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Opinion

How do the best draft gems in AFL history line up?

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Roar Guru
6th December, 2020
9

With the 2020 AFL draft coming up on December 7th, now’s the time to reflect on some of the best draft gems in AFL history.

Full back line
Back pocket – Graham Johncock
Pick 67, 2000
The man affectionately known as ‘Stiffy’, was a star running defender for the Crows for his 227 games and definitely could drift forward, kicking 120 goals and even leading the goalkicking for the Crows in 2003, with 30 majors.

Unfortunately is just the third man (behind Jobe Watson and Marc Murphy) this century to lose his 200th game by 100+; 103 point loss in Round 18 2011.

Full back – Brian Lake
Pick 71, 2001
A man who’s forgotten when talking about the 2001 ‘Super Draft’, Lake chalked up 192 games at the Western Bulldogs, gathering a best and fairest in 2007 as well as All Australian blazers in 2009 and 2010.

In 2012, he was traded to runners up Hawthorn and over the next three seasons, he won a Norm Smith Medal in 2013, collecting 22 disposals, ten marks and five rebounds. From 2013-15 he won all three premierships from his three seasons and 54 games.

Back pocket – Damien Hardwick
Pick 87, 1992
Known as ‘Dimma’ and now Richmond’s triple premiership coach, Hardwick was a tough as nails defender for Essendon in 153 games, collecting a best and fairest in 1998, All Australian and a premiership in 2000.

At Port Adelaide he played 54 games and won 40 of them, including the 2004 premiership and once again made the All Australian side. One of the players that supporters love and opposition supporters wanted in their side.

Half back line
Half back flank – Byron Pickett
Pick 67, 1996

The man known as ‘Choppy’ was known for big hits, big tackles and big game performances. Played 204 games and kicked 177 goals across stints at North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and Melbourne.

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The Rising Star of the 1998 season and a premiership medal in 1999 for North, he then won a flag and a Norm Smith in 2004 for kicking three goals and having 20 touches. He’s one of only 12 players to have 200 games, a flag at two clubs and a Norm Smith Medal.

Centre half back – Ashley McIntosh
Pick 112, 1987

That number is not a lie, personal promise. One of (if not) the best centre half backs of the 90s who famously shut Billy Brownless out of two grand finals in 92 and 94. Made the All Australian team in 1998 along with the best and fairest, culminating in life membership.

Another defender who didn’t mind scoring either, kicking 108 goals from his 240 games.

Half back flank – Brad Scott
Pick 60, 1994

Originally drafted by Hawthorn (remembered more for stacking a jet ski on the end of season trip) and played 22 games in 1997 before being traded to Brisbane with Pick 51 for Nathan Chapman, John Barker and Pick 42.

At Brisbane, played 145 games and won two premierships, including shutting down James Hird in the 2001 grand final.

Centre line
Wing – Brett Heady
Pick 92, 1989
Not the last Eagle to be featured here, Heady is a fan favourite in WA. Playing predominantly on a wing or a half forward flank, ‘Jobby’ won two flags and is a flank in West Coast’s Team of the Century.

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Big-time player too with 33 goals in 21 finals to go with his 156 games in a decade.

Centre – James Hird
Pick 79, 1990
A footy CV that most would die for: two flags (one as captain), five AA blazers and five best and fairests, is in the Hall of Fame and Essendon’s Team of the Century, won three Anzac Medals (equal most ever), a Brownlow Medal and even led the goal kicking at Essendon, twice!

An Essendon playing legend and although the image is tarnished in the present day, he was first picked for this side.

James Hird

Former Essendon coach and superstar James Hird. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Wing – Paul Williams
Pick 70, 1989
An underrated star, Williams was drafted to the Pies and spent a decade at the Pies, playing 189 games and stunningly, kicking 223 goals.

In 2000, he was traded for two picks who were on traded to other clubs (Daniel Motlop and Adam McPhee) but Williams repaid the Swans faith, winning consecutive best and fairest’s. Made All Australian in 2003 and won a flag in 2005, finishing on 306 games.

