a tantalising and potentially generational talent. You don’t get compared to Lance Franklin for nothing.
So with the number one pick in the 2020 draft in their possession, the Adelaide Crows would ordinarily be thrilled by the chance to add this excitement machine to their list.
However, in keeping with the weirdness that has been 2020, they can’t have him. He’s going to the Western Bulldogs, no matter what, through the next generation academy system.
You might say keep the Dogs honest and make them pay his full price and bid on him at pick one.
But this would be a mistake for three reasons.
As major sponsor of the AFL draft, the first overall pick is given a $20,000 portfolio from NAB. Why would you ensure that an opposition player gets a free $20,000 when you can make sure one of your own players is happier with their signing bonus?
2. Player morale
Four other players are in contention for the number one pick and are all future stars of the competition. What kind of message does it send to one of these players that they were your back-up option? The ongoing benefits for them being the number one pick are huge.
3. Team morale
How much of a boost would it provide to the Crows’ players knowing they’ve got a player coming in that the recruiting team (who probably selected them) rate as the best player available, rather than the second best?
Of the four other players in contention for the top pick, the Crows have narrowed it down to two: Elijah Hollands and Logan McDonald. That leaves Denver Grainger-Barrass and Riley Thilthorpe to drop to deeper picks.
Hollands is a Crows fan and has openly expressed his desire to be drafted to the Crows. He would immediately add to their midfield mix (assuming his ACL recovery goes to plan) and replace Brad Crouch as an extractor with better wheels on the outside.
McDonald is a key forward and when he fills out his frame, he will be a man mountain. He has a great kicking technique and a good engine to work opponents. He would make a good Taylor Walker replacement.
Denver Grainger-Barrass would actually be my pick for number one. He’s got tremendous confidence and stated in an interview last week that his goal isn’t to just make an AFL list and play a game, it’s to be the best player in the league.
Thilthorpe has been linked with the Crows for a long time and is a local SA product, so they wouldn’t need to fear the go-home factor. Unfortunately for him, Thilthorpe’s big season in the WAFL combined with some minor groin issues has probably moved McDonald above Thilthorpe.
Who would you take with pick one?