Half forward line
Half forward flank – Justin Westhoff
Pick 71, 2006
The best way to describe the ‘Hoff’ is no matter who you barracked for, you loved him. The epitome of a utility, he gave Port Adelaide everything he could at any position and for his 280 games and best and fairest, ‘Hoff’ was best utilised as a forward, where he kicked 313 goals.

In Round 4 2011, he won the Showdown Medal with his 24 disposal, ten mark and 2.1 performance.

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Centre half forward – Chris Grant
Pick 105, 1998
The biggest steal in history many would claim and rightly so. The Bulldogs star played a staggering 341 games and kicked 554 goals for the Scrays.

He is one of only two players to have the most Brownlow Medal votes and lose due to suspension but a pair of All Australians, three best and fairests and an Australian Football Hall of Fame member, Grant is one of the best Dogs to play the game and is genuinely befuddling on how he slipped into the depths of a triple figure pick.

Half forward flank – Russell Robertson
Pick 68, 2010
Melbourne have been blessed with two of the best high flyers in recent history, and while Jeremy Howe was taking screamers mostly in defence, ‘Robbo’ was doing it up forward. Is one of only four players at Melbourne to be a four time leading goal kicker and was a best and fairest winner. His 228 games and 428 goals gets him a game in this side.

Full forward line
Forward pocket – Adam Schneider
Pick 60, 2001
Another who never gets brought up in the 2001 ‘SuperDraft’, Schneider was a premier small forward in the 2000’s and with talls across the half forward line, a genuine crumbing small it’s what’s required and Schneider is a lock.

His 98 games and 99 goals for the Swans including the 2005 premiership was followed by 130 games and 160 goals at the Saints

Full forward – Aaron Hamill
Pick 79, 1994

After 92 games and 114 goals at Carlton, John Elliott described Hamill as ‘the only player who (willingly) left.’ A fan favourite, Hamill went to Moorabbin and played a further 98 games for 125 goals. Led the Saints in 2003 as skipper but his career was cut short to a high quantity of injuries, retiring at 29.

Forward pocket – Paul Puopolo
Pick 66, 2010

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A fan favourite for the Hawthorn supporters, ‘Poppy’ was a quick, smart and classy small forward who came from Norwood and played nearly 200 games for the Hawks, kicking 185 goals, while being a three-time premiership player. One of the best defensive forwards of his time also with 4.27 tackles a game.

Rucks
Ruck – Sam Jacobs
Pick 1, 2007 rookie draft

Okay yes I cheated, one player from the rookie list but that was it. ‘Sauce’ is the best ruck steal in my opinion. Carlton snatched him up for 17 games before heading to Adelaide to play 184 of them and winning three Showdown Medals, equal most in Adelaide’s history. Finished at GWS in 2020 with seven games and is a celebrated ruckman.

Ruck rover – Scott Burns
Pick 90, 1992

After playing 62 games for Norwood, Burns was plucked by Collingwood for an insanely high pick. A genuinely tough midfielder, Burns had three top three best and fairest finishes, played 265 games and kicked 149 goals. Replaced Nathan Buckley as captain in 2008 and played in two losing grand finals

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Rover – Dean Kemp
Pick 117, 1989

The highest number in the team and one of the better steals with Kemp being a genuine superstar. Played in two premierships, won a best and fairest (in 1992, a premiership year) and a Norm Smith, Kemp averaged over 20 touches for his 243 games and kicked nearly half a goal a game.

Interchange
Ben Johnson

Pick 62, 1990
A hard-working wingman or half back, Johnson couldn’t squeeze on-field for mine but his contributions at Collingwood were fantastic, playing in five grand finals for one flag and won an Anzac Medal.

Ben Dixon
Pick 77, 1994
One of Hawthorn’s best crumbing forwards, ‘Dicko’ played 203 games and kicked 282 goals, most notable for his big mark and goal after the siren against Carlton in 2001.

Derek Kickett
Pick 60, 1998
The epitome of a journeyman, Kickert notched up 164 games in the VFL/AFL at four clubs and was a brilliant exponent of high marks and torpedo punts. His 208 goals signifying his ability to finish in front of goal.

Nick Malceski
Pick 64, 2002
Vastly underrated defender, the ‘Bearded Malcho’ – as he was dubbed on Triple M – was light on his feet and a very good user. Malcho was a premiership player and an All Australian in his 210 games.